NAGPUR, March 7: Their build-up campaign has been nothing short of spectacular and inaugural champions India would be the firm favourites to be the first two-time trophy winners when the ICC World Twenty20 gets underway with the qualifiers, here tomorrow.
The tournament will begin properly from March 15 when India take on New Zealand while the qualifiers before that will fill in the two slots for the Super 10 stage.
The opening day�s double-header in qualifiers feature games between Zimbabwe and Hong Kong besides a Scotland- Afghanistan clash. Both the matches will be played here.
The other teams in the qualifying round are Ireland and the Netherlands.
The top two teams from the qualifiers will join India, Australia, England, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies in the Super 10 stage, which will be played alongside the women�s event from March 15-28.
Although Sri Lanka are the defending champions, they hardly seem to be an intimidating force having faced a 1-2 loss recently in February to India.
On the contrary, 2007 champions India are looking like an unstoppable force which will be further galvanised by the passionate support from its adoring home fans.
The Asia Cup triumph, during which Mahendra Singh Dhoni�s men did not lose a single match, is the latest confidence- booster that the Indians received heading into the big event after victories over Australia and Sri Lanka in the run-up.
India are in Super 10 Group 2 along with 2009 winners Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand and a yet-to-be-decided qualifier.
India will launch their campaign in Nagpur against New Zealand on March 15 before they go head to head with Pakistan on March 19. Their other matches will be against a qualifier in Bengaluru on March 23 and Australia in Mohali on March 27.
Even though they are placed in a tough group, India are expected to make it to the semifinals given the stupendous form the team is in coupled with the distinct home advantage.
Sri Lanka have been placed in Super 10 Group 1 along with South Africa, West Indies, England and a yet-to-be-decided qualifier. They will open their title defence against the qualifier in Kolkata on March 17 and play West Indies in Bengaluru on March 20, England on March 26 and South Africa on March 28.
2009 champions Pakistan will open their campaign against a qualifier in Kolkata on March 16. After the marquee clash against India, Pakistan will play their remaining two matches against New Zealand and Australia on March 22 and 25, respectively.
Group A � Bangladesh, Netherlands, Ireland and Oman.
Group B � Zimbabwe, Scotland, Hong Kong and Afghanistan.
Second round groups
Super 10 Group 1 � Sri Lanka, South Africa, West Indies, England and winner group B (Q1B)
Super 10 Group 2 � India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand and winner group A (Q1A)
Group A � Australia (A1), South Africa (A2), New Zealand (A3), Sri Lanka (A4) and Ireland (A5)
Group B � England (B1), West Indies (B2), India (B3), Pakistan (B4) and Bangladesh (B5). � PTI