The much-delayed ICC (International Cricket Council) Men’s T20 World Cup, originally scheduled in Australia from 18th October to 15th November 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation worldwide and shifted to India replacing the to-be-held Champions Trophy in 2021 and was again shifted to Oman and United Arab Emirates (UAE) in view of the worsening pandemic situation in India, finally began on 17th October 2021. This is only the official beginning, because for the first five days till 22nd October the fixtures only figure teams to qualify for the Super-12 that begins from 23rd October. The ICC has also earlier decided to merge the Champions Trophy (last played in 2018) with the T20 World Cup and this means that there will be a back-to-back T20 World Cups this year and in 2022 also. India play their first match of the tournament against the archrivals Pakistan on 24th October, 2021, amid some dissenting voices concerning Pakistan’s continuing terror attacks in Indian territories.
The ICC has increased the number of participating teams from 10 in the 2019 version to 16 this time, giving participatory status to 104 countries; this expansion plan of the ICC is being viewed in light of popularizing this format worldwide and making a strong claim for this cricket format to be included in the Olympics-2028 in Los Angeles from 21st July. This T20 format, the shortest of the game, is considered to be ideal for the Olympics schedule. Out of the 16 teams in ICC Men’s T20 World Cup-2021, 8 teams have qualified directly and the remaining 8 teams are divided into Group-A and Group-B, each group of 4 teams would play matches on a round-robin basis and the top two teams from each group will join the Super-12. All 16 teams have been selected on the basis of their ICC rankings with sole exception Oman which has earned its place by being one of the hosts. In the Group-B double-header played on the first day Papua New Guinea defeated Oman and a listless Bangladesh had to succumb to a spirited Scotland, both matches played in Muscat, Oman.
We are giving the stage-wise break-up of the teams below which explains the format of the tournament too:
Stage Group Teams
Round 1: Group A Sri Lanka, Ireland, the Netherlands and Namibia
Round 1: Group B Bangladesh, Scotland, Papua New Guinea and Oman
Super 12: Group 1 England, Australia, South Africa, West Indies, A1 and B2
Super 12: Group 2 India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Afghanistan, A2 and B1
This leads to some confusion in reading the image on the top, taken from the ICC website, where semi-finals are shown as between A1 Vs B2 and A2 Vs B1 which actually refers to the top two teams in Super-12 stage from Group-1 and Group-2 respectively. In effect there are four groups in the World Cup, each group teams playing each other on round-robin basis and after the first stage of four emerging qualifier teams the Super-12 groups can also be deemed as Group-A and Group-B.
The typical format of the World Cup makes the gaps between the matches of your favorite teams stretch up to a week. For example, India after playing Pakistan on 24th October in its first match plays its second match only on 31st October against New Zealand. In all, India play just five matches before the semi-final knockout stage which is disappointing for the cricket lovers and fans: some major competitive teams never get to play against each other at all throughout the tournament. For this, I’ve always been maintaining the need for the ICC to change the format of World Cups, let it be the one-day Cup or the T20 Cup from Group-wise round-robin only to making the whole of Super-12 to be played on round-robin basis that’d make the tournament tougher and more competitive. Of course, it’d take more than a month, but some critics say that the present time period of about a month is too long for the limited number of matches. The World Cup T20 has more or less started following the Indian Premiere League (IPL) style and glamour indices, but not following the basic format of competition. Of course, not as many as 14 times, but all the 12 teams in the Super stage should be allowed to play each other at least once in one-day format and twice in T20 format.
However, the competition is indeed going to be tough with every team-nation trying to win the title for their fans, and the defending Champions the West Indies would definitely try to win it again, apart from the tough ones like India, Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa, and the dark horses like the unpredictable Pakistan or Bangladesh or Afghanistan and the like. As has been proved on numerous instances anything can happen in those three-to-four-hour games like the twists and turns in suspense/thriller movies. From the IPL-2021 experience it emerges that spinners may get the advantage thanks to the rather sluggish pitches of UAE, particularly Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.