After a gap of two years, the T20 carnival is back. From March 15, the top ten teams in the world will embark on a 20-day journey in search of ultimate glory - from hosts India to minnows Afghanistan. But the unpredictability of the format gives all the ten teams a chance to lift the title on April 3.
Defending champions Sri Lanka, hosts India along with the other top eight teams in the ICC T20I rankings automatically qualified for the Super 10 stage, while Asia Cup runners-up Bangladesh and Afghanistan arrived after making their way through the qualifying stage.
Hosts India and South Africa look the best having a power packed team both in batting and bowling. Australia has a brilliant batting line-up to match up with the Proteas and the Men in Blue, but their inexperienced bowling line-up has made them slip up a bit in the rankings. New Zealand and West Indies are looking the next best teams in the 10-man tourney and could make it to the semis if they can outgun Australia and England in their respective groups.
Afghanistan and Bangladesh arrive last in our analysis after making it through the qualifiers. Pakistan and defending champions Sri Lanka made it above Bangladesh just because of their bowling strength.
1. Sri Lanka – (Champions – 2014 World T20)
The defending champions look like a shadow of a side that won the coveted title last time around. Two-star performers, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene bid adieu to their International careers in the past two years, while others like Malinga and Angelo Mathews are plagued by injuries.
After a 2-1 series defeat against India followed by defeats to Bangladesh, Pakistan and India in the Asia Cup, Malinga stepped down from captaincy and Angelo Mathews was elevated to the role in the last minute. Although the bowling line-up looks the same as last time around with Malinga, Kulasekara, Senanayake and Herath leading the line, the problem area for the Islanders will be the batsmen.
Dilshan, Chandimal and Mathews will shoulder the majority of the responsibility to put runs on the board with newcomers
2. India (Runners-up -2014)
After winning the Asia Cup, India head into the World Cup as the overwhelming favourites for the title. Home conditions and IPL experiences all are favouring the Men in Blue, but the loss against South Africa in the last warm-up match showed the chinks in the armour of the hosts.
The arrival of veterans of Nehra, Yuvraj, Harbhajan and the emergence of youngsters Bumrah and Pandya have helped India in putting together a balanced squad for the tournament. The return of Mohammad Shami from injury will also give Dhoni some pleasant selection problems in the event.
The No.1 ranked side in T20s look a strong unit, with the batting going down to No.8 and 9 in Jadeja and Ashwin. Hardik Pandya, along with Yuvraj and Raina will also give Dhoni more options in the bowling with Ashwin, Jadeja, Bumrah and Nehra likely to bowl four overs each.
3. South Africa (Semi-finalists 2014)
The Proteas lost to India last time around in the semi-finals, but a win in the warm-up match against the hosts showed that du Plessis’ men are not to be taken lightly. Ranked no.3 in the world, South Africa is a strong contender for a semi-final spot after being drawn with Sri Lanka, West Indies, England and Afghanistan in Group 1.
The batting unit looks formidable with the presence of AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, David Miller and Quinton de Kock. Hashim Amla, who scored an unbeaten 97 in the last T20I against Australia, could miss out on a starting spot if AB de Villiers decides to open the innings.
Although, it may not look the best bowling unit in the tournament, the Proteas’ bowling attack remains a dangerous unit nevertheless.
4. West Indies (Semi-finalists 2014)
The 2012 World T20 champions have been a team to watch out for in all the editions of the World T20. With arguably, the most dangerous T20 batsmen in the World in their line-up, the Windies will once again be a contender for the title. However, injuries and last minute contractual disputes have derailed the preparations of the Caribbean Islanders. Kieron Pollard, Darren Bravo and Lendl Simmons missed out on the tournament with injuries, while Sunil Narine opted out to work on his action, which the ICC deemed illegal.
Even with all their problems, West Indies is still ranked No.2 in the World T20 rankings.
The abundance of fast bowling all-rounders in the form of skipper Darren Sammy, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell and Carlos Brathwaite will be another positive for the Windies. On paper, the Caribbean Islanders look a formidable side, but the unpredictability of their performances make them a dark horse for the title this time around.
The 2009 World T20 champions are ranked seventh in the world coming into the T20 World cup and are unlikely to progress into the semi-finals barring unexpected performances from their players. Mohammad Amir was the only positive for the Pakistan side in their failed Asia Cup campaign after suffering defeats to India and Bangladesh in the group stages.
The Shahid Afridi-led side
The biggest and only strength of Pakistan is their bowling and especially their fast bowling attack. Mohammad Amir will be their biggest weapon, and having made a comeback
The batting will be the biggest concern for the team’s fans after seeing the failures of Hafeez, Malik and Umar Akmal in the Asia Cup.
The ODI World Cup champions have had relatively quiet outings in T20 tournaments. Even though the team is full of T20 stars, Australia
Aaron Finch is the No.1 batsman in T20 rankings while David Warner and Shane Watson are 10th and 13th respectively. In spite of all this, Australia suffered a humiliating 0-3 whitewash at home against India. There is no doubt that most of the Australian players will be the first picks in an IPL auction or in a fantasy game, but their performances as a team leave a lot to be desired.
This time also, the Aussies have put together another formidable team on paper. Finch, Warner, Watson, Smith, Maxwell are all capable of single-handedly destroying any opposition in the world, but will they do it on the biggest stage will be the question.
Without the services of Mitchell Starc, who is injured, and Mithcell Johnson, who retired last year, Australia’s bowling looks a bit weak compared to their star-studded batting line-up. John Hastings, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner and Josh Hazlewood are very good bowlers, but none of them will strike fear into any batting line-up. And that would be their biggest problem in the tournament.
7. New Zealand
New Zealand is coming into the World Cup ranked fourth in the world. They have their openers, Martin Guptill and skipper Kane Williamson among the top 10 batsmen in the
New Zealand's only semi-final appearance in the T20 world cup came way back in the 2007 edition, and even with Brendon McCullum in their team, they never managed to enter another in the next four editions. With no Brendon McCullum, this time, around, the Kiwis have a tough job on their hands to make it to the top four.
Both batting and bowling departments look balanced with Corey Anderson, Colin Munro and Grant Elliott providing options as all-rounders. The performance of their spinners and how they will tackle spin will determine the progress of New Zealand in the World T20. They start with a tough opening match against hosts India, but they pack enough firepower in their team to upset the overwhelming favourites on the opening day.
Similar to the Kiwis, 2010 World T20 champions England come into the World T20 as underdogs. With Alex Hales, Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler in the team, England have a top seven which can match up with the best in the world. They also have two good spinners in Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali to make the most of the spin-friendly conditions in India.
The team looks a good bet on paper to make it to the semi-finals from a relatively easy group consisting Sri Lanka, South Africa and West Indies. Surprisingly, the fast bowling department of the team looks the weakest and inexperienced with Liam Plunkett, Chris Joran, David Willey and Reece Topley leading the attack after an injury forced Steve Finn out of the World Cup.
From Asia Cup runners-up a week back to playing qualifiers for the World T20, the absurdity around it cannot be overlooked. Even after playing three games more than the “elite” teams to enter the Super 10 stage, Bangladesh looks a much better team than many of the star-studded teams in the tournament.
The pace trio of Mortaza, Al-Amin, Taskin and Mustafizur along with Shakib Al-Hasan makes up a decent bowling line-up for the team, which is ranked No.10 in the world. The batting line-up consisting of Sabbir Rahman, Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar and Mahmudullah may not look dangerous on paper, but they are fully capable of creating an upset against any of the big teams.
Another team, which entered the Super 10 stage through the qualifiers is Afghanistan. They defeated Zimbabwe, Scotland and Hong Kong convincingly to earn the right to swim with the big boys in the main tournament. But beating South Africa, England, West Indies and Sri Lanka would be a different ball game altogether for the team ranked No.9 in the world.
Mohammad Shahzad with the bat, Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi with the ball have been the stars for the Afghan side so far in the tournament. Even
Shoaib Malik or Johnson Charles? Who will score more runs?
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