The 2007 champions, the 2010 champions and the unpredictable Afghanistan throw up a tasty Group A at the World T20.
The fixtures also set themselves up in a way that by the time India and England meet, they will already have played Afghanistan — which will tell them whether they’re both assured of a Super Eight placing.
AFGHANISTAN: The Afghans are playing their second World T20 tournament and have played against Pakistan and Australia in ODIs in the run-up to Sri Lanka. Having achieved a lot since starting out pretty late, this team has one factor that will stand out — unpredictability. Teams will have studied them, but in this format, and as the cliche goes, you never know.
Strengths: Their greatest strength is that they have nothing to lose. That said, they showed immense grit to give Australia a good ODI match in late August. They have a young team and their best batsman Mohammad Shahzad will be a priceless wicket. He has the highest ODI run-aggregate for Afghanistan with 743 runs in 21 matches and the highest T20I run-aggregate for Afghanistan with 312 runs in 11 matches (avg 31.20).
Weakness: Bowling. Even on their best day, they have to hope that the opposition has a bad day.
Man to watch: Hamid Hassan. The pacer bowls reverse swingers at more than 140 kmph. He already has 14 wickets in eight T20s.
ENGLAND: They are without Kevin Pietersen — the man who was player of the tournament in the 2010 edition. It might hang on their backs constantly, given the English press and their behaviour, but they are a good side and should have a good tournament.
Strengths: Their strong point is a deep batting lineup, helped with the inclusion of all-rounders like skipper Stuart Broad. Others like Tim Bresnan will also be useful. They have all sorts of players and a good selection to choose from — something which is vital in the shortest format of the game.
Weakness: This one’s easy. Without KP in the mix, Craig Kieswetter, Eoin Morgan and Alex Hales will need to be at their best. If these batsmen collapse, pressure may be too much to handle.
Man to watch: Eoin Morgan for his inventive shots. Some of them work and some of them don’t, so it will be interesting to keep an eye on him.
INDIA: The Indians aren’t new to the ‘favourites’ tag. Good T20 performances and hosts of the yearly IPL… India are very well placed to pick a strong team for the World T20.
Strengths: Batting of course. And MS Dhoni for his vast experience in T20 cricket. The team have quality batsmen and a captain used to winning T20 tournaments aplenty. His cool demeanour in this format is a massive asset for his whole team… plus the fact that he walks out when things are getting tough takes the pressure off the others. But for India to fire, they need to bat well and thankfully, they’re best in that area.
Weakness: Without an express bowler, the early wicket-taking capacity goes down. The spinners are good, but this is not Test cricket… while they can keep things tight, one bad over could ruin the match.
Man to watch: Virat Kohli. His recent Test exploits against NZ show that he is just getting better with every match. The opposition can’t afford to take it easy against him.