The T20 World Cup is now seen as one of the flagship events of the international cricketing calendar rather than just a bit of fun. Michael Vaughan expects knowledge of sub-continental pitches to prove vital.
Sri Lanka, currently trading at 6.411/2, will enjoy playing in their own conditions and having seasoned campaigners like Tillekeratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Lasith Malinga in the side will be invaluable. I was concerned about their lack of a mystery spinner in a post-Murali world, but the emergence of Akila Dhananjaya looks to have filled that gap and they will be right up there. I like the look of them at 6.411/2.
India are trading as 6.25/1 favourites and I wouldn't discourage getting involved at that price. A knockout match at a T20 World Cup is a high-pressure situation and the experience of playing year-on-year-out in the IPL will certainly help their players. They have an embarrassment of riches to pick from and you know that under MS Dhoni, they'll certainly get the tactics and gameplan right. Dhoni is a bit of a wizard in limited overs cricket. He is tactically smart, knows how to time an innings and can whack it out of the park. Virat Kohli is also a class act, and I like the look of him for top run scorer at 15.5n/a.
Pakistan, currently trading at 8.07/1, can never be ruled out because we know how dangerous they can be when they're all pulling in the same direction and because of their strong record in this event (runners-up, winners, semi-finalists over the three editions). But I'll give them a miss this time because I'm not sure their batting is consistent enough.
I think England can cope with Kevin Pietersen's retirement from ODIs but the T20 team will really miss his power-hitting in the top three, in addition to his experience and resourcefulness at the crease. The likes of Eoin Morgan and Graeme Swann will need to be exceptional for England to stand a chance and while I wouldn't completely dismiss their chances, I'm not backing them at 10.09/1.
South Africa and West Indies
On paper, South Africa have everything. A scary pace attack in Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn, top-class batsmen in AB De Villiers, Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla and two of the world's best all-rounders in this format in Jacques Kallis and Albie Morkel. De Villiers is the new skipper of course and with all due respect to Smith, maybe it was time to have a new man in charge with fresh ideas. They'll be a very tough team to beat, which is reflected in their odds of 6.611/2.
The problem with the West Indies is that the pressure will be permanently on their batsmen to post monster scores and chase big totals because their bowlers can't be relied on to keep things tight. If Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo and co find the pitches to their liking they have a chance of course but they are too short at 7.26/1 for me.
Australia and New Zealand
There's plenty to like about this Australian team with some big-hitters in there and a couple of genuinely quick bowlers who can dismiss any top order cheaply on their day. But they do have an inexperienced skipper at international level in George Bailey and he might be looking towards the World Cup after this one as the time when this team will peak. A price of 7.613/2 is too short for me.
New Zealand always seem to over-perform in limited-overs tournaments but I think they're going through a stage where they're a little thin on genuine talent and that means they're relying on the big guns - Ross Taylor, Daniel Vettori and Brendon McCullum - to do something special every game. That's a big ask and is reflected in their odds of 22.021/1.