The ICC T20 World Cup is upon us. Due to the vagaries of the format, no team has ever won the tournament twice, thus far. However, the 20 over extravaganza has already given plenty of enthralling moments which has taken us through the roller-coaster ride with fervent anticipation.
16 teams are in the fray, with eight top ranked T20I teams earning a direct qualification to the final grouping. Let us take a look at where the top contenders stand (in no particular order) before the caravan finally arrives in India.
Bangladesh's recent resurgence in ODIs has spread to T20Is too, courtesy an admirable performance in the recently concluded Asia Cup. Led by the courageous Mashrafe Mortaza, the Tigers are no longer the minnows they used to be. Due to their lower T20I ranking, they will have to fight it out in the qualifiers before they can get to the point where they could possibly carve out a niche for themselves.
Strength: Young and vibrant team who do not carry any past baggage.
Weakness: Lack of a power-hitter/finisher down the order.
Opportunity: A chance to taste what cricket is like in India.
Threat: Absence of a high-quality spinner to partner Shakib Al Hasan on turning tracks.
Squad: Mashrafe Mortaza (C), Shakib Al Hasan, Abu Hider, Al-Amin Hossain, Arafat Sunny, Mahmudullah, Mohammad Mithun, Mushfiqur Rahim (WK), Mustafizur Rahman (subject to fitness), Nasir Hossain, Nurul Hasan, Sabbir Rahman, Soumya Sarkar, Tamim Iqbal, Taskin Ahmed
The defending champions are enduring a tough transition phase. Following the retirements of their veterans, the island nation are looking to revamp things by infusing young blood into the team. But the onus, as always, will be on the senior pros to shoulder the burden and resurrect their fortunes.
Strength: A versatile bowling attack capable of stifling any lineup.
Weakness: An inexperienced batting unit prone to collapses.
Opportunity: With several spots up for grabs, it is time for the next generation to step up.
Threat: Injuries to key personnel could dampen the mood in their camp.
Squad: Angelo Mathews (C), Lasith Malinga (subject to recovery from injury), Dushmantha Chameera, Dinesh Chandimal (WK), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Shehan Jayasuriya, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Thisara Perera, Sachithra Senanayake, Dasun Shanaka, Milinda Siriwardana, Lahiru Thirimanne, Suranga Lakmal
Shahid Afridi's side is under criticism for a string of below par performances. Once a formidable T20I side, Pakistan have plummeted considerably and are now struggling to find the right balance. For a nation accustomed to flamboyant stars, the dearth of genuine talent in the setup comes across as a massive surprise. Perhaps lower expectations back home might help them turn things around.
Strength: A battery of world-class pacers who can intimidate the opposition.
Weakness: Fragile batting lineup employing an outdated approach.
Opportunity: Breaking the famous 0-10 World Cup streak against India.
Threat: Hostile crowds and high-octane atmosphere will add to the drama and the pressure.
Squad: Shahid Afridi (C), Anwar Ali, Imad Wasim, Khalid Latif, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Sami, Sarfraz Ahmed (WK), Sharjeel Khan, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz
Champions in 2012, the West Indies possess numerous explosive cricket players who ply their trade in various franchise leagues across the world. Despite their struggles in Tests and ODIs, they still remain a dangerous team in the shortest format of the game. However, their tournament hopes were dealt a huge blow through the withdrawals of Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine due to injury and modified action respectively.
Strength: Dynamic all-rounders who can turn the game on its head.
Weakness: The inconsistency of their big names is a worrying sign.
Opportunity: They have been slotted in perhaps the easier group of the two.
Threat: Not focusing on rotating the strike, their batsmen are over-reliant on boundaries.
Squad: Darren Sammy (C), Samuel Badree, Sulieman Benn, Carlos Brathwaite, Dwayne Bravo, Johnson Charles, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Jason Holder, Ashley Nurse, Denesh Ramdin (WK), Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Evin Lewis
Often seen as a dormant limited overs outfit, England have revamped their thought-process and consequently are starting to find their mojo. The 2014 edition contained a mixed bag with a victory against Sri Lanka overshadowed by a sorry loss to Netherlands. However, they can look forward to a promising cricket tournament this time around as they have selected a team filled with talented youngsters.
Strength: Presence of spin bowling all-rounders such as Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid.
Weakness: Fast bowlers are unproven when the pressure is on.
Opportunity: A successful cricket tournament will attest to the change in personnel.
Threat: Overcoming sub-continental teams on sluggish surfaces will be a challenge.
Squad: Eoin Morgan (C), Moeen Ali, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler (WK), Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Reece Topley, James Vince, David Willey
With Brendon McCullum having bid adieu to the sport, Kane Williamson is tasked with ensuring that the Kiwis go deep into the competition. The major challenge that the gifted 25 year old will face is formulating his own influence on the team without deviating from McCullum's ultra-aggressive tactics. Nevertheless, if they get their act together, New Zealand can mount a serious bid for the trophy.
Strength: A threatening new-ball combination of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Adam Milne.
Weakness: Almost half the squad is yet to be exposed to Indian conditions.
Opportunity: Tackling the menace of spin will add credentials to their repertoire.
Threat: Spinners do not have enough variety to trouble top batsmen.
Squad: Kane Williamson (C), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Grant Elliot, Martin Guptill, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi (WK), Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor
After reclaiming the Test mace and ODI World Cup, Australia will finally seek to crack the T20 code. Boasting hard-hitters and attacking instincts, they are always an organized and threatening cricket tournament team. They need to decide on their desired playing XI and adapt quickly to the hustle and bustle associated with the format before it becomes too late.
Strength: Powerful top-order capable of providing rapid starts.
Weakness: Spin has often been their Achilles heel, and turning pitches could reopen old wounds.
Opportunity: The World T20 is the only trophy missing from their overflowing cabinet.
Threat: Weak bowling attack is short on experience and flexibility.
Squad: Steve Smith (C), David Warner, Ashton Agar, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Peter Nevill (WK), Andrew Tye, Shane Watson, Adam Zampa
The Proteas enter almost every ICC event as a front-runner, and always leave the stage without fulfilling their potential. The 2016 edition will be no different, as South Africa are slowly gathering steam in T20Is. However, the more pertinent question is whether they will once again falter at the knockout hurdle, or whether things will fall into place, for the first time, in their favor?
Strength: Experienced and hungry match-winners looking to cement their legacy.
Weakness: There seems to be a missing link in their middle-order.
Opportunity: Prospect of shedding the chokers tag and claiming the elusive limited overs title.
Threat: Capable of imploding at the slightest hint of pressure.
Squad: Faf du Plessis (C), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock (WK), AB de Villiers, Jean-Paul Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris, Aaron Phangiso (subject to testing action for throwing), Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir, David Wiese
Overwhelming favorites for clinching the title, India are ranked number 1 in T20Is and come into the tournament with enough practice in the shortest format. As a consequence, the foremost advantage MS Dhoni's team enjoys is knowing their preferred playing eleven. However, they will have to deal with the adoring crowds who have placed huge expectations on them, which in turn poses a stern examination of their mental strength.
Strength: Well-drilled team led by a seasoned skipper who relishes difficult situations.
Weakness: Batting seems a bit top-heavy with the lower-order not looking as reliable.
Opportunity: Banking on home advantage to complete a double of all ICC trophies.
Threat: Seamers can be taken apart by belligerent batsmen and flat pitches.
Squad: MS Dhoni (C) (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Pawan Negi, Ashish Nehra, Hardik Pandya, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Mohammad Shami (subject to fitness), Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh