So far, the story has been the rise of the associates, and there is some significant progress. Ireland’s last-ball win over Zimbabwe and Hong Kong’s victory against hosts Bangladesh lit up the World T20 qualifiers. Paras Khadka’s Nepal also began their ‘real journey’ on a very positive note and, together, the ‘non-elite’ members of the International Cricket Council (ICC) gave an impression that the game, at last, is properly spreading its global wings. Germany didn’t feature in the tournament, but a tweet from Cricket Germany summed up the mood of the minnows: “Great to see the #associate ICC members giving full members a hard time at #iccwt20 hats off to @CricketHK and @Irelandcricket #globalgame”. The journey, indeed, has well and truly begun for them.
Over to the main course now and the big boys are ready to flex their muscles. But who are the real favourites to win this?
Australia’s heavy artillery makes them a team to watch out for. A batting line-up that boasts David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, George Bailey, Brad Hodge and Glenn Maxwell in the top six has to be pretty intimidating in the shortest format. Mitchell Johnson’s absence has weakened their bowling, but T20 is basically a batsman’s game.
India, too, have a fantastic batting line-up. Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni are proven match-winners and they have to fire again to help India go the distance.
Their obvious talents notwithstanding, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma still haven’t developed the skills to play lead roles yet, so the ‘big three’ have to show the way. Singh’s form is going to be very important here. The 32-year-old left-hander has been a bit out of sorts of late. He has lost his place in the ODI squad and should be keen to prove a point or two in the World T20. The good thing is that Singh looked in good touch in matches he played in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
India also have the weakest bowling attack among the top teams. Three of their four fast bowlers—Mohammed Shami, Varun Aaron and Mohit Sharma—have never played a T20 international. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has played only three.
“The bowling department is still an area of concern if you compare it with our batting,” Dhoni had said before the start of the tournament.
The skipper, however, has a solution to the problem, which is to “score 10-15 runs more than what could be a par total”.