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India seek redemption at World T20; Australia, Pakistan favourites

Last updated on: March 19, 2014 10:54 IST

India seek redemption at World T20; Australia, Pakistan favourites

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In a bid to arrest the free fall of the past few months, a desperate India, under Mahendra Singh Dhoni, seek redemption in the ICC World T20, while Australia and Pakistan have credentials to be labelled as strong contenders.

On current form, India, champions in the inaugural edition in 2007, are certainly not among the favourites to win the tournament.

Pakistan and a well-balanced Australia will seriously be vying for top honours.

Defending champions the West Indies would like to prove that their triumph in 2012 was no flash in pan, while Sri Lanka are hoping to be third time lucky, having lost in the final in 2009 and 2012.

New Zealand, with new-found sensation Corey Anderson, would like to end their major Trophy jinx, something that even South Africa, under AB de Villiers, would also be aiming for.


Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (second from left) speaks to his players
Photographs: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

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India placed in tough group, which includes Australia, Pakistan and West Indies

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India last played a T20 International more than five months back and won that particular match against Australia by six wickets after Yuvraj Singh played a blinder.

Much has changed for them since that match in Rajkot, with the team’s performance going from bad to worse.

T20 is a different format, but comprehensive defeats in the Tests and ODI series in New Zealand is certainly demoralising. Worse, India could not even qualify for the Asia Cup final, losing to both Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the league stage.

Two-and-a-half months into 2014, and India have only two international victories -- against minnows Bangladesh and Afghanistan, a record that won't make the team proud.

They failed to reach the semi-finals in the last three editions, in England (2009), West Indies (2010) and Sri Lanka (2012).

India start their World T20 campaign against this backdrop.

Indeed, it won't be easy as they face an ever-threatening Pakistan, a formidable Australia and defending champions West Indies in their group, along with a qualifier who will join after the preliminary group league matches.


Image: Team India celebrates after winning the ICC Champions Trophy in June 2013
Photographs: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

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Bowling remains India's perennial problem

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A fact that should worry the Indian team is lack of preparation going into the tournament. They lost the first warm-up match against Sri Lanka and have just one more, against England on March 19, before takig on Pakistan in their opening match.

On the other hand, Australia and South Africa played a three-match T20 series (first match abandoned), while England and the West Indies also played a two-match series.

It is difficult to understand India's inconsistency in the format despite their players getting a lot of T20 experience through the Indian Premier League that features a host of international stars from around the world.

That the tournament is being played in the sub-continent will not be an advantage anymore as India’s performance in the last edition was testimony.

Australia thrashed them in a rain-affected game in Colombo, which proved crucial in their elimination on run-rate after being level on points with Pakistan.

Skipper Dhoni, who missed the Asia Cup with injury, has recovered from a side strain and will be back in the saddle along with veteran Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina who have made a comeback to the team.

The bowling remains a perennial worry, with Mohammed Shami's performance being the only silver lining. Varun Aaron is inconsistent and Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s lack of pace has been
thoroughly exposed.

Ravichandran Ashwin did marginally better during the Asia Cup, but is far from his best, while Ravindra Jadeja, despite some good performances, is not a runaway match-winner.

So it will again depend on how well skipper Dhoni and Virat Kohli perform during the tournament.


Image: Mohammed Shami
Photographs: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

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Afridi, Ajmal make Pakistan a dangerous side

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On the other hand, Pakistan, who won the tournament in 2009, will be hoping to put up a good show under Mohammed Hafeez’s captaincy.

Shahid Afridi's groin injury is a concern, but the senior-most player is expected to be fit by the time Pakistan kicks-off their campaign against India.

They had a good Asia Cup, where they lost the final to Sri Lanka, but Afridi's back-to-back match-winning efforts against India and Bangladesh must have boosted their confidence.

With a world-class spinner in Saeed Ajmal, an impressive T20 bowler like Sohail Tanveer, talented batsman like Umar Akmal and seasoned all-rounders, such as Hafeez, Afridi and Shoaib Malik, they have all the ingredients of a champion side.


Image: Shahid Afridi
Photographs: Andrew Biraj/Reuters

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Australia eye maiden World T20 title

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The to watch out for is Australia, who are still trying to win their maiden World T20 trophy.

While Mitchell Johnson’s toe injury can be a factor, the Aussies, under George Bailey, have successfully passed the transition phase and are ready to take on the world.

They have one of the world’s best limited-overs' all-rounders in Shane Watson, who will be ably complemented in the top order by the explosive David Warner.

The left-hander can take the game away from the opposition in a flash along with his partner, Aaron Finch, who is equally destructive with the bat.

The presence of the experienced Brad Hodge in the middle-order along with skipper Bailey gives Aussies the necessary muscle.

The absence of Johnson might lead to Mitchell Starc leading the pace attack while chinaman bowler Brad Hogg, at 43, will like to prove that age indeed is just a number.

South Africa are a very good side, with a best pace attack that comprises Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and a quality all-rounder in Morne's elder brother, Albie.

The batting will be led by a proven match-winner in AB de Villiers, who will have support from Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis.

But losing crucial games in ICC tournament with the 'chokers' tag is something AB's boys will like to change for good.


Image: Shane Watson
Photographs: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

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West Indies keen to defend World T20 title

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Darren Sammy wouldn’t mind an encore after the West Indies stunned the world beating Sri Lanka in their own den in the last edition of the tournament.

It required an inspirational innings from Marlon Samuels to win that final, but their biggest match-winner will certainly be Chris Gayle.

While the two Dwaynes -- opener Smith and all-rounder Bravo -- will lend solidity to the side, Sunil Narine's variations on the slowish tracks will certainly keep the West Indies in the hunt.

New Zealand are one side that any team would ignore at their own peril.

Brendon McCullum’s T20 skills are well-known and with Anderson emerging a lethal all-round weapon, the 'Black Caps' would like to fancy themselves being a bit more than a dark horse.

Ross Taylor, all-rounder Jimmy Neesham and Martin Guptill are capable enough to trouble any team on a given day while Kane Williamson's calm and collective approach will bring in method to the madness of Anderson and McCullum.

Sri Lanka's Asia Cup victory makes them a force to reckon with, but it will be interesting to find out how young Dinesh Chandimal leads a side that has four Sri Lankan captains in current ODI leader Angelo Mathews, veterans Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene, who led the side to the title round in the last edition.

This brings us to England, the champions of the 2010 edition.

Having won a T20 match against the West Indies recently will keep Stuart Broad and his boys in good frame of mind.

All-rounders Luke Wright and Ravi Bopara and the hard-hitting Eoin Morgan will be critical in England’s pursuit for glory.


Image: Chris Gayle (centre) celebrates with his team mates after winning the World T20 title in October 2012
Photographs: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

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