And What better way to raise the curtains for this mega event than bring two of the cricketing worlds greatest enemies to play the Inaugural match. On the inaugural Day of the world cup, two of the most talented T20 teams in Cricket will unleash their rivalry on the T20 World as the defending champions India take on the last time finalists Pakistan. Yes its going to be India vs Pakistan. The new initiative of replaying the last time finalists aims at giving a blistering start to the tournament . Destiny has been moving these two teams around with practice, talent and determination towards an explosive collision since India tasted the sweet success of that emphatic last ball victory over Pakistan.
Pakistan's travails on and off the field need no repeating. Suffice to say, on the field, they have lurched closer and closer to what was once thought to be unthinkable: a team you have no particular opinion about, a team that doesn't set any pulses racing. For Pakistan, that is a fate worse than defeat, or death. So a triumph here - a good run even - would be as significant a boost on the field as winning a battle against militants off it.
It won't be easy given their rustiness - nobody, not even Bangladesh, has played less international cricket since January 2007 than Pakistan. And they were the only country whose players weren't represented at the IPL; instead they warmed up with a conditioning camp and a hastily-arranged domestic Twenty20 tournament. But for Pakistan, Twenty20 is like finding yourself back in the galli you have played cricket in all your life. The angles, the run-stealing, the yorkers, the spin, the-poor-fielding-with-crucial-moments-of-quality, the big-hitting, clarity emerging only from chaos; as in South Africa two years ago, there is a natural familiarity and comfort with the format.
Additionally, the draw seems so kind to them, it can only be a trick. You would think England - averse as they are to the format and obsessed in this summer of all summers - and Netherlands should be negotiated (though Dirk Nannes on a bouncy, green pitch has headlines written all over it). And, if all goes to form, they avoid Australia, India and South Africa in the Super Eights. Sri Lanka and New Zealand are proper threats where a semi-final place is concerned, but given their records against them, there is no question Pakistan would face them, rather than any of the big three. Once you're in the semis, strange things begin to happen.
The variety in their bowling attack: Shahid Afridi's leg-spin is as effective as it has ever been, in restricting runs and taking wickets, and Saeed Ajmal's strangely-trajectoried off-spin and doosra is an unexpectedly useful foil. In Umar Gul, Pakistan have one of the format's very best bowlers, pace or slow. Now they only need for Sohail Tanvir to break free from the shackles of indifference that have gripped him since the start of the year.
Around Pakistan's batting swarm an uncomfortably high number of question marks. Is Salman Butt really a Twenty20 opener (a strike rate of 94 and one fifty in 13 internationals), given his inability to at least rotate the strike when not finding the boundary? Is Younis Khan cut out for this format - he himself seems unsure about it, hinting recently it may be his last Twenty20 assignment - and if so, what position is best? What is Shahid Afridi's best position, and Kamran Akmal's?
Depending on whether or not they play, Shahzaib Hasan and Mohammad Aamer: Hasan is an explosive opener, mostly unseen, but highly recommended by Rashid Latif. Aamer is the whippy left-armer with Wasim Akram's stamp of approval: a fantastic first-class debut season that has seen his confident rise, his time may come if Sohail Tanvir continues to misfire. Pakistan's history of thrusting unknown names into the mix is long and established.
If Pakistan end up doing well here, a number of things will have to have happened. Umar Gul and Shahid Afridi must've taken a fair few wickets, Kamran Akmal must've scored some runs, Misbah-ul-Haq must've played a few remarkably cool hands and Afridi must've played at least one madcap, match-changing innings. Given the form and mood he is in, Afridi could be the real key.
Twenty20 form guide
They looked rusty in the warm-up loss to South Africa but too much should not be read from the defeat. They looked up for it in decimating an admittedly weakened Australia before that, but missing the IPL, crucially, could go either way for Pakistan's players: they may not be as tired as some, but neither might they be as attuned to competitive Twenty20 as others.
Squad: Younis Khan (capt), Salman Butt, Ahmed Shehzad, Shoaib Malik, Misbah-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal (wk), Fawad Alam, Shoaib Akhtar, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Mohammad Aamer, Yasir Arafat, Saeed Ajmal, Shahzaib Hasan