The ICC World Twenty20 2016 will be the sixth edition of the biennial tournament organised by cricket’s governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC). This tournament, which will begin on March 8th and run until the 3rd of April next year, will be hosted by India, who won the inaugural edition of the competition in South Africa in 2007. Srilanka will defend the title they won in 2014, when they beat India to the coveted crown.
Last Friday, ICC announced the different groups and schedule of next year’s competition that will be contested by 16 teams, out of which eight would have to play in the qualifying round. The qualifying round will have 8 teams split into two groups of 4, with Bangladesh, Ireland, Netherlands and Oman battling it out for the top spot in group A, and Zimbabwe, Scotland, Hong Kong and Afghanistan fighting to finish top of group B. The winners of group A and group B will then join the eight, elite teams in the Super 10 stage of the competition. MS Dhoni‘s devils have been placed in group 2.
Read on… to find out which teams will India go up against in what I consider as the ‘Group of Death’.
The Super 10 stage of the ICC World Twenty20 2016 will have two groups of five teams. Hosts India are placed in group 2, which also has Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, and the winner of group A from the qualifying round will join the quartet.
Australia and New Zealand, teams that played the first ever T20 International (T20I) match more than a decade ago, have not done well in the first five editions of the biennial tournament. Australia have reached the finals only once (in the 2010 edition in the Caribbean) and been semifinalists twice, while their Trans-Tasman rivals’ best performance in the ICC World T20 tournaments has been reaching the semifinals in the inaugural edition. However, both teams have some exciting and destructive players – David Warner, Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch, Tim Southee, to name a few – up their sleeve and would no doubt be hard to break down, from India’s perspective. The Men in Blue play Australia on the 27th of March, in Mohali.
With nearly 4 more months to go before India kick start their campaign against the Blackcaps in Nagpur on March 15th, 2016, one cannot be certain about the state of teams when the tournament begins. However, India were brushed aside easily by South Africa in the T20I meetings between the sides back in October. India just did not have the kind of versatility in the batting and bowling departments, that every team needs, to be successful in this format of the game. Sandip Patil and co. have got their task cut out to address the issues with the Indian T20 side before the world T20 begins.
Pakistan, who won the 2009 edition and made it to the final of the inaugural edition in South Africa, are another formidable outfit in this format of the game. Though India have lost only once (in 2004) to their arch-rivals in ICC tournaments, Pakistan will challenge Dhoni’s devils to the hilt. Their batting lineup may not set the alarm bells ringing, but the bowling attack and highly useful spinning all-rounders do give a good balanced look to their side and that is indeed the most significant aspect to any T20 side wanting to be successful. India play Pakistan in Dharamsala on the 19th of March.
The nature of the T20 format is such that no team can call itself ‘favorites’. India, as the hosts, will be under a little bit of pressure being in a group as competitive as theirs is. They, however, have the chance to identify different playing combinations and test out new players when they travel to Australia next month, playing in a 5-match One Day International (ODI) series and a 3-match T20I series against the Kangaroos. Preparation and versatility to the playing XI are the key aspects to any T20 side, and India need them in their armoury if they want to make it to the last four, at least, of the ICC World Twenty20 2016.