x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

World Twenty20: Team guide

Paul Radley gives his opinion on the twelve teams competing at the World Twenty20 in the West Indies.

Pakistan X-Factor: Shahid Afridi. Like many of Pakistan's leading players, Afridi's conspicuous absence from the playing field of late has not kept him out of the spotlight. The world's best T20 player has a point to prove as his side's new captain. Weak Link: Afridi. T20 requires cool heads. When all around are losing theirs, it is up to the captain to keep his. Pakistan have the most volatile group of players in the game - is cricket's Maddest Max best qualified to harness their talent?

Bangladesh X-Factor: Tamim Iqbal. The left-handed opener has happy memories of the West Indies. He piloted Bangladesh's shock win over India there in 2007, and has since established himself as the spark at the top of the order for the Tigers. Weak Link: The pace attack. Slow-bowling, no matter how large the well of talent, can only take a side so far in the limited-overs game. Shakib al Hasan leads a fine battery of spinners, but the cupboard of seamers is bare.

Australia X-Factor: David Warner. For all the talk of a lack of star quality in this Australia side, Test runs and wickets are no longer the sole route to celebrity. Warner, the pocket dynamo, barely plays first-class cricket, yet is already on the game's A-List. Weak Link: The aura never even arrived. Unlike in the Test and 50-over formats, Australia have rarely experienced an extended spell of success in T20, let alone dominance. Few sides will be scared of Michael Clarke's outfit.

Sri Lanka X-Factor: Lasith Malinga. The Slinger was one of the stars of the tournament when his side reached the final last year. On the back of a successful IPL, he is likely to be tough to counter again in the Caribbean. Weak Link: Ajantha Mendis. After soaring to prominence at a searing rate, Sri Lanka's mystery spinner has had his wings clipped thanks to greater exposure. Needs to rediscover the magic if they are to win the title.

New Zealand X-Factor: Shane Bond. In Bond, Kyle Mills and Daniel Vettori, the Blacks Caps possess arguably the best - as well as most injury-prone - attack in the limited-overs game. Four overs per day suits Bond's weary body. Weak Link: The batting. Ross Taylor is a proven match-winner in all forms of the game, Brendon McCullum can be lethal and the tail can wag. Both arrive fresh from the IPL. However, the top order remains fragile, so the results are inconsistent.

Zimbabwe X-Factor: Andy Blignaut. One of a raft of former players who have recently re-emerged in Zimbabwean cricket. The all-rounder last played international cricket five years ago, but returned in time to land a place in this event. Weak Link: Inexperience. For all their recent promise, which arrived thanks to the return of a variety of exiled stars, they are still a long way from being the competitive side.

South Africa X-Factor: Jacques Kallis. In the wake of his IPL dominance, it seems amazing to recall that the burly all-rounder did not make South Africa's squad for the first World T20 in 2007. Now proving that Test greats can cut it in the short format. Weak Link: Their lack of ticker. They are good at talking big when they reach the business end of competitions, yet their choking hoodoo will only be quashed when they deliver.

India X-Factor: Yusuf Pathan. His IPL century may have been the best innings Shane Warne had ever seen, but it probably was not even the best Pathan had played this year, following his Duleep Trophy double hundred. Weak Link: Yuvraj Singh's form. The IPL was not the most forgiving environment in which to ease back from a wrist injury. A string of low scores and some slipshod fielding for Kings XI Punjab suggest Yurvaj is still someway from his brilliant best.

Afghanistan X-Factor: Mohammed Shahzad. There is no shortage of firepower in the Afghan line-up. Shahzad notched up a double hundred when they affected the ninth largest successful run-chase in first-class history, against Canada in Sharjah last month. Weak Link: Inexperience. Kabir Khan, their canny coach, has fostered a side of many talents into one with a clear strategy. However, the prospect of making their TV debut, in front of a vast global audience is a daunting one.

West Indies X-Factor: Kieron Pollard. Given his head as a raw teenager when the 50-over edition was staged in the Caribbean in 2003. One of the IPL's costliest players, and he showed his worth with some vital cameos for Mumbai Indians. Weak Link: Sulieman Benn and the slow-bowlers. The West Indies earned their glorious reputation thanks to fearsome quick bowlers and free-scoring batsmen. The cricket world is a different place now, but they remain shy of serious spinners.

England X-Factor: Eoin Morgan. England have three big-hitting South Africans leading their charge, but the pick of their foreign contingent is the Irishman Morgan. Innovative, nerveless, and now with IPL experience to draw on, he is England's trump card. Weak Link: Inconsistency of selection. Nine months ago, when England hosted the last World T20, their side was very different. If Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter do prove the saviours, it will be more through luck than judgement.

Ireland X-Factor: The O'Brien brothers. Wicketkeeper-batsman Niall's free-hitting paved the way for shock wins over Pakistan and Bangladesh in the previous two global events. Kevin is an ice-cool finisher with bat and ball. Weak Link: Slow bowling. With Kyle McCallan retired and Regan West injured, the spin burden rests on a 17-year-old left-armer, George Dockrell, who should be studying for his school exams