With the preliminary round now complete, the 10-team field is set for the showpiece event of cricket’s newest and most explosive format, the World Twenty20. Bangladesh and Afghanistan became the two qualifiers to join the top eight ranked T20 countries by the International Cricket Council (ICC), who will now face off in India over two frantic weeks. The Super 10 portion of the tournament will see the teams split into two groups of five and compete in a round-robin format, with the top two in each section going onto the semifinals. Here’s a rundown of the teams that will be vying for glory in the biennial event.
Champions in 2010, England have otherwise struggled in the Twenty20 format, and outside of that triumph in the West Indies have won six of their 19 matches in the competition. Eoin Morgan’s team have also had limited outings in the format of late, playing just five matches last year. While they won all of those, they lost both of their contests in South Africa last month. If they are to go far, an inexperienced England side will likely need some big performances from opener Alex Hales, who blasted a memorable century in inflicting the only defeat upon eventual champions Sri Lanka in the 2014 edition of the tournament.
Despite never having won a major international title and their best performance in the World T20 being a third-place finish in 2009, South Africa have cause for optimism heading into their latest attempt to break their duck. Not only did the Proteas claim a series victory over India in India last October but they repeated the trick in a warm-up match on Saturday. Despite a challenging past few months, South Africa appear to be building momentum and could benefit from having less pressure on their shoulders than they have going into many past international tournaments.
Sri Lanka have it all to do if they are to retain the title they won in Bangladesh two years ago. The retirement of batting greats Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene left a void that has yet to be filled in a batting lineup that is far from reliable. There is a major issue in the bowling attack, too, with Lasith Malinga giving up the captaincy right ahead of the tournament as he continues to battle fitness problems. Series defeats in New Zealand and India were followed by losing three of their four matches at the recent Asia Cup along with some unwelcome off-field disruptions.
The West Indies have arrived at the tournament under an all too familiar cloud of disharmony. Indeed it was only in the last few weeks that it was confirmed that the first-choice squad would be traveling to the event after a contractual dispute. Having also only played eight Twenty20 matches since the last World T20 two years ago, their prospects would appear limited. And yet the champions in 2012 have always been capable of producing big performances in cricket’s shortest format. With the likes of Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Darren Sammy not only possessing big-hitting capability but experience of the conditions thanks to the Indian Premier League, the West Indies could do some damage.
Undoubtedly the outsiders of the competition, for Afghanistan simply making it into the Super 10 and qualifying for their third consecutive World T20 represents an impressive achievement. That they sealed their place with an emphatic win over ICC Full Members Zimbabwe only adds to their accomplishment. Adding to their one win in the competition, recorded two years ago, will now be the minimum aim.
Despite winning four of the last five one-day World Cups, Australia have curiously yet to go all the way in the Twenty20 version, despite reaching three semifinals. Sporadic matches in the format since they recorded just one victory in the 2014 World T20, along with suffering a series whitewash at home to India in January, would suggest that 2016 is unlikely to be the year they end that drought. However, they possess a deep batting lineup, many of which should benefit from experience of the IPL.
The undoubted favorites to lift the trophy on home soil. Champions in the first World T20 in 2007, India had shown indifferent form in the format prior to the start of this year when they won 3-0 in Australia to start a run of winning 11 of 12 Twenty20 matches, including a series win over Sri Lanka and lifting the Asia Cup. While they suffered a warm-up defeat to South Africa on Saturday, it is unlikely to prove overly discouraging to a team that possesses a stacked batting lineup, veteran leadership from Mahendra Singh Dhoni and a varied, improving bowling attack.
Like South Africa, New Zealand have yet to taste glory in any ICC event, getting their closest yet when reaching the final of last year’s one-day World Cup. Without the man who led them to that runners-up finish, Brendon McCullum, and drawn into a tough group, New Zealand now have it all to do just to add to their sole semifinal appearance in the World T20, back in 2007. But recent series wins over Sri Lanka and Pakistan show they are not to be taken lightly.
One of the most consistent sides in World T20 competition, reaching four consecutive semifinals between 2007 and 2012 and lifting the trophy in 2009, preparations have hardly been ideal for Pakistan this time around. As well as losing seven of their last 10 Twenty20 contests, their very participation in the World T20 was in doubt right up until the past few days, when they were finally given the security assurances they had sought from the India government. It will take something special for their stay in India to be extended to the semifinals.
Bangladesh continued their record of qualifying for every World T20 thanks to a thumping win over Oman in their final qualifier on Sunday. And they should do more than simply make up the numbers, too. At the recent Asia Cup on home soil, Bangladesh beat both Pakistan and Sri Lanka to reach the final. A first ever semifinal place will now most definitely be the aim.
Schedule (all times EDT)
Tuesday, March 15
India vs. New Zealand (10 a.m., Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Nagpur)
Wednesday, March 16
Pakistan vs. Bangladesh (5:30 a.m., Eden Gardens, Kolkata)
England vs. West Indies (10 a.m., Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai)
Thursday, March 17
Afghanistan vs. Sri Lanka (10 a.m., Eden Gardens, Kolkata)
Friday, March 18
Australia vs. New Zealand (5:30 a.m., Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium, Dharamsala)
England vs. South Africa (10 a.m., Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai)
Saturday, March 19
India vs. Pakistan (10 a.m., Eden Gardens, Kolkata)
Sunday, March 20
Afghanistan vs. South Africa (5:30 a.m., Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai)
Sri Lanka vs. West Indies (10 a.m., M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore)
Monday, March 21
Australia vs. Bangladesh (10 a.m., M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore)
Tuesday, March 22
New Zealand vs. Pakistan (10 a.m., Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium, Chandigarh)
Wednesday, March 23
Afghanistan vs. England (5:30 a.m., Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi)
India vs. Bangladesh (10 a.m., M Chinnnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore)
Friday, Match 25
Australia vs. Pakistan (5:30 a.m., Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium, Chandigarh)
South Africa vs. West Indies (10 a.m., Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Nagpur)
Saturday, March 26
New Zealand vs. Bangladesh (5:30 a.m., Eden Gardens, Kolkata)
England vs. Sri Lanka (10 a.m., Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi)
Sunday, March 27
Afghanistan vs. West Indies (5:30 a.m. Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Nagpur)
India vs. Australia (10 a.m., Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium, Chandigarh)
Monday, March 28
South Africa vs. Sri Lanka (10 a.m., Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi)
Wednesday, March 30
Semifinal 1(9:30 a.m., Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi)
Thursday, March 31
Semifinal 2 (9:30 a.m., Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai)
Sunday, April 3
Final (9:30 a.m., Eden Gardens, Kolkata)
TV and live stream info: Willow TV will have exclusive TV and live streaming coverage of cricket’s World Twenty20 in the United States.