The main course

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Shamik Chakrabarty | Updated: Mar 23 2014, 10:09am hrs
So far, the story has been the rise of the associates, and there is some significant progress. Irelands last-ball win over Zimbabwe and Hong Kongs victory against hosts Bangladesh lit up the World T20 qualifiers. Paras Khadkas 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 didnt 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

Australias 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 Johnsons absence has weakened their bowling, but T20 is basically a batsmans 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 havent developed the skills to play lead roles yet, so the big three have to show the way. Singhs 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 bowlersMohammed Shami, Varun Aaron and Mohit Sharmahave 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.

The problem is that India have gone into this tournament low on confidence. Three overseas losses in a rowSouth Africa, New Zealand and Asia Cup in Bangladeshhave put the team under serious pressure and the players and coaching staff have to fight for their lives in this tournament. As Dhoni has said, India have to bat out of their skin and do well in the death overs to get back to the winning ways. Not very often do you see the Kiwis start as favourites in a world event. But the presence of Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, Martin Guptill, James Neesham and Luke Ronchi makes them title contenders here. In fact, New Zealand are pretty well-covered in all departments.

Defending champions West Indies will bank on Chris Gayle and Sunil Narine, though they have other very potent ammos like Dwayne Smith, Dwayne Bravo and Darren Sammy as well.

For Pakistan too, Shahid Afridi has to fire despite the fact that they have two champion bowlers in Saeed Ajmal and Umar Gul.

Sri Lanka and South Africa are two very well-balanced sides. Sri Lanka have won seven ODIs in a row, coming into this tournament and, although this is a different format, they will certainly carry forward the confidence. This is going to be the last T20 event for their superstar duo of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, and they would like to lift the cup to make the occasion memorable. With Lasith Malinga in charge of the pace attack and a host of spinners ready to contribute on slow pitches, the Islanders are a serious threat.

South Africa are a bit concerned over Dale Steyns hamstring injury at the moment. Captain Faf du Plessis, too, battles a hamstring problem, which needs extensive treatment. The Proteas dont have top-class spinners either. AB de Villiers and David Miller, however, can make up for the shortcomings if they get going.

T20 cricket is basically a draw of lots and it has a habit of throwing up surprises. But the glorious uncertainties notwithstanding, England are not going to win this. The man who could have given them the title was made the fall guy of the Ashes debacle and was handed a P45 to save the team culture.