India Nehra Pandya
India are the favourites to lift the 2016 Asia Cup T20 titleIANS

Another Asia Cup comes calling, but this time with a different twist – instead of the 50-over go-slam-bang-first-then-consolidate-before-going-nuts-again format, it will be the yeah-only-slam-bang-all-the-way T20s, as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the UAE clash in this precursor to the ICC 2016 World T20.

The Asian powerhouses will look at this 2016 Asia Cup T20 as the perfect buildup to the World T20, which India will host. With wickets in Bangladesh, the hosts of the Asia Cup T20, not too dissimilar to the ones in India, all the sides will hope to gear up in the perfect manner for the T20 World Cup, the title of which is currently held by Sri Lanka, when the Islanders beat India in the 2014 final in Bangladesh.

While it is always hard to pick a firm favourite in the T20 format, considering the all-it-takes-is-one-player-to-have-a-great-day-to-sway-the-match nature of the Twenty20 beast, India will start this Asia Cup T20, and indeed the World T20 2016, as the favourites.

Series wins over Australia and Sri Lanka showed just how well-rounded this team is, with the batting running like clockwork, and the bowling, provided there is assistance for the slow bowlers, looking quite potent as well.

India's success in this Asia Cup will depend on two factors – the form of the top three batsmen and the effectiveness of the spinners. If Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli click into gear, India will post big totals, that goes without saying. And if that top order form is backed up by some good bowling from the spinners, particularly R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, India will do well in this Asia Cup.

The other three teams will also fancy their chances, while UAE will also fancy a crack at an upset, but India will start the tournament as the team to beat. If there is a side quite capable of beating India, it is Pakistan, a side who can produce the fantastic, especially with that still-wonderfully-talented and mercurial captain in Shahid Afridi at the helm.

This Pakistan squad has a nice blend of youth and experience, and if the experienced players lead by example, they could go a long way. Of course, one of the highlights of this Asia Cup T20 will be the India vs Pakistan match on Saturday, the result of which could have a big bearing on who wins the title.

That title will be eyed by Bangladesh as well, with the Tigers always a force to be reckoned with on home turf, as India found out in that ODI series last year, when a certain Mustafizur Rahman ran riot. Bangladesh have talented youngsters in both the bowling and batting, while the pressure will also be on their one true world-class star – Shakib Al Hasan – to perform consistently, be that with the bat or ball.

The Lions of Sri Lanka will also want to be in the mix, but with injuries and retirements to two of their greatest ever players, it remains to be seen how effective this young Sri Lanka side can be. Much will depend on the older guard of Sri Lanka, with Lasith Malinga, the captain, Angelo Mathews, their best player, Nuwan Kulasekara and Rangana Herath all returning from injury, after missing the India series.

This is India's tournament to lose, but in Pakistan, we have an unpredictable side, in Bangladesh, a seriously talented one and in Sri Lanka, a team desperate to show they still hold that fear factor, even with the retirements of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

Should be an exciting Asia Cup, then.

2016 Asia Cup T20 schedule: Match 1: India vs Bangladesh.

Date: Wednesday, February 24.

Time: 7.30 p.m. local time (7 p.m. IST, 1.30 p.m. GMT, 8.30 a.m. ET).

Venue: Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka.

Match 2: Sri Lanka vs UAE.

Date: Thursday, February 25.

Time: 7.30 p.m. local time (7 p.m. IST, 1.30 p.m. GMT, 8.30 a.m. ET).

Venue: Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka.

Match 3: Bangladesh vs UAE.

Date: Friday, February 26.

Time: 7.30 p.m. local time (7 p.m. IST, 1.30 p.m. GMT, 8.30 a.m. ET).

Venue: Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka.

Match 4: India vs Pakistan.

Date: Saturday, February 27.

Time: 7.30 p.m. local time (7 p.m. IST, 1.30 p.m. GMT, 8.30 a.m. ET).

Venue: Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka.

Match 5: Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka.

Date: Sunday, February 28.

Time: 7.30 p.m. local time (7 p.m. IST, 1.30 p.m. GMT, 8.30 a.m. ET).

Venue: Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka.

Match 6: Pakistan vs UAE.

Date: Monday, February 29.

Time: 7.30 p.m. local time (7 p.m. IST, 1.30 p.m. GMT, 8.30 a.m. ET).

Venue: Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka.

Match 7: India vs Sri Lanka.

Date: Tuesday, March 1.

Time: 7.30 p.m. local time (7 p.m. IST, 1.30 p.m. GMT, 8.30 a.m. ET).

Venue: Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka.

Match 8: Bangladesh vs Pakistan.

Date: Wednesday, March 2.

Time: 7.30 p.m. local time (7 p.m. IST, 1.30 p.m. GMT, 8.30 a.m. ET).

Venue: Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka.

Match 9: India vs UAE.

Date: Thursday, March 3.

Time: 7.30 p.m. local time (7 p.m. IST, 1.30 p.m. GMT, 8.30 a.m. ET).

Venue: Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka.

Match 10: Pakistan vs Sri Lanka.

Date: Friday, March 4.

Time: 7.30 p.m. local time (7 p.m. IST, 1.30 p.m. GMT, 8.30 a.m. ET).

Venue: Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka.

Final: Date: Sunday, March 6.

Time: 7.30 p.m. local time (7 p.m. IST, 1.30 p.m. GMT, 8.30 a.m. ET).

Venue: Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka.

TV listings: India: Star Sports 1, Star Sports 3, Star Sports HD1, Star Sports HD3. Pakistan: Geo Super and PTV. Bangladesh: Star and Channel 9. Sri Lanka: MTV Sports and Star. Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Europe,UK, USA, Canada: Yupp TV. Middle East and North Africa: OSN Cricket.

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