The T20 World Cup is just around the corner, with as many as 16 teams competing in the tournament like last year. We all know about the usual suspects like India, Pakistan England South Arica, etc, but we have some exciting and budding talents coming from outside the traditional teams as well this time around. As a result, we could be in for some to cause an upset and make a name for themselves.
The same goes for the 50-over World Cup as well. A few years ago, the ICC had decided to reduce the number of teams participating in the mega event to just 10. That clearly irked many from the associate nations as it was the only tournament that gave such countries to rub shoulders with some of the best in the world. It was seen as a move that would kill the growth of cricket and as a result, it would be dominated by just a few countries.
In order to rectify that, the ICC have decided to make the T20 World Cup a 20-team affair from 2024 and the 50-over World Cup will be played among 14 countries, starting 2027. Not just that, non-Test playing nations like the USA and Namibia too will get a chance to co-host the T20 World Cup in the near future. A small, yet a significant step in the right direction.
Coming back to the present, let’s analyse some of the tedious process some of the countries have gone through in order to compete in the T20 World Cup this year and the ongoing tussle to compete 50-over mega event in India in 2023.
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Let’s now take a look at a few teams and where they stay in the scheme of things.
Namibia and Scotland
The two teams put up an excellent show in the T20 World Cup last year. While Namibia beat Ireland, Scotland too were not far behind in claiming a win over a full-member when they beat Bangladesh in their first game. The two teams remained unbeaten throughout their first-round games and progressed through to the Super 12s.
However, things did not go according to plan in the next stage. While Namibia did beat Scotland, they tasted defeat in their remaining matches. After an impressive start, Scotland to failed to register a single win. But Namibia and Scotland’s efforts were good enough to seal their place in the T20 World Cup this year, where they will play the first round.
Who do they face in the T20 World Cup this year?
Scotland will have their task cut out as they take on former champions West Indies, followed by games against Ireland and Zimbabwe in Group A – all at Hobart. Namibia, on the other hand will have their hands full too as they take on Sri Lanka, Netherlands and UAE at Geelong, where all Group A fixtures will be played out.
Namibia may have surprised a few last year, but teams would be much well-prepared against them this time. After all, they just beat Zimbabwe in a five-match T20I series recently – their first series win against a Test-playing nation.
Though off-field issues have had Scotland in the news lately, they have followed that up with some good performances on the field lately after getting brushed aside by New Zealand in the white-ball series.
However, just days before the racism report that found the board “institutionally racist” was made public, Kyle Coetzer retired from T20Is to solely now focus on the 50-over format, handing over the reins to Richie Berrington.
50-over World Cup qualification status?
With three wins out of three in their latest tri-series also featuring UAE and USA at home, Scotland remain in pole position to overtake Oman at the top of the ICC Cricket World Cup League Two – a seven team tournament where in the top three directly go into the World Cup Qualifiers.
The bottom four though will not be completely out of it as they will progress to the World Cup Qualifier playoff. It’s a cause for concern for Namibia as they are currently fifth in the competition, but have played just half their matches so far and hence plenty of time to make the top three.
Ireland and UAE
Ireland and the UAE qualified from T20 World Cup Global Qualifier A and B respectively. Ireland started the year off well with an ODI series win over the West Indies but then lost their way with losses against India and New Zealand in white-ball series. They did come close on a couple of occasions against both the teams, but fell short.
However, they snapped their 11-match losing streak across formats with a win over Afghanistan in Belfast recently. In the last year or so, Harry Tector has been a backbone for them with the bat. In fact, in the ODI Super League, only Paul Stirling (916) and Babar Azam (1,083) have more runs than Tector (856). He has two tons and seven fifties from 21 innings.
On the bowling front left-arm pacer Joshua Little has impressed in ODIs and T20Is. No bowler has picked up more wickets than Little (26) in T20Is this year and when it comes to the Super League, the left-arm pacer has 28 scalps from 16 innings.
For UAE, 20-year-old Vriitya Aravind, who was recently elevated as the vice-captain of the side has been standout performer with the bat. With 716 runs, he has the most runs in ODIs this year and moreover, he played a pivotal role in UAE winning the Qualifiers.
He scored an unbeaten 97 to drag UAE to 157 in the opening game against Ireland and then in the final group match, he scored 24 in the final over to ensure they finished above Bahrain on net run-rate. Aravind was awarded the player of the match for scoring 267 runs at a strike-rate of 144.33.
As things stand, UAE are placed third in the World Cup League 2 and are very much in contention for a place in the 50-over World Cup Qualifiers. But whether or not they will be one of the two sides in the mega even in India in 2023, is a different question. They have had a taste of the tournament in 2015 and will be hopeful of delivering once again.
Netherlands & Zimbabwe
Both Netherlands and Zimbabwe have been through tough times but in very different ways. The Dutch were decimated in the T20 World Cup last year on more than one occasion. First, they were victims of Curtis Campher’s double hat-trick and then were bundled out for the second lowest score (44) in T20 World Cup history. They also hold the record for the lowest-ever score (39) as well – once again coming against Sri Lanka in 2014.
Zimbabwe, who were banned from competing in the 2019 T20 World Cup Qualifiers went on to build brick by brick and in the end, they emerged triumphant in the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers, beating Netherlands in the final.
Sikandar Raza led from the front in the Qualifiers and in the white-ball series against Bangladesh that followed, Raza was at his best once again with the bat and then played the holding role with the ball to perfection as well. He led Zimbabwe’s stiff chase in the first couple of games, stitched huge match-winning partnerships with Regis Chakabva and Innocent Kaia.
However, with the likes of Sean Williams, Blessing Muzarabani and regular skipper Craig Ervine absent from the series against India, Zimbabwe are finding it difficult against a stronger unit, despite some key players being rested.
Zimbabwe and Netherlands are currently the bottom two placed sides in the ODI Super League. As things stand they would be part of the World Cup Qualifiers. Zimbabwe narrowly missed out on a chance to make it to the 2019 World Cup. The three-run loss against UAE in the then qualifiers still haunts them and it's a great chance for them to right their wrongs as they set foot into the next era, which seems promising.
The Netherlands have gone through certain changes in their set-up. To start with they are without their head coach Ryan Campbell, who is recovering from a heart attack and also the bigger change is that Pieter Seelaar stepped down as captain, due to persistent back injury, allowing Scott Edwards to take over.
Netherlands have made a positive start under Edwards, qualifying for the T20 World Cup and also ODIs against Pakistan to contend with. Bas de Leede who starred with both bat and ball in the T20 World Cup Qualifiers, in a chat with Cricket.com also admitted how smooth the transition has been from Seelaar to Edwards.
“Pieter Seelaar's retirement was bit of a shock to the outside world, but also to the players. No one saw it coming. We all knew he had problems with his back. To retire after just one game in the series was quite a shock. The gap [void] that he has left in the team is pretty big - as a player but especially as a person,” the 22-year-old said.
With many County contracted players like Fred Klaassen, Paul van Meekeren not being picked for national duty, it has opened up opportunities for others like Ryan Klein, Tim Pringle and others to get a chance.
Denied of any sort of preparations ahead of the World Cup last year due to the pandemic, Campbell in a chat with Cricket.com last year, said that he did not have a clue who his XI for the first match of the tournament is going to be. With more options to pick from now, here’s hoping the Netherlands will not have to endure such a situation like this again.
Nepal & PNG
PNG scripted history when they qualified for a World Cup for the very first time in 2021. They lost to Netherlands in the 2019 Qualifier. However, their match against Kenya in the Qualifier three years ago, they were reduced to 19 for 6 batting first at one stage and still wound up winning by 45 runs.
In a chat with Cricket.com, a couple of years ago, all-rounder Charles Amini, who is also considered a third-generation cricketer and also a gun fielder had revealed that he believed his team would go on to win the game even from that hopeless situation.
“We can bat to 11 so I thought if we could bat the 20 overs and score over 100 that would be good enough with our attack against their inexperienced team. I didn’t want to watch the game when we were at that position but we had to keep supporting Norman (Vanua) and Sese (Bau). I was really nervous but our fighting spirit showed at the end,” CJ, as he’s known fondly, had said.
A lot of credit as to be given to their former coach Joe Dawes, who worked very closely with the players and got the best of him. Amini also talks about him with great admiration.
“His addition to the team is second to none. He’s brought in a new culture and has changed so many things in our skills training and strength and conditioning. He’s got us fitter than ever before.
“He lives with us here in PNG and that helps where we have access to him all the time if we want one-on-one sessions. He’s pretty straight up front with you. I’m pretty close to Joe and I can have decent conversations not only about cricket but life and personal issues and he’s a great listener and always there to help.”
However, since Carl Sandri took over just before the World Cup last year, things have never been the same. PNG have just about a mathematical chance of progressing to the 50-over World Cup Qualifiers directly from the CWC League 2. And also, in the T20 World Cup Qualifier, they lost in the semi-final against Zimbabwe and in the third-place play-off, they edged past USA by five runs, defending just 97.
Nepal too have issues of their own. Their coach Pubudu Dassanayake stepped down citing family reasons, but right after that he signed up with Canada as their head coach. Nepal are just above PNG in the CWC League 2 and like PNG, they also lost in their T20 World Cup Qualifier in the semi-final.
Former India all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar took over as their head coach recently and his first assignment will be their T20I tour of Kenya later this month. Some tiff within the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) meant Sandeep Lamichhane took over the leadership mantle from Gyanendra Malla.
Lamichhane has taken to captaincy quite well, given that he has picked up 28 wickets from 14 matches this year. UAE’s Basil Hameed (29) and Oman’s Bilal Khan (43) have more ODI wickets this year.
Oman rise in international cricket is a hugely significant one. From being awarded the ICC associate member in 2014 to rising up the ranks to eventually participating in two T20 World Cups is no mean feat. All this could not have been possible without the sweat and tears of head coach Duleep Mendis and encouragement from the board members like Pankaj Khimji and Madhusinh Jasrani.
Oman have played all their matches in the CWC League 2 and sit on top of the table. But as the likes of Scotland, Namibia, UAE and others continue to winning games, it could be difficult to maintain their place at the top.
However, their players have made a huge impression this year. While left-arm pacer Bilal Khan is on top of the wicket-takers’ list in ODIs (as mentioned above), Jatinder Singh their opening batter has 653 runs this year, the second highest this year.
*All matches/stats updated before the start of Netherlands vs Pakistan ODIs.