Watch Ayaz Memon's preview of the ICC World T20 above, as he talks about the problems that the organisers have faced leading up to the event. Also, find out who he picks for the semi-finals from the two groups.
The organisers have huffed and puffed, and despite their best efforts to blow the house down, the Super 10 stage of ICC World Twenty20 -- cricket's showpiece tournament in the shortest format -- begins in earnest Tuesday. India, once so sniffy about the glitzy World T20, get the group stages under way for the first time on home soil as they take on New Zealand.
The build-up has been marred by rows over security for Pakistan and the late release of tickets, while the holders Sri Lanka are mired in turmoil. But the controversies have done little to dampen the fervour of Indian fans who believe skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has a date with destiny at the April 3 final at Kolkata's iconic Eden Gardens.
Dhoni, the man known as 'Captain Cool' is trying to keep expectations in check, saying the 2007 champions "are looking to make a slow and steady progress, rather than think(ing) too far ahead".
Back in 2007 BCCI, worried about the impact of Twenty20 cricket on the 50-over game, only reluctantly agreed to send a team to ensure the right to host the 2011 World Cup. One senior board official lamented the tournament would be "a circus and our players will be clowns", according to The Times of India.
Now, almost nine years later, the country gets ready to host the event, weeks ahead of the IPL.
At Firstpost, as part of our extensive coverage of the mega-event, we have writers dedicated to cover each competing country. All 10 teams in fray have been dissected, their chances weighed, their weaknesses explored by analysts who have been following the countries in the lead up to the big event. Over the past week, we have published separate previews of all the 10 teams. Now here is a one-stop shop for all previews consolidated.
Let's root for more upsets from Afghanistan, the romance that cricket needs but doesn’t deserve
Stories of Afghanistan’s rise from the lowest rung of the international cricket have been told time and time again. And it is a story good enough to be retold a thousand times. The fact that these men learnt the game in refugee camps on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has been much discussed. It is a great story, but no longer the only story.
This is a very good cricket team, plain and simple. Afghanistan are currently ranked ninth in the ICC T20 rankings, above Test nations Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and it isn’t an exaggeration to say that they would be placed higher had they had more fixtures against higher-ranked teams.
Read more from Peter Miller's preview of Afghanistan here.
Weak bowling attack notwithstanding, a rejuvenated England have licence to dream
England and ICC global events have a troubled history. They have gone into almost every World Cup or World T20 with a massive sense of uncertainty. England have regularly changed their team make-up, captain and tactics on the eve of the tournament. It has rarely worked out. It was only when they won the 2010 World T20 in the Caribbean that this shuffling of resources paid dividends.
This time England know exactly how they are going to play, who their captain will be and broadly speaking, know their best side. Since the abysmal World Cup in Australia last year, England have embraced a new attacking approach that has seen them break new ground in white ball cricket.
They had gone through the whole of 2015 without losing a game of T20 and their new attacking approach looked to be paying off spectacularly.
Read more from Peter Miller's preview of England here.
Full of talent and experience, South Africa are right up there with favourites India
There was a time when I was a die-hard Proteas fan. Through all the ups and downs, the elation and agony, I was there cheering them on and trash talking the trash talkers.
Then the fire inside of me flickered low and eventually went out. I couldn’t take the heartbreaks anymore, the emotional roller coasters or the missed opportunities. What becomes of a man who suffers such emotional scarring?
Does he support another team?
No, he just becomes objective.
That is where I find myself right now in my sporting life. Sure there is an element of ‘fan’ left in me but essentially I’m enjoying cricket at a whole new level with more neutral eyes. For the first time ever I’m in a position to write a fully objective preview about South Africa going into a major tournament, and will start off by objectively saying that the Proteas are probably going to win the ICC World T20!
If Leonardo DiCaprio can finally win an Oscar, the Proteas can win an ICC trophy.
Read more from Ben Carpinski's preview of South Africa here.
Unsettled Sri Lanka look to address glaring batting deficiencies
Defending World Twenty20 champions Sri Lanka, who were also runners-up in 2009 and 2012, bid adieu to batting stalwarts Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara from the format after their 2014 triumph and have yet to fill the void.
They come into the tournament following series defeats in New Zealand and India and a poor showing at the Asia Cup, where they lost to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh while only beating United Arab Emirates.
The fitness of Lasith Malinga will have a major bearing on Sri Lanka's chances.
The pace bowler gave up the captaincy due to injury problems this week, handing over the mantle to test and one-day skipper Angelo Mathews.
All-rounder Mathews will hope his side can find form when it matters but addressing his batting unit's inconsistency is a priority.
The team have failed to cross the 130-run mark, considered a modest total in the T20 format, on four occasions in their last six games and were all out for 82 in the second of the three-match series in India.
With Reuters inputs
Problems with West Indies aplenty, but never rule them out in the shortest format
The West Indies have known greatness. They've also known despair. The Caribbean's older cricket fans will never forget the former glories, but they've struggled to come to terms with the subsequent disappointments.
With failure came dwindling interest. But recent success, and a genuinely positive expectation of more in the ICC World T20 is galvanizing the region. And hope is once again alive.
The breathtaking Under-19 World Cup triumph in February has been a beacon of light in what's been a Stygian gloom, and there is now belief is that the 'Fire in Babylon' can once again burn bright.
ICC World T20 promises much for the West Indies, and with such an exciting group of players their matches will be keenly contested and viewed by millions.
And for those back home in the Caribbean, the expectation is sufficient for the population to stay up late again, 15,000 miles away, hoping to witness a second world title within a few weeks.
Read David Oram's full preview of the West Indies squad here
Ad hocism, poor planning and illogical selection policy leave Australia with little chance
Australia have the ability to create the Big Bash and turn it into a roaring success. Yet until last week, the national team hadn't won a T20I for something close to 450 days.
As I write this, Aaron Finch is the highest ranked T20 batsman in the world. This is despite his country only playing one T20I in 2015.
He is also in an environment where chatter suggests his place in the side may be at risk. Strange. None of the Australian selectors have ever played a T20 International. It is a game that has a very different flow to Test and ODI cricket.
The result of this is that Australia's best-ever off spinner has not been chosen for an Indian tour, one of their best batsmen in George Bailey has also been ignored, yet Ashton Agar is selected on a hunch.
At the end of this tournament, Australia will board a plane and head back home. But Australia are unlikely to bring silverware with them.
They will have had a vacation. There will be some moments. But no one will ever raise the trip in conversation as a life highlight.
Read more from Dennis Freedman's preview of Australia here
Semi-final spot is up for grabs if Bangladesh manage to control the controllables Bangladesh
Having to play the qualifiers despite making the final of the Asia Cup could actually have been a good thing for Bangladesh. It helped them quickly shake off the loss to India in the final and get back to winning ways. The victory against the Netherlands did just that, and they continue to ride the wave of momentum that they gained in Dhaka.
The people of Bangladesh have been fed a bounty of cricket this summer. First in appetising doses through the U-19 World Cup. Then in large, star-struck, gluttonous bites through the Asia Cup. And yet they still crave for the dessert in the WT20. They want their team to give them a final effort, the icing on the cake, the mishti doi after the fish curry. They want their team to do what the colts did. They want a semi-final. And judging by the way they are playing, the team wants one too.
Read more from Snehal Pradhan's preview of Bangladesh here
Balanced and well-prepared, India must cut through 'favourites' noise to rewrite history
Five thumping wins in five matches in the Asia Cup, gave Dhoni's side the title and sealed the belief that they will enter World T20 as the team to beat. India made most of the opportunities presented before the mega event which has doubled up as confidence booster going into the tournament.
In fact they've been rampant in last couple of months, having won 10 out of their last 11 T20Is and a majority of them, in a resounding fashion. The home conditions play a big role in their favourites tag.
The tag instills confidence but what it also brings is added pressure.
Back in 2007 when India won the inaugural World T20, they had gone into the tournament as underdogs. They had faced the disappointment of group stage exit in the 50-over World Cup and it was an inexperienced but vibrant side led by MS Dhoni that had headed into the World T20 without the weight of expectations and that, probably, allowed them to play with freedom.
However, they had a tough time from then on as they failed to make it to the semis of the next three editions. It was in the last edition, 2014, that they finally broke the run to make it to the final before losing to Sri Lanka. But that year too, the team was not fancied much heading into the tournament. So it's a different ball game all together this time around.
Read more from Jigar Mehta's preview of India here.
Without McCullum, New Zealand look rank outsiders but write them off at your own peril
New Zealand are poised to make a daunting transition. They will be without their fearless leader and most dynamic batsman who has bid adieu to international cricket. The 2016 ICC World T20 signals the dawn of a new era for New Zealand cricket after the retirement of beloved captain Brendon McCullum.
The Black Caps’ talisman quit last month after the Test series against Australia and New Zealand now must regroup quickly if they hope to mount a serious challenge in the tournament. They would have doubtless loved McCullum to play on a little longer. It is undeniable that New Zealand will miss his destructive batting and inspirational leadership; the boys fed off McCullum’s dynamism and it propelled them to heights previously unimaginable.
With McCullum back in the hut, the Kiwis are very much outsiders for the title. Most cynics don’t believe New Zealand can escape from a difficult group alongside Australia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
The Kiwis have always played hard and have enough talent to trouble the very best teams. Amid an arduous group, New Zealand will have to showcase their famed pluck repeatedly to progress deep into the tournament. It looks an uphill battle but write New Zealand off at your peril.
Read more from Tristan Lavalette's preview of New Zealand here
Certainly no favourites but beware of Pakistan when they play as underdogs
Pakistan head into the World T20 on the back of a woeful Asia Cup. Pakistan’s T20I form has generally been pretty uninspiring since the biannual event in 2014. Top order remains the chronic disease though the bowling looks far better than it did about six months ago.
If you look at Pakistan’s overall numbers and the batting, it doesn’t really inspire any sort of hope, however the bowling does induce confidence and belief.
Can Pakistan make it into the semi-finals? It will be tough but if numbers are anything to go by then they should be in the running considering Australia’s troubles and a fifth team having to come through the grueling qualifying process.
Pakistan certainly aren’t one of the two favorites to qualify from this group but they have always played better with the underdog tag. It will be important to back the strength — bowling — and play with at least three genuine fast bowlers instead of opting for someone like an Anwar Ali (All-rounder) in a hope to strengthen the batting.
Read more from Rehan Ulhaq's preview of Pakistan here
First Published On : Mar 15, 2016 11:50 IST