The T20 World Cup has just got underway in the UAE and Oman, and it has already proven to be an entertaining affair. The first round has seen some great contests and upsets, including Scotland defeating Bangladesh. Now the major cricketing nations have entered the fray and there are some key contenders who could go on to win it. These include India, Australia, England, Pakistan and West Indies. I will assess them all, and give my view as to who are the players to watch out for and the most likely team to succeed.
With regards to India, they have come close in many ICC tournaments in recent years, but have struggled to get over the line. They were semi-finalists in the last T20 World Cup held on home soil in 2016, and finalists and semi-finalists in the 2017 Champions Trophy and 2019 One Day World Cup respectively, both of which were held in England. To finish the job will be their primary objective in this tournament as a result, and they certainly have the quality to do so. Captain Kohli is, of course, one of the top three batsmen in the world and has proven himself in all three formats and expect him to pile on the runs. Combined with the firepower in opener Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant in the middle order, they have the potential to put on big scores, utilising IPL experi
ence in the process.
And in the bowling department, there are three stand out names: Ashwin, Bumrah and Jadeja. Ashwin has not played in this format internationally for a few years, being in the Test side primarily, but has still been involved domestically, and his career stats prove his worth. India have two class spinners in him and Jadeja, and both bring something a bit different, with the latter being a left armer. And Bumrah is, of course, a world class talent, with his yorkers in particular valuable at the death. The only thing against India is whether they have the mentality with this run of falling short ongoing, but a semi-final finish at the least is highly likely in my view.
Regarding Australia, they should never be underestimated and always perform well in ICC events, having won the One Day World Cup the most. This is not as strong a squad as they have had in the past but they still possess lots of talent throughout. Aaron Finch is an explosive opener, and holds the record for the highest individual score in IT20s; Steve Smith always seems to deliver on the big stage; Glenn Maxwell is a very capable all-rounder; and Pat Cummins and Adam Zampa have the skill and variations to succeed in this format. They also have a top coach in Justin Langer, who has proven his credentials in his three years in charge.
Then, as for the other nation in the ‘Big Three’ in cricket, England, they should also be put right up the list in potential winners. Although Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer are missing, both of whom are incredible white ball players, this side has a wealth of experience and potential. Jos Buttler and Jason Roy will get the batting order off to good starts, which is so important in this format. There is further firepower down the order in captain Eoin Morgan and Jonny Bairstow, whilst all-rounders Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes will contribute well with both bat and ball. Watch out too for Tymal Mills, who has shown for Sussex his ability with the ball to handle the pressure in closing out an innings. England were winners in 2010, and perhaps history could repeat itself with Eoin Morgan leading his team all the way as in the One Day World Cup two years ago.
Pakistan and West Indies have less talent than these three, but should not be ruled out at all. Pakistan are inconsistent, but on their day they can beat anyone in the world, and in major tournaments this means they often do well. They won the 2017 Champions Trophy, and with many of their white ball players playing in the PSL, they have the experience to go far in this competition. Babar Azam is easily in the top five batsmen in the world now, whilst with the ball expect Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim and Shaheen Shah Afridi to take wickets. They have a point to prove after a disappointing One Day World Cup; it could all come to down which Pakistan turns up on the day.
And when it comes to West Indies, they have to be considered given past successes in this tournament. They were champions in 2012 and 2016, and whilst the current squad is not quite at the levels at those times, they have match winners throughout. Kieran Pollard hit six sixes in an over recently and is highly experienced, having played in many T20 competitions around the world and the same can be said about Chris Gayle; Andre Russell is an outstanding all rounder; and Oshane Thomas has the pace with the ball. Winning it again will be tough given recent performances, yet they could be the surprise package.
Overall, this T20 World Cup promises to be a classic. Having had to wait a year after its postponement, it is great to see it up and running, with some fantastic matches already. The big teams are ready to give it a go, and there is no clear favourite. Pakistan and West Indies do not have the same squad depth as India, Australia and England, but they should not be disregarded. In my view, maybe a South Africa could do it as well, but the winner will be one of these five.
I think India will go the distance for the first time since winning the 2013 Champions Trophy, given the experience of IPL players in the UAE, and the fact that they have a top quality squad. It is a close call, though, and nothing is guaranteed.