The Biggest World Cup ever is here!

Published June 1, 2024
Illustration by Ziauddin
Illustration by Ziauddin

Twenty teams, one trophy. Never in the history of limited overs in cricket, has a tournament as big as the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup been held.

Co-hosted by the USA and West Indies, the ninth edition of the mega event will feature a record number of teams, which will clash between 1 June and 29 June in nine different venues.

These 20 teams are placed in four groups of five each for the first stage of the mega event; two teams from each group will qualify for the Super 8 stage, which will then decide which teams should progress to the knockout stage and which should go back empty-handed.

A total of 55 matches, including the semi-final and the final, will be played in the 29-day event, where the team that wins the grand finale will be crowned champion at Barbados on 29 June.

How the USA Cricket team is part of the T20 World Cup is the question in everyone’s mind, since the country is known for its achievements in athletics, baseball and basketball. The answer to this lies in the fact that due to its proximity to the Caribbean, and the game’s popularity in the region, the International Cricket Council decided to give the US a chance as a cricket host.

Who knows, the tournament can start a ripple effect that can help both cricket and the fans who want to watch the game in the region, just like it helped soccer when the FIFA World Cup was held in the United States 30 years ago.

Most of the matches in the event will still be played in the West Indies, where six grounds will be used, in contrast to three in the United States. Out of the 55 matches, West Indies will host 39 matches, while 16 will be held in Lauderhill, Dallas and New York, including the blockbuster clash between India and Pakistan on 9 June.

A look at the four groups

Group A: India, Pakistan, USA, Ireland and Canada

Group A in the mega event will feature arch-rivals India and Pakistan together alongside Canada, Ireland and co-hosts USA. On paper, former champions Pakistan and India look stronger than the rest of the sides, but Ireland recently defeated Pakistan, and the US side won a T20I series against Bangladesh. Any team can progress to the Super 8 stage from this group, if they raise the bar in group matches.

Group B: England, Australia, Namibia, Scotland and Oman

Defending champions England and former champions Australia look set to progress to the next round from this group, provided an upset doesn’t occur during the group matches. Namibia and Scotland are experienced sides with quality cricketers; if they play well, anything is possible. Oman has been impressive in the qualification phase and a good performance can be expected from them too.

Group C: West Indies, New Zealand, Afghanistan, Uganda and Papua New Guinea

At the moment, two-time former champions West Indies, and New Zealand seem stronger than the rest of the sides here, but Afghanistan has a reputation of being giant-killers in recent years. If they defeat the two minnows Uganda and Papua New Guinea, and upset an experienced side, the group’s fate will hang in balance, or on net run rate.

Group D: South Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Netherlands and Nepal

Pundits claim that Group D in the mega event is a Group of Death since it features exciting teams like South Africa, and former champions Sri Lanka alongside Netherlands, Bangladesh and Nepal. The Dutch players will remember that they shocked South Africa in the last T20 World Cup, while Bangladesh would like to forget the recent defeat against the USA and move forward. South Africa and Sri Lanka would need to play as per their reputation to reach the Super 8s, otherwise, each team has a chance.

Players to watch out for

Winning the World Cup is nothing short of a challenge, but not every player gets the chance to be a World Champion. However, some players participating in this mega event can single-handedly change the course of the game, be it as a batter, bowler or just captain. Let’s look at 15 players who might give their team the edge they need to win the Cup.

England: Jos Buttler is not just the captain of the defending champion side, but also one of the most aggressive batters in the world. Under his leadership, England won the title two years back and he would like to make it two in two. His presence as the ‘keeper also gives him the edge over other skippers, since he can marshal his troops from behind the wickets, be it making a bowling change or replacing a fielder.

Pakistan: Babar Azam is undoubtedly one of the best batters in the world; it was under his captaincy that Pakistan reached the final of the last T20 World Cup and he would like to take it one step further and grab the trophy this time around. To do that, he will have to score quick runs, make quick decisions on the field and keep the opponents on their toes.

Australia: Travis Head was the player of the match in both the World Test Championship and the ODI World Cup and, if he can have it his way, he would like to make it three in three for himself and his skipper. He has been in tremendous form recently and if he continues to bat the way he is known for, the opposition might be in big trouble.

India: Virat Kohli wasn’t with the Indian side when they won the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, and he would like to change the equation during the mega event. After all, he is the only current batter with over 1000 runs in the T20 World Cup and the highest run-getter in the format. His brilliance as a fielder will also help his side which will depend on his performance.

New Zealand: Kane Williamson isn’t just the coolest captain on the cricket field, he is also a world-class batter who can win matches on his own. He defied injury to be a part of the ODI World Cup last year and helped New Zealand reach the knockout stage. If his players follow his lead, the Kiwis might break the jinx of not winning a World Cup and start a journey that can lead to more glory.

West Indies: Nicholas Pooran’s ability to hit big sixes and keep wickets has made him an asset to the West Indian side. If he does well in front of the home crowd and on the home grounds, West Indies might become the first team to win three T20 World Cups.

South Africa: Aiden Markram has evolved into an all-rounder who can bat, bowl and make unbelievable stops in the field. As skipper of the South African side, a lot will depend on him and his performance. He has all kinds of bowlers and batters in his side and if they all gel together, South Africa might finally throw the chokers’ tag and win an ICC World Cup for a change.

Sri Lanka: Mystery spinner Wanindu Hasaranga isn’t just a threat to batters around the world, he also possesses a good strategic mind which will come in handy during the mega event. His players look up to him for guidance and if he leads them from the front, nothing will be able to stop Sri Lanka from reclaiming the trophy after 10 years.

Afghanistan: If there is one player who can make it to any side in the world, it’s Afghan Captain Rashid Khan because he can confuse the best batters in the business, demoralise the best bowlers with his ferocious hitting, and be a world-class fielder, all at the same time. His side may not have done well at the T20 World Cup, but he can take his side into the Super 8s and beyond if he performs well.

Bangladesh: No bowler has taken more wickets in the T20 World Cups than Shakib Al Hasan who also is handy as a batter and a fielder. It is time that he uses his full potential to help Bangladesh achieve new heights, because he is the only person in the squad who can stand tall against any opposition.

Ireland: Paul Stirling’s stint as captain of the Irish side has seen them become a well-oiled unit that can win against any opposition. Their recent successes prove they are a formidable side with a never-say-die attitude; if skipper and opening batter Paul Stirling gets going, Ireland can dethrone any side, on any surface, against all odds.

United States: On New Year’s Eve in 2014, a young Kiwi batter Corey Anderson broke Shahid Afridi’s record for the fastest ODI century by scoring a tonne off just 36 deliveries. Fast forward to 2024 and Corey Anderson is now part of the US side. The Kiwis might have lost interest in his ability to win games, but Americans believe in him, and if he fulfils his potential, he can be a threat to all.

Namibia: Fans of the Pakistan Super League know David Wiese is a utility player who can bat, bowl and field better than many competitors. His presence in the dressing room and the field can benefit his side since he has played with the best players in the business.

Netherlands: Max O’Dowd is considered one of the most explosive batters in the business and if he keeps going, the Dutch bowlers and fans will have a lot to cheer about. The bowlers, since they will have a good total to defend, and the fans since they know their opener is a class apart who can demoralize any opposition with his batting.

Nepal: Rohit Paudel isn’t just the captain of the Nepalese side, but he has also been the key to their recent successes. His innings of 112 runs off just 54 balls against a West Indian A side helped his team beat them recently, and if he can repeat that performance during the mega event, Nepal might raise some eyebrows.

Who’ll rule the world?

Every team participating in this mega event is here to win, but the real competition will begin once the Super 8 stage kicks off. The eight best teams from across four groups will be placed into two more groups of four teams each where every team will play three matches, and the ones with the most wins will qualify for the semi-finals. The two semi-final winners will clash in the grand finale, and decide the trophy’s next destination with a battle like never before.

Thankfully, any match that finishes in a tie will see a Super Over to be played, and if the Super Over is a tie, subsequent Super Overs will be played until there is a winner. There is also additional time available to ensure the completion of the semi-final and final stage of the event.

So far, only England (2010 and 2022) and the West Indies (2012 and 2016) have managed to win the T20 World Cup twice; India (2007), Pakistan (2009), Sri Lanka (2014), and Australia (2021) have won the trophy once and would like to add another cup on their shelf. Will it be a first-timer like New Zealand, South Africa, Afghanistan or Bangladesh that will surprise the opponents, or will a minnow shock the giants, the wait is nearly over. Let the games begin!

Published in Dawn, Young World, June 1st, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Miles to go
Updated 14 Jul, 2024

Miles to go

Some reforms agreed with the Fund are going to seriously impact economic growth and fresh investments, at least in the short term.
Iddat ruling
14 Jul, 2024

Iddat ruling

IT was a needless, despicable spectacle which only ended up uniting both conservatives and progressives in ...
Cricket shake-up
14 Jul, 2024

Cricket shake-up

SOMEONE had to take the blame and bear the brunt of the fallout from Pakistan’s disastrous showing at the T20 ...
Injustice undone
Updated 13 Jul, 2024

Injustice undone

The SC verdict is a stunning reversal of fortunes for a party that was, both before and after general elections, being treated as a defunct entity.
Looming flour shortage
13 Jul, 2024

Looming flour shortage

FOR once, it is hard to argue against the reason that compelled flour mills to call a nationwide strike from...
Same old script
13 Jul, 2024

Same old script

WHEN it comes to the troubling issue of enforced disappearances/ missing persons — either Baloch or belonging to...