T20 World Cup: The battle royale begins

ENGLAND

The top ranked team have been weakened by the absence of Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer. Unimpressive in warm-up games. The biggest concern is captain Eoin Morgan’s dismal form. Morgan said he would drop himself if it helps the team, but it’s unlikely that the team management would take that step against someone who has transformed England in white-ball cricket. Much rests on how seasoned pros like Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid perform along with T20 specialists like Tymal Mills

Players to Watch Out For: Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid, Chris Jordan

X Factor: Jason Roy

INDIA

Concerns about the tepid form of some key players like Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rahul Chahar in the IPL was mitigated in the two warm-up games, both won handsomely with these players making significant contributions. The problem for team management now is picking the playing XI! High-quality players with rich experience is the team’s strength. Also, the fact that all players were involved in the IPL and know the grounds and conditions well. Big onus on captain Virat Kohli. In his last assignment in T20, Kohli would want to finish on a winning note.

Players To Watch Out For: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja

X Factor: MS Dhoni as a mentor

PAKISTAN

Marginally behind India at number three in ICC rankings and a dangerous side. Skipper Babar Azam is rated among the best batsmen in the world, Mohammad Rizwan has been a consistently high scorer and Fakhar Zaman can be destructive. All-rounders Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Haris Rauf and pacers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali make a potent bowling attack. Veterans Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik shore up batting and bowling. Babar believes playing in UAE, a `home’ ground for them, is an advantage. Whether his team can hold their nerve on the big occasion is the issue.

Players To Watch For: Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shadab Khan

X Factor: Fakhar Zaman

WEST INDIES

Defending champions with an explosive batting line up that reads Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmon, Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell with Dwayne Bravo to follow would put the fear of God in any opposition. When on song, this team is impossible to contain. The bowling’s not as impressive though they have the seasoned Bravo and Russell in the ranks. But it’s an ageing attack. Without Sunil Narine, strangely left out, the spin department looks somewhat weak for UAE pitches. Pollard, with his clever variations, may have to pitch in frequently with the ball.

Players To Watch Out For: Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Nicholas Pooran

X Factor: Andre Russell

AUSTRALIA

Loaded with talent, the Aussies still appear vulnerable. A title still eludes them, and there will be huge expectations from skipper Aaron Finch. His batting form as well as that of David Warner, going through the horrors, seem to be the biggest issue confronting the side. If the openers don’t click, there will be enormous pressure on Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade and Marcus Stoinis in the middle order. The bowling’s strong with Mitchell Starc, Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson and Ashton Agar, but how quickly they adapt to pitches is crucial.

Players To Watch Out For: Aaron Finch, Steve Smith, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa

X Factor: Glenn Maxwell

NEW ZEALAND

Strong team, includes most members who participated in the ODI World Cup in 2019 where the Kiwis performed gloriously and were unlucky to not win the final. Losing both warm-up matches does suggest, though, that the team hasn’t been able to build up much momentum. Rich in all-rounders and bowling resources, how veteran opener Martin Guptill and captain Kane Williamson perform is critical in getting competitive scores. But the Kiwis have a well-knit side, strong in temperament and ambition, with a captain who excels under pressure.

Players To Watch Out For: Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill, Trent Boult, Ish Sodhi

X Factor: Tim Seifert

AFGHANISTAN

Having done superbly to be in the main draw (top 8), there was turmoil and upheaval with the Taliban’s takeover of the country, leading to doubts about their participation in the World Cup. Once participation was confirmed, changes in captaincy happened. Is the team good enough to play consistently well at the elite level, especially in World Cups? Players like Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman and free stroking batsmen like Mohammad Shahzad, Asghar Afghan and the rising star Rahmanullah Gurbaz can provide an answer.

Players To Watch Out For: Mohammad Nabi, Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Shahzad, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman

X Factor: Rashid Khan

SOUTH AFRICA

Without AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis, the squad may lack the heft of yore, but there are several players under Temba Bavuma who could ally with seasoned hands like David Miller, Kagiso Rabada, Quinton de Kock and surprise more fancied team. Among these are Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen (who made a century in the warm-ups), Anrich Nortje, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi and Tabraiz Shamsi. On paper, the bowling looks formidable. If the batting lives up to potential, the South Africans could be difficult to beat.

Players To Watch Out For: Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Temba Bavuma

X Factor: Keshav Maharaj

BANGLADESH

Forced to qualify for the Super 12, Bangladesh began badly with a defeat in the opener against Scotland. But the Tigers recovered splendidly to ensure they weren’t ousted from the tournament prematurely. Ace all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan was the pivot for the team’s return from the brink, with good support from Mehidy Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman, both revelling on these pitches. To make an impact in the tournament better performances are needed from Mushfiqur Rahim, skipper Mahmudullah and Liton Das.

Players To Watch Out For: Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mustafizur Rahman

X Factor: Mehidy Hasan

SRI LANKA

Smarting after being forced to qualify, the Sri Lankans got into the Super 12 after two emphatic victories, beating Namibia by seven wickets and following this up with a 70-run victory over the much tougher opponents, Ireland. But questions remain about the team’s batting and bowling, both still not performing consistently to win matches regularly. The top order’s fragile, bowling lacks incisive edge though there are a couple of bowlers with serious pace, and all-rounder Wanindu Hasaranga has made some kind of impact. Not impossible, but it will be a tough task ahead to stay the distance.

SCOTLAND

With three victories on the trot, one of which came against Sri Lanka, Scotland have reached the Super 12 in style. In many ways, this alleviates the bitter disappointment of narrowly missing out on the 2019 ODI World Cup. Clubbed in the same group as India, Pakistan, New Zealand and Afghanistan, this makes their prospects of getting into the knock-out stage remote. However, under no pressure of expectation, this hardy bunch, many of them juggling cricket with other jobs, can play freely and could pose some problems for more fancied teams.

Players To Watch Out For: Kyle Coetzer, Richie Berrington, George Munsey, Brad Wheal

X Factor: Chris Greaves

NAMIBIA

Their entry into the Super 12 of this World Cup is a landmark achievement. Not fancied to make the cut, Namibia did it in style in the last Round 1 match was against relatively more experienced Ireland, belying the pressures of a do-or-die situation. Their success, even more than Scotland’s, highlights the importance of the T20 format in taking cricket to countries otherwise not widely exposed to the sport. What the team lacks in terms of skill, it makes up in enthusiasm and grit.

Players To Watch Out For: Gerhard Erasmus, Jan Frylinck, Craig Williams

X Factor: David Wiese

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