Sport Writer Charlie King looks ahead to the T20 World Cup starting this June, forecasting an unpredictable month of cricket

Written by Charlie King

There is no shortage of Twenty20 action to be consumed in today’s cricketing climate. Many of the key figures in the sport will be making their way over to the Caribbean and the USA after being in India for a prolonged spell for cricket’s most lucrative franchise tournament, the IPL. However, the major world events bring together a collection of stars in a high-stakes, tension-packed environment that is unrivalled in the sport. The unpredictable nature of T20 cricket makes this an even more exciting prospect. Predicting a winner seems futile, with six different winners being produced from the eight tournaments contested since 2007. 

The competition kicks off with a match between USA and Canada on 2nd June in Texas. Incidentally, this is cricket’s oldest fixture. However, the US especially has not been known for its cricketing prowess, with several other sports dominating the US landscape. A good showing for the US in a home world cup could do much to ignite an interest in the sport. They have recently beaten cricket-loving Bangladesh twice, so there is a distinct possibility of some success. 

The unpredictable nature of T20 cricket makes this an even more exciting prospect

A far more traditional cricketing rivalry will also take place in the same group as USA and Canada, with India taking on Pakistan. India, as ever, look the strongest side on paper. Choosing to leave out talents such as Shubman Gill and Rinku Singh has made as many headlines in India as the players that have been included in the squad. Despite this, the pressure that comes with representing India in a major tournament has often seen them fall at the final hurdle. They have not won an ICC tournament since 2011, and their most recent heartbreak came in the final against Australia in their home 50-over World Cup just six months ago. Pakistan will, as ever, provide an abundance of excitement and passion both in the stands and on the pitch. Ireland is the other team in Group A, hoping to provide an upset to India or Pakistan. 

England’s first game of the tournament comes on 4 June against Scotland in Barbados. England will want to put the misery of the recent World Cup failure in India quickly behind them by retaining their T20 crown in the Caribbean. Their batting looks strong as ever, with in-form figures Phil Salt and Will Jacks providing a new edge to a batting line-up that includes the class of Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow alongside exciting young talent Harry Brook. The bowling attack will be very similar to what was successful in Australia, with the much welcome addition of pace bowler Jofra Archer on his return from an injury that has plagued his nascent England career. Failure again for England would likely signal the end for the leadership of Buttler and coach Matthew Mott. 

Failure again for England would likely signal the end for the leadership of Buttler

The other major contender in England’s group is Australia. Australia is a destructive force who know who to get over the line in major tournaments. They will be buoyed by their humbling of India in Ahmedabad six months ago. England will also have to be wary of Scotland, who have given them trouble in ICC events in the past, and Namibia, who upset Sri Lanka in the last World Cup. Oman is the other team in Group B. 

Group C looks the most difficult to predict. It possesses three teams equally capable of finishing in the top two to progress to the quarter-finals. New Zealand have been a consistent and reliable force in major tournaments for several years now. They have been a feature of the latter stages of tournaments. They have a core of experienced players who have a good understanding, and will no doubt ensure that they give a good account of themselves again. 

If New Zealand have been consistent and reliable, then the West Indies have been dynamic and unpredictable in major tournaments. Nevertheless, the advantage offered by knowledge of home conditions and their exciting armoury of players ensures they are ones to watch. Additionally, Afghanistan has proved time and again that they cannot be considered as minnows. It is no longer a surprise to anyone when it provides a stern test to the establishment. Had they avoided Glenn Maxwell’s magnificent onslaught by holding on to the catch when he was on nought, they would have been in the semi-finals in India. The spinning conditions of wickets in the West Indies should also benefit their bowlers. It is difficult to see Uganda and Papua New Guinea as doing much other than making up the numbers. 

Reigniting the love of the game in the West Indies is also important

Finally, perennial T20 underachievers South Africa headline Group D. Their squad is no less packed with superstars than usual. Heinrich Klaasen is arguably the format’s best batter. He is supplemented by the class of Quinton De Kock and Aiden Markram. The bowling arsenal is filled with threatening pace provided by Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada, and Marco Jansen. Yet it is their history that plays against them. A loss against the Netherlands knocked them out of the most recent T20 World Cup, and they are still yet to win an ICC event. The rest of the group looks finely balanced. Sri Lanka are the second favourites, but Bangladesh and the Netherlands would equally fancy themselves. Nepal is also a team to look out for with an incredible passion for cricket and some eye-catching results of late. 

This latest World Cup should be one to look forward to for many reasons. It is as much of a lottery as ever, with at least seven or eight teams who will believe it has a realistic prospect of winning. It is also an important tournament for the future of cricket. Propelling interest in cricket in the US would prompt major financial investment into the game. Reigniting the love of the game in the West Indies is also important, with empty stadiums in the Caribbean being all too much of a feature recently. Finally, it is the first ICC event in five years to take place in the English summer. There will be two weeks, before the Euros kick off, where there will be scarce other sport for it to compete with. Sport is loved for its unpredictably, excitement, and nerve-shredding tension, something the 2024 T20 World Cup should provide in spades.

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