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T20 extravaganza starts today

 GUYANA, April 29 (Agencies): Less than five days after a high-octane IPL, another Twenty20 extravaganza begins in Guyana from Friday as the world’s top cricketers assemble for the ICC World T20.

 No team is, understandably being tipped as clear favourites in the Caribbean. The 17-day tournament, which is expected to see some high-voltage competition, begins with a double-header at Guyana National Stadium here, with New Zealand taking on Sri Lanka in the opener, followed by a match between hosts West Indies and Ireland under lights.

The unpredictability of the slam-bang format would mean that the Twenty20 tournament is wide open and most of the top teams, including India and Pakistan, are fancying their chances to clinch the title.

Pakistan have the best track record in Twenty20 World Cup, having reached the final in the inaugural event in 2007 in South Africa and claiming the title in the second edition in June last year in England. The Pakistanis also have the best winning percentage in the format, with 22 wins, seven losses and one no result in 30 matches, though they had a tumultuous build-up to the tournament with some of their leading players being banned and fined by their Board for indiscipline.

India, who lifted the trophy in 2007 – the country’s first major title in international cricket since 1983, has become the home of Twenty20 cricket with a hugely successful Indian Premier League.

Though India suffered a jolt by the unavailability of swashbuckling batsman Virender Sehwag due to injury, they would be banking on the IPL experience and Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s astute captaincy.

India will begin their campaign against minnows Afghanistan on Saturday at St Lucia.

India would seek lessons from history as they had faced the ignominy of an unceremonious early exit after losing to Bangladesh in the 50-over World Cup in the same Caribbean islands three years ago.

Australia, on the other hand, are three-time defending champions in the 50-over version but they were unceremoniously ousted in the first round in the 2009 Twenty20 World Cup. But with a strong pool of explosive players and an able captain in Michael Clarke, the Australians will look to add another trophy to their glittering cabinet this year.

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