The T20 World Cup gets underway tomorrow when Hong Kong play Zimbabwe at Nagpur. The big guns won’t join the tournament for a few days yet, so we’ve still got time to do some pre-tournament analysis and make some typically inaccurate predictions.
One prediction I think we can all make though, without fear of looking ridiculous, is that India are going to do well – very well. The tournament is in their own backyard – nicely played Mr Srinivasan – and they seem to play more T20 cricket than anyone else. They also seem to care about T20 more than any other nation, which is a tad depressing but there you go. Each to his own I guess.
If you’ve been following the Asia Cup you’ll notice that India absolutely steamrolled Bangladesh in the final. They also beat Pakistan and Sri Lanka comfortably earlier in the competition. It’s hardly a surprise when you see their team.
India’s batting is really intimidating. They open up with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan – not a bad combination eh – and then let their superstars go nuts in the middle-overs. There’s Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and the old master himself, MS Dhoni. Then there’s Hardik Pandya, the all-rounder who stole the show in last year’s IPL. India have an embarrassment of riches.
All India’s specialist batsmen are absolutely top drawer. The batting order is flexible, can change on a whim, and they’re incredibly experienced too. If these guys fire during the tournament, it will take something extremely special to stop them.
Luckily India’s bowling isn’t quite as strong as their batting. They still have their fair share of dibbly dobbly seamers – I can’t believe that Ashish Nehra is still playing at the age of 36 – but they’ll probably just rely on their spinners anyway. And who can blame them? Ravi Ashwin is one of my favourite bowlers and they’ll no doubt get enough overs out of James Anderson’s best mate, Ravi Jadeja.
T20 cricket is obviously somewhat unpredictable. Anyone can beat anyone on a particular day. All it takes is one special performance from an individual to swing a result. However, India have more of these match-winners than anyone else; so although they might get sunk at some point by an amazing performance from the likes of AB de Villiers, it’s far more likely that an Indian match winner will steal the show. It’s just a matter of probability.
The bookies, who put far more effort into researching these things than you and I, seem to agree. Even though T20 cricket can produce some bizarre results at times, they’ve installed India as 2-1 favourites for the trophy. It’s hardly a surprise. Online betting offers for sport usually indicate how dominant favourites are likely to be. Australia and South Africa are joint second favourites at a comparatively long 9/2. Personally I think that’s about right.
We’ll have more on South Africa and Australia, plus the other challengers of course, in the coming days. But for now, I’d like to focus on India. Do you think they’ll be as dominant as everyone seems to expect? Or do you detect a weakness in their ranks? I guess the sky-high expectations of the home supporters might crank up the pressure a tad.
Written in collaboration with William Hill