MUMBAI The World Twenty20 has provided a stage for Asian sides to flourish in its short history and host India's scintillating form leading up to the tournament will only fuel local hopes that the trend will continue.
India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have won three out of the five stagings of the biennial tournament, while the 2010 final was the only one that did not feature a team from South Asia.
Former players and pundits have been united in endorsing India, who won the 50-over World Cup at home in 2011, as favourites to add a second World Twenty20 title to their cabinet and given the side's run of form, it is hardly surprising.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men have won 10 of the 11 Twenty20 contests they have played this year, including a 3-0 win in Australia, and have looked supremely balanced with their often-soft bowling attack also showing plenty of bite.
The only worry for India's fanatical cricket following will be that the team have peaked too early and they will be desperately hoping that the law of averages catches up with them after the final at Kolkata's Eden Gardens on April 3.
While India have enjoyed a relatively trouble-free build up to the tournament, it has been far from smooth sailing for fellow Asian contenders Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Pakistan, the 2009 champions, arguably have the most potent pace attack with left-arm fast bowler Mohammad Amir seamlessly integrating into the side after a five-year spot-fixing ban.
But Shahid Afridi's men have had troubles with their top-order, prompting the selectors to twice tinker with the squad and a row over security leading to a venue change for the highly charged India match will not have helped matters.
Defending champions Sri Lanka have failed to adequately replace retired batting stalwarts Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene after their 2014 World Twenty20 triumph and were forced to install Angelo Mathews as their new captain this week.
The island nation have lost recent series against New Zealand, India and a woeful Asia Cup display led to the sacking of the entire selection panel.
The team and their supporters will keep their fingers crossed on the fitness of pace spearhead Lasith Malinga, who relinquished the captaincy due to the slow recovery of his injured knee but insists he can still play a part.
AUSTRALIA'S T20 CONUNDRUM
Australia will look to end their lack of success in the format and add the T20 title to their 50-over World Cup triumph on home soil last year, banking on their explosive batting line-up to make up for the lack of a potent spinner.
They have not left anything to chance though, replacing Aaron Finch with test and one-day international skipper Steve Smith to lead the side, who have had a number of players plying their trade in the Indian Premier League (IPL) over the years.
Another side hoping the experience of playing in the IPL will come in handy for their players will be South Africa, who once again will be determined to shed their 'chokers' tag at another global championship.
AB de Villiers, believed by most to be the most destructive batsman in world cricket, has often entertained crowds in India during the IPL with his 360 degree batting and South Africa will hope the 32-year-old can end their wait for a World Cup title.
Jos Buttler, Alex Hales and Eoin Morgan will believe they can be match de Villiers' pyrotechnics for England but the 2010 champions' bowling attack appears short of experience.
They also have a powerful striker in Ben Stokes and the dependable Joe Root with the willow but it is to be seen if the batting can gloss over their bowling shortcomings.
Fellow contenders New Zealand may have a few psychological issues to resolve if they are to overcome their tendency to come up short on the big stage.
Their preparations have been overshadowed by the recent death of former captain Martin Crowe while the retirement of Brendon McCullum has robbed them of an exceptional reader of the game with unbridled batting firepower.
Darren Sammy will also have to inspire an understrength West Indies team, who just weeks ago were planning to boycott the tournament over a contractual dispute, if the 2012 champions are to stand any chance of winning a second title.
(Editing by John O'Brien)
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Published Date: Mar 11, 2016 15:15 PM | Updated Date: Mar 11, 2016 15:15 PM