South Africa – $6.6
South Africa enter the tournament off the back of a 2-1 series loss against Australia, however prior to that series their form was strong, winning eight of their prior nine T20Is. An unbeaten 97 against the Australians should secure Hashim Amla’s place in the top order alongside the mercurial AB de Villiers, however it is captain Faf du Plessis who has been the key contributor with the bat of late, averaging 49.11 since the start of last year.
David Miller also enjoyed a highly productive series against the Aussies, however the poor form of JP Duminy will be of concern. Leg-spinner Imran Tahir will be the linchpin for South Africa with the ball, supported by a number of serviceable seamers including Dale Steyn whose recent record in this format is not overly flattering.
The fact that South Africa are yet to win an ICC tournament and have never proceeded beyond the semi-finals of this competition must be considered and there is no doubt that a question mark remains over their temperament.
They may have a destructive batting unit featuring the likes of de Villiers, du Plessis and Miller, however for me there is not enough variety in their bowling attack which is overly reliant on Tahir and I will therefore being steering clear of the Proteas.
England – $8.4
England have put together a powerful squad which boasts a deep batting line-up and variety of bowling options, giving them a realistic chance of claiming their second World T20 crown. Following the opening pair of Jason Roy and Alex Hales is a combustible middle-order featuring the likes of Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes.
With David Willey coming in as low as number 10 the entire English order have the green light to go hard from ball one, earmarking them as a dangerous prospect. The bowling is not quite as strong and in the conditions will rely heavily on leg-spinner Adil Rashid, while left-arm quicks Willey and Reece Topley provide important variety alongside all-rounders such as Stokes and Moeen Ali.
England come into the tournament in decent form with two recent losses to South Africa ending a six-match unbeaten run. If their batsmen can come to grip with the slower conditions then they should prove one of the more formidable line-ups in the tournament however the loss of Steven Finn to injury is a significant blow to their bowling stocks and I can’t quite be backing them at the available price.
— westindies (@westindies) March 6, 2016
West Indies – $14.5
The Windies’ squad is tailor-made for T20 cricket, however they have been hit hard by the withdrawals of Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine, Darren Bravo and the injured Lendl Simmons. Another challenge has been their lack of matches as they have played only two T20I fixtures in the past year and those included a handful of players not even picked for this tournament.
Nevertheless a squad brimming with T20 specialists such as Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell and Samuel Badree cannot be discounted. Jason Holder and Carlos Brathwaite add further power and balance, however the pressure will be on another all-rounder in captain Darren Sammy who has failed to take a wicket or score more than 20 in his last seven T20Is.
The spin trio of Badree, Suliemann Benn and Ashley Nurse will play a key role in the Windies’ title tilt, while the experienced Jerome Taylor will spearhead the attack.
Given their experience in India and suitability to the conditions, the dysfunctional Windies cannot be overlooked, and while they are the sort of side that could easily crash out in the group stages, if they get on a roll they could well repeat their heroics of 2012 and defy their big price to bring home the trophy. Therefore I’ll be keeping them well onside and will start by backing them at that big price.
Sri Lanka – $28
Sri Lanka enter their first international tournament without the prolific duo of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. That means the heat is well and truly on the experienced triumvirate of Angelo Mathews, Tillekaratne Dilshan and Lasith Malinga who stepped down from the captaincy on the eve of the tournament due to recurrent injury problems.
Other familiar faces in the Sri Lankan squad include the wily Rangana Herath, canny fast bowler Nuwan Kulasekara and explosive all-rounder Thisara Perera. However if Sri Lanka are to progress they’ll need contributions from their less experienced players such as first drop Shehan Jayasuriya, all-rounder Dasun Shanaka and fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera.
Although well-acquainted with the conditions, it’s hard to ignore Sri Lanka’s poor lead-up form after they crashed out of the Asia Cup with just the solitary win against the lowly UAE.
That was just their second victory in their past ten T20Is and while they have match-winners such as Mathews, Malinga and Perera I’m happy to leave them alone, despite the fact they are almost double the price of the West Indies and Pakistan.
In matches involving Sri Lanka look to oppose their flaky middle-order which has really struggled since the retirements of Sangakkara and Jayawardene.
Group B Qualifier (Zimbabwe/Afghanistan/Scotland/Hong Kong)
Zimbabwe and Afghanistan are likely to battle it out for the final place in Group 1 over the less-fancied Scotland and Hong Kong. The Zimbabweans boast veterans such as Hamilton Mazakadza, Vusi Sibanda and Elton Chigumbura, however if they are to cause any surprises they will need their unheralded pace attack featuring Tinashe Panyangara, Donald Tiripano and Tendai Chatara to come to the party.
The Afghans also have a handful of players now relatively familiar with the rigours of international cricket such as keeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad and all-rounders Mohammad Nabi and Samiullah Shenwari. However keep an eye out for 17-year-old leg-spinner Rashid Khan who has made a promising start to his international career. Whoever progresses faces a tough task and while they will be a big price I won’t be investing any hard-earned on them.