ICC World Twenty20 2012's Group A has two former champions in India and England. MS Dhoni and his men won the inaugural edition of World T20 in South Africa in 2007 while England, under Paul Collingwood tasted their first ever global success in 2010 in the Caribbean. The third team in Group A is from the qualifiers, Afghanistan.
Group A Preview
Group A Teams with seedings (Q2 denotes, qualifier 2) Top two progress to Super Eight
Super Eight Groups: Group 1: A1, B2, C1, D2. Group 2: A2, B1, C2, D1
Note: If the third third team in the group knocks one of the top two seeded teams out, it will take the place of the team it replaced. (Example: If Afghanistan replace England, then they will be A1 in Super Eight)
Group A Fixtures
Wednesday September 19, 19:30 IST Afghanistan Vs India, R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo
Friday September 21, 19:30 IST Afghanistan Vs England, R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo
Sunday September 23, 19:30 IST England Vs India, R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo
On paper, India and England are favourites to progress to the Super Eights. Two from each of the four groups will feature in the next round while four of the 12 initial outfits go home early.
Even though India and England will be backed to have a smooth ride into the next phase, Afghanistan could be a surprise package. T20 format is such that, there is a chance for even the minnows to stun fancied teams. Let us see.
England (No. 1 in ICC T20 Rankings, defending champions)
England squad: Stuart Broad (captain), Jonathan Bairstow, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Danny Briggs, Jos Buttler, Jade Dernbach, Steven Finn, Alex Hales, Craig Kieswetter (wicketkeeper), Michael Lumb, Eoin Morgan, Samit Patel, Graeme Swann, Luke Wright.
Strengths: Fine assembly of T20 specialists including a lot of all-rounders. Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, Jonathan Bairstow and Craig Kieswetter have made their mark in T20 format. Steven Finn's pace could prove handy.
Weaknesses: Inexperience in subcontinent conditions. Absence of Kevin Pietersen.
Key players: Eoin Morgan, Jose Buttler, Steven Finn, Graeme Swann.
India (No. 7 in ICC T20 Rankings, won trophy in 2007)
India squad: MS Dhoni (captain and wicketkeeper), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Irfan Pathan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Piyush Chawla, Harbhajan Singh, Ashok Dinda.
Strengths: Batting. Batsmen like Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and captain MS Dhoni can play big shots at will. T20 format is often won by the might of batting. India could heavily rely on their batters to deliver their second T20 trophy. Also the presence of spinners, both regular and part-timers will be crucial to India's chances.
Ravichandran Ashwin has proved his worth as one of the best spinners in T20. He could be vital. Also the return of Harbhajan Singh will give the side huge experience.
Weaknesses: No genuine quick bowler in the side. Only a few excellent fielders. India have to tighten their ground fielding and should not leak many runs.
Key players: Virat Kohli, Ravichandran Ashwin, MS Dhoni.
Afghanistan (No ranking since they have played less than eight T20 Internationals since August 2010. Second straight WT20 appearance. Knocked out in first round in 2010)
Afghanistan squad: Nawroz Mangal (captain), Dawlat Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Hamid Hassan, Izzatullah Dawlatzai, Karim Sadeq, Mohammad Javed Ahmadi, Mohammad Nasim Baras, Mohammad Nabi, Mohammad Shehzad, Mohammad Asghar Stanikzai, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Shafiqullah Shafaq, Shapur Zadran.
Strengths: Playing without fear as they have nothing to lose. They are in their second World T20 tournament. All Afghan players will go out their and enjoy their game. They will not be thinking of results as they are not expected to win both their matches as the heavyweights.
Weaknesses: Lack of top-quality international games. They just had one ODI against Australia recently.
Key players: Hamid Hassan, Mohammad Shahzad, Mohammad Nabi, Nowroz Mangal.