Expect usual favourites to go far, but brace for upsets

ICC T20 World Cup wide open
Australia, England, Pakistan and India have the talent to make the semi-finals, but, as West Indies and Sri Lanka have shown, unpredictability is always a factor.
T20 cricket is predicated on close finishes and stirring games. However, the brutal losses for West Indies and Sri Lanka, with the miserable failure of the former to reach the second round, are a reminder that T20 also produces upsets.

There’s the likelihood of more surprises as the major section of the T20 World Cup gets underway.

The unpredictable and dire weather Australia has recently been experiencing also has to be a factor.

Australia are the defending T20 World Cup champions and they, along with India, England and Pakistan, are the most likely candidates to reach the semi-finals.

However, it’s worth remembering that there's a tendency for upsets in T20, and it's worth considering the longer boundaries and bouncy Australian pitches.

A successful team needs to exploit not only the extra bounce, but encourage opponents to hit to the longer boundaries. In looking for a likely winner, concentrate on balanced pace attacks that contain wicket-taking spinners in a team that compiles viable totals.

Australia, who are defending their crown at home, have the ingredients for success in their own country. Their batting is long and explosive and the bowling covers all bases.

Nevertheless, Aaron Finch’s unreliable form as a player and how well they field will affect the host's progress. If those performances are acceptable, then a place in the final is well within Australia’s grasp.

Balance of power

In Group 2, the clash between India and Pakistan could determine who South Africa may challenge for a semi-final place.

India have a huge battle on the bouncy Perth pitch against South Africa and that is the latter's best chance to unsettle one of the favourites in that group. Pakistan are fortunate to play South Africa at the more spin-friendly Sydney Cricket Ground. The result of those matches could decide the balance of power in that division.

While India have a strong playing group, their players also benefit from performing in a highly competitive Indian Premier League tournament. Their practice matches in Australia will have given the players the opportunity to acclimate to local conditions.

The loss of Jasprit Bumrah is unfortunate, but his replacement, Mohammed Shami, is a good bowler. If Shami receives a reasonable share of T20 luck, Bumrah’s loss won’t be too heavily felt.

India’s batting fortunes are more evenly shared and the brilliant form of Suryakumar Yadav relieves them from having to rely too heavily on Virat Kohli. The success or otherwise of their spinners, and whether Hardik Pandya can clear the longer boundaries, will play an important role for India.

Solid squad

Pakistan don’t possess many superstar names, but they have a solid squad. Their progress will depend heavily on the opening partnership of Babar Azam and the aggressive Mohammad Rizwan. They also need opening bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi to be fully fit and performing well.

The South Asian nation's progress will come down to batting consistency, fielding and their cohesion, which can often be suspect.

Surprise outfit

Meanwhile, despite some major injury woes, England have chosen sensibly by including a number of successful Big Bash League players. No matter what sort of disturbance Alex Hales causes, picking him was a practical choice, considering his previous success in Australia. Fielding and the ability to cope with Australian conditions will be important, but England have the talent to sneak past New Zealand in their group and qualify for the semi-finals.

The T20 formula suggests South Africa could be a surprise outfit, but their batting and previous World Cup history are dire.

If Quinton de Kock has an outstanding tournament and carries the batting, their excellent bowling will give them a chance.

And therein lies one of the frailties of T20 cricket: In a short game, one individual can have an unnatural effect on the overall result. That helps make choosing a winner difficult, but talent says an Australia versus India final is likely.

Nevertheless, beware of the tournament-altering upset.

• Ian Chappell captained Australia between 1971 and 1975.

– Cricinfo