The main draw of the World T20 begins on Tuesday with a mouth-watering clash between India and New Zealand in Nagpur.
The intense nature of T20 cricket makes it a notoriously difficult game to predict but with the help of some friends, Sport360 is going to have a go.
Former international cricket captains Graeme Smith (South Africa), Michael Vaughan (England) and Misbah-ul-Haq (Pakistan) give their thoughts on which team is most likely to win the tournament.
Do you agree with the legends? Have your say on Twitter using #360Fans!
It was supposed to be a brief get-together but it was over even before the appetizers were finished.
The qualifying stage for the World T20 was designed to be a short skirmish between eight sides for the two qualifying spots in the Super 10 stage. But with rain playing spoilsport in four games, the opening stage ended up being a cruel joke for the Associate teams.
Enough has been written about how the International Cricket Council, in its wisdom, decided to reduce the number of ‘second-tier’ teams in world tournaments by allotting just two spots in the main event, instead of the four earlier. That is the reality now and moaning about it doesn’t seem to be working.
However, with a Test team like Bangladesh also forced to fight for a Super 10 spot, as happened in the previous World T20 and this edition, too many stomachs had to be filled with too small a pie. People were going to go hungry.
At the end of the qualifying stage, a few stalwarts bid adieu to the 2016 World T20 knowing that this was probably the last time they were going to play on a world stage.
The veterans might still have walked off the field with a smile on their face if they had played their share of three full matches.
But they didn’t even get that. Netherlands and Ireland were both knocked out of the tournament on the same day without participating in a completed match.
The Dutch didn’t even get to play a single ball against Oman and for someone like Peter Borren, who has scored more than 3,000 runs and picked up more than 150 wickets across formats, it was a bitter pill to swallow in what could be his last such tournament.
“We won’t be playing in a world event for I don’t know how many years. I’ve been lucky that I’ve been to a few but it seems there are less opportunities for Associate teams, which is frustrating,” Borren said after the washout in Dharamsala.
The Irish too had a similar tale to tell. A shock two-run defeat to Oman meant that their washed out encounter with Bangladesh signalled the end of their campaign. The party was over after one match.
Ireland captain William Porterfield has been a regular member of the team for a decade now and he cannot say with certainty if he will be around the next time Ireland get to play with the big boys.
While Porterfield is 31, the O’Brien brothers – Niall (34) and Kevin (32) – too are on the wrong side of 30 and have been through the grind more than once.
In all likelihood, all three won’t be there together when the ICC asks them to ‘make up the numbers’ the next time. Porterfield is a heavyweight of the Associate world, with more than 5,000 first-class runs while Niall has a staggering 8,057 of his own. Kevin has more than 7,500 runs and 200 wickets across formats.
These are serious players and it’s a travesty that we didn’t even get to see a full performance from them.
After Netherlands beat Ireland in a six-over match on Sunday, the reaction of Dutch captain Borren summed it all up – the formality had been completed, time to pack the bags. It seems even the cricketing gods have abandoned them for the moment.
The situation might change a few years down the line. The ICC might, all of a sudden, decide to loosen its purse, double their share of the revenue and allow more teams to participate in the big tournaments.
But that won’t change the fact that the current bunch of Associate stalwarts has been short-changed. They deserved much more.
A TIMELY REALITY CHECK
The Indian team has been on a dream run in T20 cricket for a few months now.
First was the series win in Australia, then a 2-1 triumph against Sri Lanka at home followed by a flawless performance in the Asia Cup.
That meant in 2016,India had won 10 matches and lost just once. No wonder they are heavy favourites to win the World T20.
But their confidence took a knock during the warm-up game against the South Africans.
Even though it was just a training match, both teams were at their competitive best and pushed hard to get the system up and running.
India’s four-run defeat in a close finish showed that while they are undoubtedly an excellent team, there are a few sides out there who can match them.
Seeing young quick Jasprit Bumrah thrashed for 51 runs from four overs must have been a surprise for captain MS Dhoni.
At least it didn’t come in the main tournament and both the team management and the bowler should be better prepared.
And most importantly, the defeat taught the high-flying Indians that no matter how good a team is, the difference between victory and defeat in a T20 games is sometimes no more than one shot to the boundary.
Reporting from the hills of Dharamsala, the ‘voice of Dubai International Cricket Stadium’ Brian Murgatroyd joins us to reflect on the qualifiers, a superb Bangladesh and even better ground staff.
Brian is working for Cricket Radio throughout the tournament and you can find him on Twitter.