India v Pakistan – now the Twenty20 World Cup really kicks off
For a team that was supposedly undercooked, India made pretty short work of England in Wednesday’s warm-up match in Bangladesh, but now the serious business starts as MS Dhoni’s side bid to win a second Twenty20 World Cup.
And it’s very serious business indeed with Pakistan their first opponents in Group 2. There is no fiercer rivalry in cricket and a projected total of close to half a billion fans from both countries will be either glued to television sets or radios or screaming their heads off in the Shere Bangla National Stadium.
India won the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in 2007, but somewhat surprisingly haven’t managed to get past the group stage in three subsequent tournaments.
Pakistan, on the other hand, though always considered the most erratic of the eight principal cricket-playing nations, have an admirably consistent record in this competition, finishing runners-up in 2007, winning in 2009 and reaching the semi-finals in both 2010 and 2012.
Coral price them at 5/1 and 13/2 respectively to win this year’s event outright, but they are in by much the stronger group (on paper, at least) with 3/1 favourites Australia and reigning champions the West Indies (6/1) also standing in their way of a semi-final berth.
The in-form Aussies are 15/8 to win Group 2 ahead of India (11/5), the West Indies (100/30) and Pakistan (7/2), but this is the most unpredictable of formats and we can expect those odds to fluctuate wildly when the action starts in earnest.
India have the upper hand over Pakistan in World Cup limited overs encounters and they certainly seem to have a team capable of going all the way this time, featuring as it does an array of batting talent and a battery of match-winning spinners.
Virat Kohli, who struck a quick-fire unbeaten 74 against England, is 9/1 second favourite (behind 15/2 David Warner) to be the leading tournament batsmen, while Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin are both 14/1 to be top bowler.
Pakistan’s big hitters include current world number one Twenty20 batsman Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad, while in Saeed Ajmal they have arguably the best tweaker in the competition. He can be backed at 8/1 to be leading wicket-taker, Coral favouring the Windies world number one bowler Sunil Narine at 13/2.
Defeat for either side would not be fatal at this stage, but India looked to have their game in good order against an admittedly struggling England in midweek and perhaps this is the time for them to make a real impact again in the Twenty20 arena and begin a march to the semi-finals.