It is a universally accepted prognosis in cricket that the shorter the version of the game, the more difficult it is to predict the result of the match. What this statement implies is that there are no favourites in a T20 match.
That was the reason why the experts, who generally go by statistical records and the form book, were extremely reluctant to predict the winner of the Asia Cup final, once the match was reduced to a 15-overs-a-side contest.
Skipper MS Dhoni himself had an enigmatic smile on his face when asked how confident he was of winning after the toss of the coin had fallen in his favour. It was clear from what he said that when it is hard to even be too sure of a T20 match outcome, a reduction by five overs each has now made it harder to pick a winner.
This has been the conventional wisdom so far which even the strongest purveyors of T20 cricket believe in, no matter what their public stand may be. Seen in this context, the headlines in most papers to the effect that “Asia Cup today, World Cup tomorrow” may sound an optimistic assertion that is pandering to the Indian cricket fan’s desire to see its team win the championship.
Can any team be called favourites for the T20 World Cup? Obviously not, though the kind of cricket India has played in the last month or so, first in Australia and now in Bangladesh, does suggest that they would be terribly disappointed if the Championship eludes them. A formidable batting top half and now a pace attack that so far has responded positively to pressure situations has made India look almost invincible even in this format.
Unlike in Bangladesh, where the wickets were seamer friendly, India will be playing in far more amiable surroundings and on surfaces where batsmen are the undisputed kings. This would make them even more confident about putting up scores that teams much stronger than what they encountered in the Asia Cup would find difficult to match.
The difficult part would be the seam bowling, which on flat Indian wickets may find the big-hitting Australians, South Africans and New Zealanders hard to contain. In Australia, the Indian batsmen showed that if conditions favoured batsmen, no score is too big for them to chase. The same would be true for the Indian conditions with one big plus being that the spinners could come into play far more than they do outside India. All this points to India being the most favourable candidate to win the championship, a fact that is being acknowledged by other teams as well.
If there are doubts which can’t be banished from the mind, it is in the very unpredictable nature of this format, where luck and chance can play a much bigger role in deciding the outcome of a match, than in the longer formats.