Sixteen teams have played in the 2021 T20 World Cup. Sixteen, you ask? Well yes sixteen. Because what just concluded yesterday morning with Namibia being overwhelmed by India was not the first round of games but the second.
I bet you cannot name all the teams involved. I knew the Dutch were a possible chance. The Scotts, the Irish, Bangladesh and the host nation Oman. But I had no clue that both Namibia and Papua New Guinea were playing.
The first twelve games were played between eight nations with the top four teams qualifying to play in the next round. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were in at this stage due to being the lowest ranked of the ten ICC full member nations.
Sri Lanka have had a generational change and it shows. Not by playing poorly. But because let me tell you the Sri Lankan team looks big. Bigger than I have ever seen a Sri Lankan team. There have been some gains in the gym. The opening bowlers and batters look like beasts.
At this level of cricket size does matter. Having the right height, shape and strength will set you up to be a challenger. Sri Lanka came to show they worthy of the big stage. Scotland also appeared to be laden with enough talent. Same for Bangladesh and the early tournament surprise Namibia.
I say early surprise because while all four qualifying teams were competitive in the following round of twelve it was Pakistan who have become my favourite to win. Of course if you know anything about cricket you will be mildly surprised that India did not qualify for the semi-finals.
While India have the weight of so many millions of fans, expectations on Pakistan were there own. If any team outside of Sri Lanka and Afghanistan had a point to prove it is Pakistan. And to be honest this is the best place for Pakistan to show their best because the United Arab Emirates is Pakistan’s home ground.
For those who do not know the history of international cricket in the UAE, you wont know this. Pakistan have played international matches in the UAE since 2002. Due to safety concerns from countries like England, New Zealand and Australia. These games had to be played elsewhere.
Playing away from home crowds. Playing to empty stadiums. Constantly playing anywhere other than where your family could come and watch you live. Before Covid, Pakistan were already under quarantine restrictions.
So when the political strife was under a level of control, and international home games were back in Pakistan, then comes Covid. Recently Australia, New Zealand and England have all abandoned tours of Pakistan.
NZ, Aust, England
The New Zealand team flew in one day and flew out the next. England have called off their tour which was supposed to happen after the T20 World Cup. I am not going to call these cancelations an international incident. Though I might call it a slap in the face.
This has created the perfect storm for Pakistan to become the second international team to win two T20 World Cups. Not India, cause they are not in the semi-finals. Were you watching the permanent scowl on the face of Indian Coach, Ravi Shastri? I was. Its up to new Indian coach Rahul Dravid now.
For Pakistan, they have the players to win this. Most importantly the impetus that the three nations who have cancelled tours are the ones they will play against. Add to this they are playing at venues they have known since 2002.
Australia look reliant on too few. New Zealand are vulnerable. England appear to have Jos Buttler injured. More teams have won chasing in this tournament. The dangers of batting first are well known. Winning the toss is going to be crucial for all teams.
In the most shortened form of cricket anything is possible. For me if you were going to rate the four teams in the semi-finals, Pakistan has the best chance of all four. Please do not bet on it. That’s a mugs game. Just watch. If you can stay up that late.
Phillip Hall has been too long in Melbourne to see AFL in the same light as those back in Fremantle. East Fremantle born and bred, he would love to see the Dockers back in the eight. But would settle for just beating West Coast twice a year.