Why it is difficult to predict World Twenty20 winner
As cricket playing nations get ready for the ICC World Twenty20 competition which begins in Sri Lanka today, sports journalist Ayaz Memon says predicting the winner is loaded with hazards.
The T20 game itself is like a lottery. If it is your day, it could be your game.
The last three tournaments - in which there have been three different winners - exemplify the topsy-turvy nature of this format best. Past reputation and form on paper have mattered very little.
This year's tournament is perhaps the most riveting and intriguing. There is more depth and talent.
By now the T20 game is familiar to all major players and there is little scope for the naivety that, say, may have existed in 2007, the inaugural year.
A great deal of this talent has certainly been honed by the Indian Premier League (IPL), much maligned though it may be.
Take the West Indies for instance - players like Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell are the toast of the IPL and could be major performers on the international stage too.
Indeed, according to many experts, the West Indies might well be favourites to win this time because of the resurgence of exciting big-hitters, fine all-rounders and brilliant fielders they possess.
The Twenty20 format might well be the fillip which Caribbean cricket has been seeking to regain its pristine position in the sport.
Nevertheless, the teams most feared will be from the sub-continent because they always seem to revel playing in the hot and humid conditions that players from Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand can find such a test.
India are former champions and have a formidable line-up for this format.
MS Dhoni's team have also had great success in Sri Lanka in recent months, not to mention a morale-boosting 2-0 Test series win over New Zealand.
Importantly, key players for India have struck good form, notably Virat Kohli, R Ashwin and Dhoni himself.
Mercurial opener Virender Sehwag is still the most feared batsman, but it is not so much batting as bowling and fielding which could let India down.
Sri Lanka are always dangerous at home - and also boast some spectacular T20 players in Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews and Lasith Malinga.
Indeed, the Sri Lankans have perhaps been the most consistent team in the T20 format over the past five years.
Mercurial Pakistan cannot be counted out either. The talent in the side is beyond dispute. Saeed Ajmal alone could be a handful for any opposition in these conditions.
There is sure to be a strong desire in the players to prove themselves and re-establish their credentials after all that has transpired in the past few years.
Australia, because they have spent the past few weeks in the United Arab Emirates playing Pakistan in excruciatingly humid conditions, will be a team to watch.
The players acclimatised, sort of, though one wonders whether the side has the depth in talent to win in this format.
Interestingly, teams that might struggle the most could be the two who have just been in an absorbing battle for top Test and ODI status - England and South Africa.
England will certainly miss the presence of Kevin Pietersen who, along with his other talents, is splendid in the T20 format. This time though, he will be wielding a microphone during the tournament, not a bat.
So which team is favourite?
Take your pick. As I mentioned at the start, this is a lottery where everybody starts equal - to win or lose!