The stage is set for the ICC T20 World Cup to begin on Sunday with the captains of all 16 competing teams coming together in Melbourne for the first time for the customary "Captains' Day", which officially marks the beginning of the competition.
With more than a billion cricket fans across the globe looking ahead to engrossing cricket action for nearly a month, Sri Lanka will take on Namibia at Geelong's Kardinia Park Stadium in Group A of the First Round, while United Arab Emirates will be up against the Netherlands on the opening day of competition.
This marks the first of 45 matches over 28 days with the champions to be crowned at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on November 13.
Sri Lanka, who lifted the trophy in 2014, will be buoyed by their success in the Asia Cup in the UAE recently where they defeated Pakistan to clinch the trophy. The side would be looking to quickly secure a Super 12 place and stake a strong claim to add the global trophy to the continental prize they won recently.
Sri Lanka captain, Dasun Shanaka exuded confidence, saying, "After a very good Asia Cup, we are very confident. The environment is really good. We are well focused on our batting. As it is the early summer, the conditions will be somewhat different, so we are really focusing on that. Apart from that, I think the bowlers, they are really shaping up, so Chameera is back with us and Lahiru Kumara is back with us, so they are plus points coming from the Asia Cup.
"Yeah, it depends on the day. T20 cricket we never know who will be good, when. I think the better teams come out of the day with a win."
Sri Lanka's opponents on Sunday, Namibia had made a big impression on their tournament debut in the UAE and Oman in 2021, surging through to the Super 12 stage. The challenge for Gerhard Erasmus's side will be to go again without the element of surprise they enjoyed last year, and they will again bank heavily on talisman David Wiese and paceman Ruben Trumpelmann.
"I guess this year is a bit different to last year. We could sort of ride on that underdog factor and go with it and there's a bit more expectation perhaps this year to go one better," said Erasmus.
"Our preparations have been really nice getting to Wangaratta in the countryside of Australia quite early and getting accustomed to things around here. So I guess we'll try and stall the underdog tag for a little bit longer, but yeah, when the real stuff starts, you need to bring the high-level skill that the guys play at the World Cup if we can do that."
Australia, on the other hand, will have grand hopes of lifting the trophy on home soil with a stated aim to become the first team to retain the Men's T20 World Cup. The Aaron Finch-led side begin their Super 12 campaign with a repeat of last year's final -- they play trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand on October 22 at the Sydney Cricket Ground to get the Super 12 off to a roaring start.