So the World T20 is upon us once more which means it’s time for some no doubt wonky predictions from me. To be honest the tournament hasn’t had the best preparation, with fixtures only finalised at the last minute, causing major problems for spectators wishing to attend. Whether this is down to the ICC or the vagaries of hosting world events in India is open to speculation.
The qualifier begins tomorrow night with Hong Kong taking on Zimbabwe. The ICC are calling it the first round but as the top 8 Full Members are exempt from it it is hard to call it that with a straight face. Why they keep resisting a 4 groups of four format is beyond me and does an injustice to those associates who have made it this far. Anyway I fear I am becoming something of a broken record on this topic so let’s move on…
The two teams mentioned are joined by Scotland and Afghanistan in Group B and it’s safe to say the latter should progress. Afghanistan have showed good recent form against Zimbabwe in this format and despite a poor Asia Cup, where they were beaten by the UAE to the main draw, I would expect them to do well. They are a famously enigmatic team mind you. Hong Kong haven’t shown anything much recently and Scotland can be erratic, so victory over Zimbabwe should enable Afghanistan to progress.
Group A looks a lot more straightforward for the Full Member team Bangladesh. They have just reached the Asia Cup final, and despite defeat there they look in excellent shape heading into this one. Indeed, I’d go as far to say that they are outside chances of making the final, such is their improvement in recent months. Ireland will cause a problem as they always do, although I think their bowling may be a little weak this time around. The Netherlands, as England know very well, are capable of causing an upset and contain some big hitters up the order. Oman are probably the weakest in the group and it would be a major shock if they made it through.
Coming onto the main draw, Group 1 looks the most favourable. England, Sri Lanka, West Indies and South Africa plus Group B winners (Afghanistan in my mind) – that is an easier group on paper than Group 2. The West Indies are beset with problems with player payments in their continuing dispute with the WICB, and Sri Lanka are hampered by an injury to star bowler and captain, Malinga. This format is all about momentum and England could find some if they manage to dispose of the West Indies and then beat South Africa in their second match. Easier said then done with AB around but I feel South Africa are a little vulnerable, they seem to be struggling to find the correct balance in their middle order and if England can make inroads they might prevail. As for England they have an embarrassment of riches batting wise but the loss of Finn through injury is a blow. Thir mantra will be to get on top with the bat and post totals that will be too challenging, as the England bowling remains their Achilles heel. Still expect them to qualify though.
Group 2 looks hard to call – India as hosts must be favourites and Virat Kohli is a run machine in T2os at the moment, plus MS Dhoni is always dangerous as a finisher. New Zealand are without McCullum these days but have strength in their batting stocks. Pakistan are the great enigma of the group but are another team who have had problems in the build up due to security concerns. Australia have come off the back of a series defeat to South Africa, although they won the last game. The loss of talisman Mitchell Starc has weakened their bowling attack substantially, and their batting has been up and down. They have some huge strikers of the ball in Finch and Warner, but they tend to blow hot and cold. An early setback could see them sunk. With Bangladesh likely to make up the five picking two to go through is difficult – India and An Other is about as confident as I can be.
If I had to pick an eventual winner its hard to look past the hosts. Not just for home advantage, they possess quality throughout the side and have containing spinners which is vital for the wickets they will be bowling on. The vociforous home support always helps, too. I think England will do OK but not reach the final, and as I said at the top, my outside bet would be Bangladesh. There is usually one side who springs a surprise and gets on a roll and I think it could be them.
For some unknown reason the matches are not being shown live on TV here in Australis so I may not catch too much of it. So don’t expect my predictions to bear fruit, but that in many ways is part of the attraction of the format.