With teams like Afghanistan, Nepal, Hong Kong, Netherlands, UAE, Ireland and Bangladesh (again) thrown into the qualifying hat, with only two to be selected to join the 8 top teams, expect a few surprises in the first week.
That will be where the upsets end though, with the group stages expected to play out according to form on sub continental pitches.
What does that mean? Here goes-
Out of the qualifiers, my money is on Afghanistan and Bangladesh to qualify for the group stages. If Bangladesh does not qualify in this tournament set in home conditions, this will be their lowest point in cricket. That is not easy to achieve, considering they have been on a perpetual low since debuting in 1999. They are the only team to lose all 4 matches in the recently concluded Asia Cup. Again, at home.
ENGLAND will be one of the first casualties. Their group will have Sri Lanka, New Zealand, South Africa and one qualifier. I expect them to be eliminated at the cost of Sri Lanka and South Africa. They might manage just one victory against…
NEW ZEALAND. Though they are a much improved team, they have always fallen short in Bangladesh conditions. They have a bit of experience in the IPL, but the slow pitches in Mirpur and Dhaka will almost certainly eliminate them. If Bangladesh enters this group, I expect New Zealand to lose ALL their matches despite new talents like Neesham, Anderson.
The first match of the group stages is India vs Pakistan. The other teams of this group (of death) are Australia, West Indies and a qualifier. 3 World Champions and Australia- who would have thought? In these conditions, or any for that matter, I will EXPECT West Indies to hit back and go through to the semi finals. The other team could very well be Australia on current form, but I still think it could be Pakistan that blast their way through.
INDIAwill be one of the casualties of the group stages, continuing their poor World T20 record since 2007. Yuvraj and Raina will add experience, but the bowlers are too ordinary.
EXPECT a new World T20 Champion. This could be eternal bridesmaids’ Sri Lanka’s tournament. They have already played two back-to-back tournaments here, annihilating Bangladesh in a tour and then going unbeaten in the Asia Cup– defeating Pakistan TWICE on the way to the trophy. This will be their first major win since the 1996 World Cup, after ending up as losing finalists in 2012 and 2009.
EXPECT the unexpected in the semi finals. The other 3 teams could be West Indies, Pakistan and South Africa. Australia’s wait might be extended, only because they are coming off two long tours to a sapping country against flat pitch bullies. Usually, the favourites always fall by the wayside here.
EXPECT the spinners to reign supreme again. Narine, Ajmal and Amit Mishra (surprise) could be the game changers. Expect Australian rookie Muirhead to make a mark.
EXPECT Bangladesh to put up a fight. Their style is suited to this format.
EXPECT Afghanistan to pull off atleast one upset.
EXPECT AB De Villiers to pull his team through almost single-handedly.
EXPECT Glenn Maxwell to stamp his mark on the World T20.