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T20 World Cup: 10 things to look out for

It's less than a decade old but the ICC World Twenty20, better known as the T20 World Cup, ­has captured the imagination of cricket fans. Here are 10 things to look out for as the Super 10 stage gets underway.

Indien Mahendra Singh Dhoni Cricket

India captain MS Dhoni will be hoping to steer his Team to further T20 glory.

1. How the hosts deal with the pressure

It's hard to over­state the popularity of cricket in India. But the fact 135 million viewers across the country watched their 50-over World Cup final triumph in Mumbai in 2011 gives some idea of the scale, if not the intensity, of Indian cricket fandom. As such, the hosts of this year's T20 World Cup will be under huge pressure to live up to their billing as tournament favorites.

The hosts are a vastly experienced team. The likes of MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina have seen it all before. They also proved they are capable of dealing with the intensity of a home tournament by winning the 50-over World Cup in 2011.

Their only real weakness might be in the seam bowling department. While youngster Jasprit Bumrah has impressed early in his career, neither 36­-year-­old Ashish Nehra or Mohammad Shami have ever been entirely convincing. Should India fail to get off to a winning start in the Super 10 opener against New Zealand in Nagpur on March 15, their fans are sure to turn up the heat on the players. Keeping their heads will be crucial to the host's chances.

2. The Group B rivalries

While cricket's 50-over tournaments have often suffered from a bloated schedule and lack of competition early on, the qualifying stage for associate nations in this tournament means both Super 10 groups offer some mouth­watering fixtures, ­ particularly Group B.

Australia take on their local rivals and perennial over­achievers New Zealand on March 18, the day before the pick of the group games - India vs. Pakistan, a fixture watched by nearly a billion people worldwide in the 2011 50-over World Cup. With only two teams advancing from each five-team group, every game matters. But these kinds of fixtures matter slightly more.

3. How the minnows fare

The short, frenetic nature of T20 means one big innings or an inspired spell of bowling can change a game. While only the Test-playing nations ­harbor realistic hopes of winning the tournament (perhaps you could add Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to this list), every side is capable of winning a match.

Indien Cricket T20 World Cup - Afghanistan vs. Simbabwe

Afghanistan could pull off an upset at the T20 World Cup.

The last tournament, in 2014, stands as an example of this, with memorable wins over Test teams for the Netherlands, Hong Kong and Ireland. This year Afghanistan look the side best equipped to trouble the big boys.

4. The breakout stars

Thus far it’s been the big names that have dominated the T20 World Cups, with the Player of the Tournament award usually going to an established star like Shahid Afridi (2007), Kevin Pietersen (2010) or Virat Kohli (2014).

However, a few youngsters, notably Sunil Narine and Mohammad Amir, have risen to prominence in previous editions. The 2016 event will see some bright prospects make their bow in a major tournament.

Perhaps the most intriguing youngster in this year’s competition is Bangladesh's Mustafizur Rahman. The 20-­year-­old left-­arm medium pacer may appear decidedly ordinary on first sight but he has developed an off­ cutter that slows up on the pitch. The delivery has already caused problems for top-class players from India and South Africa. England will be hoping leg­ spinner Adil Rashid can translate an excellent campaign in Australia's Big Bash league onto the world stage, South Africa will look to young paceman Kagiso Rabada to continue his rapid rise and India will hope that Jasprit Bumrah's early promise is realized in the tournament.

5. The strikers and the strokemakers

Aaron Finch and Virat Kohli are currently the top two batsman in the ICC T20 rankings and the pair represent two sharply contrasting approaches. Finch has never played a Test for Australia and has a distinctly mediocre first class average but he has developed an effective T20 technique that relies more on hand­eye co­ordination and less on the footwork and patience required in the longer game.

World Cup Cricket 2015 Australien vs England

Aaron Finch's aggressive style will be important if Australia are to progress.

Kohli, a gifted Test player, represents the more orthodox side of T20 cricket and bats in a more conventional style. With slow pitches expected in India, it could be the case that more technically sound batsmen like Kohli, New Zealand's Kane Williamson or England's Joe Root will have the upper hand. It'll certainly be interesting to find out.

6. The spinners

When T20 cricket began, there were fears that spin bowling would be easy to target and would disappear from the game as a result. In reality, quite the opposite has been true. The current top five ranked T20 bowlers are all spinners: West Indian Sunil Narine, India's Ravi Ashwin, South Africa's Imran Tahir, Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi and Graeme Cremer of Zimbabwe.

On dry, dusty sub­-continental pitches, the slow bowlers are likely to be key players. This looks to favor India in particular and ­ to a lesser extent ­ Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. But Australia in particular appear to lack a top-class spinner, casting some doubt on their chances.

7. The last hurrahs

While nothing is confirmed, there are rumors spreading around the cricket world that the end of this tournament could see some of the sport's biggest names retire from the international stage.

Chris Gayle, Lasith Malinga, Shane Watson and Shahid Afridi are among the big names entering the twilights of their careers. With the exception of Watson, they have all retired from Test cricket and the lure of following in the footsteps of former England man Kevin Pietersen and becoming a "freelance" cricketer in lucrative leagues around the world may be too much to resist.

Those four have all had huge impacts on previous tournaments, ­so if they do go out, will it be with a whimper or a bang?

Cricket Afghanistan vs Pakistan 27.02.2014

Shahid Afridi is among the players who could bow out after the tournament.

8. The pitches

India captain MS Dhoni criticized the grassy pitches that made for a number of low-scoring contests in the Asia Cup, a warm up for the main event. But it's a fair bet that we won't see much grass on the pitches over the next few weeks.

Dry pitches play in to the hands of India's stable of spinners and will enable slow bowlers to keep it tight, even when there's not much turn. For teams like England and Australia, traditionally more inclined to rely on quicker bowlers, limiting boundaries could be a big issue.

9. South Africa aim to rid themselves of their 'chokers' tag

Since their re­admission to the fold in 1991, South Africa have consistently been one of the world's top sides in all formats but have fallen short in every World Cup, both T20 and 50 over.

Südafrika Cricket AB de Villiers

AB de Villiers is one of the world's most destructive batsmen.

This time around they've got one of the world's most explosive and talented batsman in AB de Villiers, a spinner ranked No. 2 in the world in Imran Tahir and excellent front line seamers in Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada. But they've had great players before and failed. Can they finally get the monkey off their back and win a World Cup?

10. The return of Mohammad Amir to the world stage

In 2009 a rapid 17­-year-­old left-arm bowler from Pakistan burst on to the global cricketing stage, removing England batsman Ravi Bopara with his second ball of the T20 World Cup and playing every game in a tournament that his country would go on to win.

Fast forward six years and Mohammad Amir ­ once regarded as the brightest bowling prospect in world cricket, ­ has barely played another game since being handed a five-year ban after he was convicted ­along with Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif ­ of spot fixing (deliberately bowling no balls) in a Test match against England in 2010.

Amir, now 23, made his domestic comeback last August and won his Pakistan spot back for the tour of New Zealand earlier this year, where he looked a little rusty but still dangerous. If he can get back up to the speed and accuracy of 2009, when he recorded the tournament's quickest delivery of 152 kilometers per hour (94.4 miles per hour), he could once again make a huge impact.

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