Your essential team-by-team guide to the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka
14:23 GMT, 16 September 2012
England begin the defence of their ICC World Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka later this month. Here, Sportsmail takes a look at the teams competing in the tournament…
The minnows have come a long way since being granted ICC membership in 2001 and earned the right to compete in their first major tournament after finishing as runners-up to Ireland in the qualifying tournament. They are unlikely to progress beyond the group stage after being drawn against two previous winners – England and India – but a lack of expectation reduces the pressure on them.
Although Australia finished runners-up to England in 2010 in the Caribbean, they have not won a series in the shortest form since then in eight attempts, are led by George Bailey – who has just a handful of T20 caps to his name – and recently suffered the ignominy of falling below Ireland in the ICC world rankings.
Old foes: Australia captain George Bailey (right) shakes hands with his England counterpart Stuart Broad
The Tigers are seen as the whipping boys in Test cricket and do not fare much better in either of the shorter formats. They were eliminated in the group stages in both of the previous two World Twenty20 tournaments and are odds-on for the hat-trick having been drawn to face New Zealand and 2009 winners Pakistan in Group D.
Much of the build-up to the defence of their crown will centre on the omission of Kevin Pietersen, who was named player of the tournament when they claimed their first ICC trophy and has scored over 500 runs more than any other England batsman in the Twenty20 format. Captain Stuart Broad can approach this tournament with confidence as England have had a decent record since their triumph in the West Indies two years ago.
Defending champions: England lift the World Twenty20 trophy back in 2010
The champions of the inaugural 2007 tournament have a natural advantage due to their familiarity with sub-continental conditions, while the expected return of big-hitting all-rounder Yuvraj Singh will be a bonus. But they are hardly striking fear into their opponents, losing to England – whom they will face in Group A along with Afghanistan – both home and away last year.
Ireland have shown in the past they are more than capable of upsetting the odds, so their Group B opponents Australia and West Indies should not be complacent. They won the ICC World Twenty20 qualifier to earn their place in Sri Lanka and have chosen an experienced 15-man squad that boasts plenty of familiar faces from the LV= County Championship.
Seen as the over-achievers in the World Cup having reached the semi-finals on the last two occasions, the Black Caps have been decidedly mediocre in the World Twenty20, with just one last-four appearance – in 2007. New Zealand have several big-hitters in their ranks – Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum and Jacob Oram to name but three – but their current travails with spin on the tour of India is a foreboding sign.
Stalwarts: India's MS Dhoni (left) and New Zealand's Brendon McCullum (right)
Mohammad Hafeez's men have played more Twenty20 matches than any other nation, although they have a decidedly patchy record, with victories over Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as well as defeats to South Africa, New Zealand, West Indies and England. Yet Pakistan have an enviable record in the World Twenty20: runners-up in 2007, champions two years later and semi-finalists in the West Indies in 2010. All-rounder Shahid Afridi will once again be expected to take centre-stage.
Home advantage: Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara
The perennial under-achievers have yet to shake off their 'chokers' tag in the big tournaments but they are currently top of the Twenty20 world rankings, having lost just two of their last 13 matches. Perhaps the only thing missing from their armoury is a world-class spinner, which could prove pivotal on the sub-continent.
Playing in front of their own supporters will make Sri Lanka one of the favourites for the competition, according to Kumar Sangakkara. 'Home advantage is… about playing in your country, playing in front of the people who cheer and love you,' the veteran batsman said. They have every reason to be confident after finishing runners-up in 2009 and semi-finalists the following year.
If West Indies are to enjoy a successful tournament, they will surely need the destructive Chris Gayle to come to the fore. His return to the international fold after 18 months following a dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board has galvanised the team in all formats. They are not a one-man side, however, with Kieron Pollard equally capable of changing the course of an innings.
The fact that Zimbabwe have not won a Twenty20 game in 10 attempts – losing 2-0 to India, South Africa, Pakistan and New Zealand (twice) respectively – in a run stretching back to the 2010 World Twenty20, have not progressed beyond the group stages of the competition and will face hosts Sri Lanka and South Africa in Group C this time around means they are widely expected to suffer another early exit.