Like in all sports, there is no reason to back the favorite just because it is the favorite, just as throwing money behind the underdog purely based on the fact it has longer odds is a rash tactic.
The key is research. Here are three criteria to tick off before deciding whether to get on the favorite or the underdog.
How have the two teams been performing? Has either got batsmen or bowlers who are in rich stretches of form? Has either been struggling to put runs together? If the favorite is in a poor patch with the bat and the underdog has several bowlers taking wickets regularly, there might be the chance of an upset.
Head to head history
How often do these two teams play each other? What is the two-year record between the two? Is there any evidence that the underdog has posed a problem to the favorite. If the answers to these questions show the favorite regularly beats the underdog, you need to think hard about backing the latter.
Venue and conditions
Does the underdog boast swing bowlers who enjoy overcast weather and a greener pitch? If so, what’s the forecast and what sort of wicket is usually provided at the stadium in question. The venue and the weather play major roles in cricket; get to know the climates and learn which part of the world suits which skills. When teams meet at a neutral venue – such as during a World Cup – neither can prepare pitches specifically to suit their own lineups, so you need to work out which set of players is best suited to the location in question.
Are there any key injuries or absences on either side? While a bigger team, such as India, may be able to cope with missing a regular first-team starter, sides with lesser resources would be significantly weakened. Take Afghanistan, for example. Without Rashid Khan in their side, their bowling attack is much less potent.
Outside of single matches, backing the underdog to win tournaments can be a lucrative business, particularly in T20 franchise tournaments such as the IPL, Big Bash, CPL and PSL. Read into the performance analytics of each team and don’t place much emphasis on the previous season results as squads change substantially year on year. There are several analysts on social media worth following to see where the best prices might be. Dan Weston at Sports Analytics Advantage provides excellent insight, while data company CricViz is unrivalled in its statistical breakdown of cricket worldwide. As ever, do your research, don’t bet beyond your means and take all this advice as a very general guide.