Colombo: The Twenty20 World Cup starts Tuesday and there are no clear favourites in the tournament. All teams are well balanced and look evenly matched.
India, Afghanistan and defending champions England are in Group A while Australia, the West Indies and Ireland are in Group B. Hosts Sri Lanka, South Africa and Zimbabwe are in Group C while Group D comprises of 2009 winners Pakistan, New Zealand and Bangladesh.
Defending champions England will have their hands full if they are to retain their title. Without the services of star batsman Kevin Pietersen, the English side looks a little thin on the batting aspect and will have to rely on their in-form pace attack to restrict the opposition.
The West Indies though have been earmarked by many of the pundits as the team to watch out. The return of Chris Gayle for the islanders has given them the much needed firepower.
The explosive opener has been in sparkling form in the game`s shortest format. The mystery of off-spinner Sunil Narine is yet to be revealed and with conditions that suit spinners in Sri Lanka, he could very well be the trump card.
India, the 2007 champions, too have fielded a strong team. The return of Yuvraj Singh after his battle with cancer, will provide the team the added inspiration to do well.
But much is at stake for India. It has been a roller-coaster ride for India since winning the 50-over World Cup at home last year. They suffered embarrassing losses in the away Test series in England and Australia and also suffered an humiliating exit from the Asia Cup in Bangladesh.
They know that winning the World Twenty20 will be the perfect way to put behind the string of losses.
All eyes will be on India`s newest star Virat Kohli. The top-order looks one of the strongest and a lot would be expected from the dashing Delhi duo of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir.
But there are ample problems for the men in blue. Their failure to restrict teams towards the fag end of the innings has cost them many a game. The duty would fall on the experienced shoulders of Zaheer Khan to pull the Indian attack into a cohesive unit.
What may bother India is the fact that since winning the inaugural edition in 2007 they have failed to progress past the Super Eights. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who led the team to triumph in 2007, still remains crucial to India`s chances.
One team which has not been talked about much, South Africa, could very well be the dark horse of the tournament. The African side will be looking to shrug off the tag of chokers and win their first T20 crown under the captaincy of their dynamic batsman AB de Villiers.
But lack of quality spinners could prove to be the downfall of SOuth Africa, who rely heavily on their pace attack.
Sri Lanka, who will be playing at home, also have a fair chance. The unpredictability of Pakistan cannot be discounted either. With a well balanced side and a lethal spin attack at their disposal, they could repeat their 2009 feat of winning the tournament.
First Published: Monday, September 17, 2012, 18:27