ICC Cricket T20 World Cup-2021: The Big One Tomorrow As Super-12 Rivalries Start!

The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup-2021 started in Oman and UAE with an upset in Group-B qualifiers when Scotland delivered a shock defeat to Bangladesh on 17th October and the qualifier stage concluded on 22nd October with another history-making upset as Namibia edged out the test-playing nation Ireland and entered the Super-12 stage for the first time. So, we have now qualifiers: from Group-A—the topper Sri Lanka enters the Group-1 and runners-up Namibia in Group-2 of the Super-12 while the Group-B topper Scotland enters Group-2 and the runners-up Bangladesh in Group-1 of the Super-12 stage. The six teams in each group will play matches between themselves on a round-robin basis and the two top teams of each group will sail into the semi-finals. The highly competitive and tough rivalries of the Super-12 stage starts today with Australia meeting South Africa in the first match in Abu Dhabi and England facing defending champions the West Indies in the second match in Dubai. Notwithstanding the slower pitches of UAE we can expect class cricket and absolute thrillers even though some matches may turn out to be low-scoring with the spinners dominating the proceedings.

 

All attention in the subcontinent is naturally focused of the big encounter tomorrow, Sunday the 24th October, between archrivals India and Pakistan—the kind of encounters that have become rare as the bilateral ties between the two countries have been going through continuous tension since the Mumbai terror attack in 2008 and later the terror attack on the Sri Lanka team in Pakistan in 2009 after which all international cricket matches stopped to be staged in Pakistan and the country was rejected as a co-host with India in the ICC Cricket World Cup-2011. Since then all bilateral cricket is no longer there except for a brief tour when the BCCI invited Pakistan to play three ODIs and two T20Is in India in 2012. Pakistan players were also not allowed to participate in the IPL bonanza.

 

It is natural for most of the Indians to have reservations against Pakistan playing cricket with India due to the former’s endless duplicity and repeated terror attacks on the Indian soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir. However, we must take this in the spirit of inclusive sports in the form of World Cricket tournaments like in other international events like the Olympics. For their consolation the bilateral cricket has been completely suspended since 2012 even as genuine cricket lovers are really missing the classic encounters on the field. Therefore, the World Cricket tournaments offer us rare opportunities to have the privilege of watching the archrivals in full display. For that matter, Afghanistan, a participant, too was taken over by a terrorist group and that cannot lead to the team’s rejection in the same spirit of sports. Personally speaking human beings in all the countries are similar in sentiments and affection while the policies are made by only a few of the strategic rulers. For example, when the Taliban took over Afghanistan my first thought was about the safety of the lovely and sweet-behaved popular players like Rashid Khan in cricket and many others.

 

Coming back to the India-Pakistan encounter tomorrow evening India seem to have the advantage as they have won all of 12 matches in the one-day and T20 ICC World Cups so far, and lost only in the Champions Trophy with 2 wins for India against 3 by Pakistan. In Asia Cup cricket ODIs and T20Ia India won 7 against Pakistan’s 2 while the Asian Test Championship was won by the latter. Besides, India have been in ominous form in terms of both batting and bowling, gaining from the IPL-2021, the warm-up match wins and the recent victories over Australia and England in away-matches. In the last two years Pakistan won cricket series against Zimbabwe and South Africa while losing to New Zealand and England, and they lost the warm-up game against South Africa in this tournament. However, records don’t matter as far as the performances on the field in that particular day and that three and half hours are concerned. Pakistan has a balanced team with Captain Babar Azam as a dominant batsman joined by Shadab Khan and Fakhar Zaman, bowling all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez who can turn matches in his team’s favor anytime and Pakistan’s always-celebrated pacers and class spinners. All these factors only make the coming encounter in Dubai tomorrow a mouth-watering prospect.

 


The T20 is the shortest format of the game of cricket and arguably the most unpredictable as everything happens within the three and half hours like a movie. Therefore, it is indeed a very difficult question about who is going to win the tournament. India is one of the strongest favorites for the title while World Champions in the ODI World Cup-2019 England has also been on top in recent times followed closely by Australia and a very tough team of New Zealand. Defending champions West Indies and Pakistan can pull off anything on a particular day while the poor show of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the qualifying stage should not make any team complacent. India will also have to contend with new rivalries from a very able Scotland and a spirited Namibia, apart from Pakistan, New Zealand and Afghanistan—the latter no less tough an opponent against any team on their day. The suspense promises to be nail-biting as well as delightful starting today, with double-headers almost every day till the semi-final stage that’d start from 10th November 2021.

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