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The ‘slogfest’ 2022 T20 World Cup championship is wide open

The ‘slogfest’ 2022 T20 World Cup championship is wide open
Arshdeep Singh of India bowls during the 1st T20 international match against South Africa. (Photo: Pankaj Nangia / Gallo Images / Getty Images)

There are multiple genuine contenders for the top prize in cricket’s shortest format.

There are a number of genuine contenders to lift the 2022 T20 World Cup, with Australia’s home ground handing them a slight edge as they bid to defend the title they won in 2021 and become just the second nation to win the trophy more than once.

The tournament has been evenly spread among the top cricketing nations. Only the West Indies, with two titles (2012 and 2016) have won the biennial tournament more than once before.

From the traditional powerhouses of the past two decades, only South Africa and New Zealand have failed to lift the trophy in the shortest international format.

Adam Zampa of Australia catches Jos Buttler of England during game two of the T20 International series between Australia and England at Manuka Oval on 12 October 2022 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo: Mark Evans / Getty Images)

India

Though India have not won the competition since the inaugural edition in 2007, the country that curates the most globally recognised and enticing franchise T20 competition – the Indian Premier League (IPL) – can never be written off.

The Indians come into the tournament in great form as well – form that has them comfortably perched at the summit of the latest International Cricket Council’s (ICC’s) global T20 rankings.

They have won in New Zealand, England and Australia and have been almost unbeatable at home.

However, that is nothing new. The powerhouse has headed into previous ICC tournaments in blistering form, only to fail to live up to its very high standards by bombing out. It is why, for all its brilliance across series, the Asian nation has failed to win a World Cup since 2011.

According to former coach Ravi Shastri, who was at the helm when the Indians could not qualify for the knockout stage during the coronavirus-delayed edition in 2021, the team has the tools to add a second T20 title.

“I have been part of the system for the last six or seven years, first as a coach and now watching from the outside, and I think this is as good a line-up as India has ever had in T20 cricket,” Shastri declared during an event at the Mumbai Press Club.

“With Surya [Yadav] at No 4, Hardik [Pandya] at No 5 and Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik at No 6 it makes a massive difference as it allows the top order to play the way they are playing.”

Shastri did raise concern about India’s fielding, noting the team will need to perform better in this area throughout the event if they are to achieve T20 glory once more.

The absence of injured star bowler and leader Jasprit Bumrah might prove a huge loss for the Indians, though, as they pursue an end to their extensive trophy drought.


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Australia

Hosts and defending champions Australia have been widely tipped as the side most likely to lift the trophy with home turf advantage and support.

But in sport things don’t always work like that. In fact, none of the previous host nations have managed to win the World Cup title at home.  

The hosts are in a challenging Super 12 group, with two other strong contenders – England and the finalists of the previous edition, New Zealand. Two more teams will join from the curtain-raising group phase.

Nonetheless, the team will rely on the benefits of continuity to carry them through.

The 15-member squad Australia has announced for the tournament features only one change from the one that clinched the title a year ago in the United Arab Emirates.

Skipper Aaron Finch has been backed to defend the title. However, the team’s batting unit has not been firing recently. Finch, fellow opener David Warner and Glenn Maxwell have been far from convincing.

“I’ve got a real concern that we’ve got too many weapons out of form, and we might need to put in some more secure batting types,” Australian cricket great Ian Healy told SENQ Breakfast.

Much like the Indians, the Australians can never be written off. With home support, the batting unit can easily discover its quality, to complement an electric bowling unit.

England

England are the reigning champions in one-day internationals (ODIs) and the nation would undoubtedly love to emulate Australia’s women in holding both ODI and T20 titles simultaneously.

However, the 2010 champions of this spectacle come into the tournament in indifferent form. Of four T20 series played in 2022 as of early October, the team has only won one. It is concerning form for the English, though they did beat the West Indies 4-3 recently.

Additionally, the adrenaline and fast-paced nature of tournament cricket can upset form. That’s what the English will be banking on as they face a tough task to make it to the knockouts – owing to tough Super 12 opponents.  

The English have recalled Test captain Ben Stokes for the tournament – after an absence of two years from the format to “take care of mental health”.

During warm-up matches in the lead-up to the showpiece, the all-rounder has been pushed up the batting order from his usual middle-order slot.

“Ben Stokes is someone we want to try to give as much opportunity to impact the game as possible,” said England captain Jos Buttler. “Try to get him up the order as high as we can. Give him as much responsibility as possible and allow him to play his way to get the best out of him.”

In 2021, England were knocked out of the World Cup when they were thrashed by New Zealand in a semifinal.

New Zealand

Much like their neighbours Australia, New Zealand are banking on continuity to help them to their maiden T20 title after agonisingly losing out last time.

New Zealand fell at the final hurdle last year when they lost to Australia in a thrilling title decider in Dubai. They have a squad capable of going a step further this time.

“It’s great to have this tournament so soon after last year’s event in which we played some really good cricket, but couldn’t quite get over the line at the end,” New Zealand coach Gary Stead said. “With the nucleus of that squad retained … we should go into the tournament with plenty of optimism.”

The Kiwis have lost just two T20Is this calendar year and their recent form at home in the tri-series against Pakistan and Bangladesh sees them looking solid.

Their top order is built around the experience of Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson, and the likes of Daryl Mitchell and Devon Conway have the potential to offer solid support.

Veteran duo Trent Boult and Tim Southee head a strong bowling attack, but speedster Lockie Ferguson and left-arm tweaker Mitchell Santner will be just as important to the cause if the Black Caps are to clinch gold.

Although the tournament proper starts on Saturday, 22 October, the likes of West Indies, Sri Lanka, Ireland and Zimbabwe will play in the group stage to determine the four sides that will qualify for the Super 12 phase of the competition. The group phase will be played from 16 to 21 October. Super 12 fixtures start on 22 October. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.

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