For England to win the World Twenty20 they would probably need judgement, luck and Kevin Pietersen. Since one of those components will not be there, the others will have to be in bountiful supply if they are to retain the title they won in such style two years ago.
What keeps the hope alive is that for the last tournament in the Caribbean, they went as undercooked as a barbecue sausage, with uncapped opening batsmen, a strategy based on "what the hell, we've nothing to lose" – and they utterly confounded expectations, not least their own.
By the end England were flying. Pietersen, having damned the format three years earlier as "silly shots for a silly game", was man of the tournament.
His spectacular squabble with the England management means he will not be present at the fourth version of the competition, which officially starts tomorrow, and whatever the team say they would be better with him. But this does not mean England can quite be written off. They remain the world's top-ranked T20 side, and since becoming champions they have won 10 of their 15 completed matches and never lost a series. If England can win it, they are also capable of losing to Afghanistan in their opening Group A match on Friday. At least six more of the 12 teams are eminently capable of becoming champions on 8 October when the final is played in Colombo.
These are the joys of the format: it is possible for just about any team to win a one-off match but you need a little more to assemble a sequence of victories, which is why some of the dozen can be ruled out. The three previous winners have been India, Pakistan and England.
India were reluctant participants in 2007, there only because it was in the ICC regulations. After winning a tense final against Pakistan, the country went T20 crazy and things were never the same again. The IPL was born, vast riches followed.
There will be the usual expectation on India this time, though their form in almost all cricket since they won the 50-over World Cup at home last year has been fitful. They are in England's group – two from each of four qualify for the Super Eights – and it may be an advantage to them that they have IPL experience.
England have little or none but their domestic T20, but for players like Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler the format is a natural part of them.
Pakistan, the other World T20 champions, are just as likely to perform commandingly or inadequately. Though they have some bobby-dazzlers, they look a bit thin in the field to sustain a challenge.
Considering the hegemony Australia enjoyed for most of the opening decade of the century, it is a surprise that they have never won a World T20. But under George Bailey, the thoughtful Tasmanian, they have forged a new team quickly.
Everybody's favoured second team will be West Indies. They are an engaging, maddening bunch who can smack the ball miles. Equally, they are capable of rolling over in a heap. If Chris Gayle can marshal his resources for a fortnight, well, they really can be the winners.
And it would be no surprise to see a well-drilled, disciplined, fit team with just enough maverick spirit lift the trophy, so it could be time for South Africa.Reuse content