The 2016 ICC T20 Cricket World Cup is underway in Dharamsala and Nagpur, with the first round matches featuring two groups. Group A, consists of Bangladesh, Netherlands, Ireland and Oman, and Group B consists of Zimbabwe, Scotland, Hong Kong, and Afghanistan.
These teams are considered the minnows, and they will compete for two places in the super ten stage, where they will face cricketing giants Australia, England, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies, and India. This stage will run from March 15 through 28. A total of 35 matches will be played in Bengaluru, Chennai, Dharamsala, Kolkata, Mohali, Mumbai, Nagpur, and New Delhi, with Delhi and Mumbai hosting the semi-finals on March 30 and 31. The final will be held at Eden Gardens in Kolkata on April 3. Along with the trophy comes a purse of $5.6 million.
Although cricket is notorious for upsets, especially in this format of the game, it would seem India are the favorites to hold the trophy. Not only are they top of the ICC T20 Rankings, they will be playing in home conditions with the thunderous crowd firmly behind them. One only has to look at their present form, recently claiming victory over South Africa and Australia, to realize the threat they will pose in the tournament. With Batsmen like Kohli, who has a killer instinct second to none with a bat in his hand; Rohit Sharma, who can tear a bowling attack to pieces when given the chance; Suresh Raina, and Dhoni, who is a brilliant finisher, their competitors have a tough challenge to face.
As far as bowlers are concerned, the sub-continent has always favoured the spinners, and India have no lacking in that department with Ashwin, Jadeja and Mishra heading up the attack. Their Achilles heel may be in the fast bowling department, with Bhuvi and Shami struggling with form and fitness, respectively. This could cost them dearly in the dying overs.
CHOKERS! Can South Africa put this tag to bed for once and for all? The South African team have an uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as demonstrated by their defeats in the 1999 World Cup semi-final versus Australia, the 2003 World Cup group match versus Sri Lanka, and the 2011 World Cup quarter-final versus New Zealand.
Most of the South African players are well acquainted with the pitch conditions in India, having played in the IPL, and they have a strong batting line-up, with some quality all rounders to boot. The question must be asked if AB de Villiers will slot in comfortably as opening batsman. If he does, they have a formidable opening pair that can lay a solid foundation for the rest of the line up. With all rounders Morris and Miller further down the order, we’re bound to see some big scores.
As far as bowling is concerned, a lot rests on the shoulders of the young Rabada, who performed well in the recent Indian Tour. The attack is focused more on speed, with Tahir being the only quality spinner in the side. The team is also renowned for spectacular fielding, and if all falls into place, they must be rated as one of the favorites to win.
Australia boasts the most successful World Cup campaign amongst the competitors with five wins under its belt. The team is a formidable opponent, even after the recent series loss against India. Nine players were axed after the defeat, and the team is set to come back firing on all cylinders. With the bat, their top order is remarkably strong, Warner, Finch, Watson, and Khawaja all being very capable openers. The middle order can be unstable though, as has been apparent in their last few outings. Their bowling attack, while being accused of being ordinary, has been bolstered by the addition of Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Coulter-Nile. Both are on form and expected to do well on a pitch that is prepared for spin rather than pace. Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa will head their spin attack.
India, Australia, and South Africa seem to be emerging as the top three favorites, but as far as the other five are concerned, none can be written off. Pakistan is always up for a fight, with their devastating fast bowlers. Sri Lanka, although currently lacking in big names in their batting, can defeat anybody on the day. New Zealand, who have a strong team, may or may not perform in the Indian conditions. West Indies, with explosive batsmen like Gayle, and England, who have grown tremendously over the last few seasons, could both step up to the plate and produce winning performances.
“To me, it doesn’t matter how good you are. Sport is all about playing and competing. Whatever you do in cricket and in sport, enjoy it, be positive, and try to win.”
– Ian Botham
(AP Photo/Andres Leighton)