Open season

Asian teams are safe bets. But there's no clear favourite at the World Twenty20 2012 that begins on Tuesday.

Sub-continental Powerhouses

Australia, who've slipped below Ireland in T20 rankings, have much to prove.

Can Dhoni add another Trophy here? India's middle order is in ship shape. Spin appears to be in safe hands. If there are areas of concern they lie with an iffy opening pair and lack of an outright bowling spearhead (Zaheer Khan is not really one for Twenty20 cricket!). India also has Virat Kohli who has made a habit of chasing down impossible scores, although he did have a poor IPL this year, and all-rounder Irfan Pathan, who has been in good form.

On evidence of the practice games, the tournament is likely to be a low-scoring one. The conditions in Sri Lanka are expected not only to favour spin, but also allow movement in the air. But if the home side is being considered a hot favourite, it has little to do with dust bowls being reared for a televised massacre.

"Be ready for a stiff breeze in Hambantota, swing and seam in Pallekele and a good batting surface at the Premadasa (stadium) in Colombo," warned former Sri Lanka star Kumar Sangakkara. "Each venue will have a different challenge and sides will have to adjust accordingly. It will make the tournament more exciting."

The hosts' MSD (Mahela, Sanga, Dilshan) are in rip-roaring form, Lasith Malinga is always a threat and the recent experience of playing in the SLPL is likely to prove beneficial to the young nucleus of players (Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Jeevan Mendis, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera) who now man crucial positions in the Lankan setup.

Australia's Poor Record

For Australia, this is the only crown they haven't worn, having lost the 2010 final to England. The Aussies presently lie below Ireland in the Twenty20 rankings, which is more a reflection on the redundancy of the assessing system than anything else. In David Warner, they have a firebrand opener, in Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, a strong young pace bowling partnership, and an explosive middle order comprising David Hussey and Cameron White.

Still, it is to the usual suspects Australia would look to for inspiration: Michael Hussey, 37, played a blinder (60, 24b) in last editions's semifinal against Pakistan and is still going strong, while Brad Hogg, 41, should revel in the conditions.

Veterans abound elsewhere too. South Africa will be served by all-rounder Jacques Kallis, 37, who is making a comeback to T20 Internationals. The Proteas have attacking openers, incendiary all-rounders, blistering fast bowlers, an economical offie - all well-versed, thanks to the IPL, in the ways of this part of the world.

South Africa, who boast the best winning percentage across three World Cups, would be wary of tackling slow bowling during high-pressure chases, but really, there is no reason why they shoudn't win. In fact, there is no reason why any of the top eight teams shouldn't have an equal chance of lifting the trophy.

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