As India prepares to host the 2016 World T20, a lot of pop ups are doing the rounds. Teams are coming into the tournament with their recent form at completely different levels. Taking into account their common goal and the conditions on offer, let’s take a look at how the two groups stack up!
Group 1: Afghanistan, England, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies
Sri Lanka, the defending champions, go into the tournament on the back of a few below par performances. The departure of Mahela and Sangakkara has left a huge hole in the batting department and it will be upto Dilshan and Chandimal to do most of the scoring. They will also be banking a lot on Matthews and Malinga to keep their opponents under check. South Africa, unsurprisingly, have one of the stronger squads on paper. They will hope that the experience gained by their players during the IPL will hold them in good stead for the next month. AB de Villiers will be their default batting mainstay while a lot will also be expected from Imran Tahir on the slow, turning tracks. The West Indian extravaganza will be on full throttle as the likes of Gayle, Bravo, Sammy etc. will look to infuse their very own Caribbean flavor to this World Cup. They have enough firepower in all departments but as always, it will boil down to consistency and whether they can hold their ground during the cliffhangers.
The Barmy Army have selected a good number of T20 specialists to make sure that their World Cup isn’t shunted in anyway. Eoin Morgan’s team will have to punch a bit above their weight if they want to live their fairytale but fuelled by the likes of Butler, Root, Ali and Stokes, they have what it takes to unleash total carnage. The Afghans have shown tremendous grit and skill while coasting into the main draw. Shahzad and Stanikzai have lit up the batting while Nabi has been excellent with both bat and ball. The bowling has been impressive but they will have to take it up a few notches to harbor dreams of winning even a single match.
Group 2: Australia, Bangladesh, India, New Zealand, Pakistan
The hosts, on the back of an impressive run in T20I’s will start as firm favorites to progress from this group. India have looked ominous in recent times with series victories over Australia, SriLanka and of course, in the Asia Cup. Their star studded batting line up should relish the home conditions and with the return of Shami, the bowling has got that extra boost. With a billion hearts to please, they will want to continue the juggernaut and go all the way. Australia will want to shed their poor record in this format and will strive to be relentlessly bellicose. Warner has fit in beautifully at 4 and considering Watson’s bowling skills and his experience of playing in India, Smith might very well have to choose between Finch and Khawaja to open their innings. The squad definitely has what it takes to exude the Aussie swagger and will be desperate get their hands on the one major trophy that has eluded them.
New Zealand, though without the charisma and bludgeoning skills of Brendon McCullum, have enough arsenal to blast through any side. Guptil and Williamson have had a dream run at the top. Munro and Anderson have been at their marauding best. Considering the pitches, their bowling might be a little susceptible to an onslaught but Southee and Co will be confident about adapting to the conditions and will want to bring out their ‘A’ game consistently. Pakistan’s batting remains a worry with only Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal showing some positive signs. Bolstered by the return of Mohammad Amir, their bowling is up there with the very best and this, without a doubt, will be their stronger suit. Bangladesh have breezed through the qualifiers but they will face a whole new set of challenges against the big boys. Given their recent endeavors, the confidence levels will be on an all-time high. Though it is difficult to see Bangladesh and Pakistan moving further in the tournament, it will be very naive to rule anyone out in this format.
The beauty about the next three weeks is that there is no script. Build ups and predictions count for nothing as on a given day, any team can go into beast mode. What this World Cup promises though is a bucket load of high quality cricket and entertainment. So grab a plate, pick a drink and sit back and enjoy what is going to be an amazing roller-coaster.