The World T20 returns for its sixth edition today, hosted for the first time by India. The greatest joy that the WT20 brings is that it’s a punchy tournament that doesn’t wheeze along like its 50 over sibling. It’s a sharp, succinct tournament that hasn’t been shy of throwing up the odd surprise.
In the previous six tournaments we have had six different winners. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are yet to have their names etched onto the trophy, so what chance of a seventh different winner here?
The tournament commences with the Group Stage, so we’ll start our preview and predicting here.
Group A: Bangladesh, Ireland, Netherlands and Oman
Bangladesh reached the final of the Asia Cup T20 just before the World T20 and looked in good form throughout the tournament before being walloped by India in the final. It was, however, a successful campaign for Bangladesh and they will be feeling confident of knocking out the associate nations here.
Netherlands were the surprise package of the 2014 WT20, reaching the Super 10s and famously defeating England. They now have former South Africa international Roelof van der Merwe in their ranks, alongside veteran T20 campaigners Peter Borren, Wesley Barresi and Tom Cooper.
Ireland have always been plucky upstarts in recent white ball tournaments and it is a great shame that they have not been granted more exposure to top level international cricket. As such, it is hard to see how they can have advanced from plucky upstarts to Group challengers.
Oman are certainly the weakest team in Group A, and it would be a huge upset if they were to make it out of the group, or even inflict much damage on their opponents. Their only recent success came against Hong Kong in the Asia Cup qualifying group – just don’t mention the word ‘Mankad’ to the Hong Kong players.
Given their recent form, coupled with heightened familiarity of playing in the prevalent conditions, we can’t predict anything other than Bangladesh adding their name to the roster in Group 1 of the Super 10s.
Group B: Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Scotland and Zimbabwe
Afghanistan were the neutrals’ favourite at the 2015 World Cup, but their form hasn’t been scintillating since. They failed to get out of the qualifying group at the Asia Cup, losing out to UAE, although they did beat Hong Kong in that tournament.
Hong Kong lost every game at the Asia Cup and look ill-equipped to leave a lasting impression on this tournament. Ditto Scotland, who were unable to make much of a mark at the 2015 World Cup. It should be noted, however, just how difficult it is for these sides to progress given their dearth of opportunities to improve by playing better opposition on a regular basis. It does, sadly, make them very easy to rule out here.
That leaves the group as something of a shootout between Afghanistan and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe have a host of experienced players, but will be missing Brendan Taylor. They are a tough team to predict, as are Afghanistan, so we’ll take a shot in the dark and predict that Zimbabwe will make it out of this Group, if only on the back of Afghanistan’s recent poor form. In reality, this should be a tightly contested and hugely enjoyable Group.
We’ll preview the Super 10s stage separately. The Group stage looks set to be an entertaining precursor to the main event and, in theory, gives the ‘lesser’ cricketing nations a platform upon which to showcase their talents. This being cricket, however, all is not quite as it seems, with the Group stage of week one of the tournament being played out as the big boys go about their warm-up fixtures. It is a shame, therefore, that not all eyes will be on the Group games.
For cricket fans, however, week one of the 2016 ICC World T20 offers the opportunity to see teams that you wouldn’t normally get to see. Given recent trends at the ICC, I guess we should be grateful that we get to see them at all.
By Miles Reucroft