There have been a lot of speculations about the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup which is supposed to be held in Australia from this October. Cricket Australia have considered the postponement of the marquee event to next February in case the coronavirus pandemic wipes out the game’s marquee events next summer. The BCCI are considering hosting the IPL during that window if the T20 World Cup is postponed. However, the ICC have not taken any decision on rescheduling or postponing the T20 World Cup to be held later this year down under yet due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a reliable source in the organization.
Due to the pandemic, there has been no Cricket for the last month or so, and from the way things are shaping up, there might not be any cricket in the upcoming few months.
This would mean that teams will not be able to prepare for the marquee event if it goes underway as per schedule. Lack of match practice would not yield the best performances from the players, and the standard of the tournament would not live up to expectations.
However, there can be exceptions to this phenomenon. Here are three teams that look to be best prepared for the T20 World Cup at the moment, even if they do not get to play any bilateral or warm up matches, directly taking part in the tournament:
1) West Indies
“I want to thank the almighty, because without him nothing is possible. We have a pastor in the team in Andre Fletcher, he keeps on praying. We are a praying team. I’m really happy for this win and it’s something we are going to cherish for a long time. I’ve said we have 15 match-winners. Nobody gave us a chance but every game somebody stepped up and took responsibility. To see Carlos [Brathwaite] play like that in his debut World Cup, it’s just tremendous. It shows the depth we have in the Caribbean in T20 cricket and hopefully with the right structure and development our cricket will continue to improve in one-day and Test cricket. We started this journey….we all know we had…..people were wondering whether we would play this tournament. We had a lot of issues, we felt disrespected by our board, Mark Nicholas described our team as a team with no brains. All these things before the tournament just brought this team together. I really want to thank these 15 men, the ability to just put all those adversities aside and to come out and play this type of cricket in front of such passionate fans, it’s just tremendous. personally also want to thank the coaching staff, coach Phil, he’s been through a lot, and to come here and the way he’s coached the team, he’s just brilliant. All the other coaching staff, who have done their part. We had a new manager in this tournament in Rawl Lewis, he had never managed any team before. He came here, we were at a camp in Dubai, but we had no uniforms, no printed….he left Dubai, went to Kolkata, that’s where he started. The trouble he went to, to get us in this uniform…..I got to give credit to the entire team here, it was us in our own little circle, this win we dedicate it to all our fans in the Caribbean. Lastly I really want to thank the heads of CARICOM, throughout this tournament they have been supporting the team, we’ve got emails, we’ve got phone calls, Prime Minister [Keith] Mitchell [from Grenada]. He sent a very inspiring email for the team this morning, and I’m yet to hear from our own Cricket Board. That is very disappointing. For today, I’m going to celebrate with these 15 men and coaching staff. I don’t know when I’m going to be playing with these guys again because we don’t get selected for One Day Cricket. We don’t know when we’re going to be playing T20. So this win, I want to thank you my team, I want to thank you coaching staff,everybody know West Indies are champion!”
These were the words of the then West Indies captain Daren Sammy after West Indies were crowned T20 World Champions for a second time in two years. And these words can be aptly used to describe the West Indies even to this day. Even though they’re ranked 10th in the ICC T20 Rankings at the moment, nobody can write them off. They were never termed as the favourites to win the title once in both 2012 and 2016, but they went on to win it both times, tackling adversities and ignorance from their own Cricket Board in the process. To this day, the depth of the T20 specialists in the Caribbean has been maintained, even though they suffered due to the same reason in the other formats of the game. Their batting lineup, much like the same in the previous few editions of the tournament, contain big hitters from top to bottom, also filled with that one specialist batsman who can play the role of holding the innings together if things do not go according to plan. Due to the depth in their T20 Cricket setup, the West Indies can also field several all rounders which increases the depth in their batting and gives their captain (Kieron Pollard, at present) more options in the bowling department. The West Indies, since their inception to the game, have never quite hyped about match practice or preparation time, they have gone out to the ground and enjoyed their Cricket, letting their natural talent do most of the talking, which is when they have played their best Cricket. They did not play a T20I in almost 3 months going into the 2012 edition, and 4 months going into the 2016 edition, although they played 2 warm up matches on both occasions. This proves that the West Indies are a team that can play and win despite a lack of preparation time, and they do not have to worry about their best XI either.
The Group Stage exit in the 50 Over World Cup back in 2015 can be attributed to bringing a renaissance to limited overs Cricket in England. Quite frankly, the one-day game in England was a mess before the World Cup held down under, light years behind the rest of the world. There was no plan in place, the team had no identity, the selection was all wrong. Hence the embarrassment that came to be the 2015 World Cup campaign. To make matters worse, England changed captains right before the tournament, Morgan was appointed in place of the axed Alastair Cook (which actually went on to act as a boon rather than a bane), and selected players from the Test team, like batsman Gary Ballance, who shouldn’t have been anywhere near the ODI lineup. All of these debaculous decisions led to losses to New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and eventually, an exit from the group stage.
The country howled in anger. Morgan felt at “rock bottom” and on that day, vowed to make a difference. It was time for an overhaul of the English game, as this couldn’t happen again at the 2019 World Cup on home soil.
A new director of cricket was hired, former England opener Andrew Strauss. A new coach was hired, and an Australian at that, Trevor Bayliss. The One Day team, often forgotten about in a country where test cricket is king would be front and center. The players would be white-ball specialists, play aggressive cricket, and have fun doing it.
The changes to the One Day squad also bore fruit to their T20 squad. England, after conceding defeat to the West Indies in the 2016 edition of the tournament, chased down a mammoth 230 against South Africa in their following game, and went on to reach the final, where they were defeated once again by the West Indies. But, the composition of the team started to gel quite nicely, as the team that played the final of the 2016 T20 World Cup is quite similar to the one that was fielded against South Africa in their last T20 before the lockdown worldwide. The 2019 50 Over World Cup win was the clearest of vindications of the fact that the idea of having aggressive, hard hitting batsmen in limited overs Cricket is bearing fruit, as England have improved as a white ball side. Currently, England sit 3rd at the ICC T20 rankings. The one major chink in their armour is their death bowling, which can be improved with net sessions, as match practice for the same might do more harm than good. If the bowlers perform well in those matches, they might acquire a false sense of hope of doing the same in the tournament, which might go against them, due to the difference of magnitude between bowling in a bilateral series/warm up match and a global event. If the condition of bowling at the death overs remain the same, the England bowlers might be low on confidence. Nevertheless, England seem to have found the best 15 people to play in the 2020 edition of the T20 World Cup if it happens, and due to the experience of having played so many white ball matches together for so long, there would be no need of match practice or warm up games for them either. Plus, if the ECB decides to reinstate Joe Root into the T20 squad, the batting order will be bolstered by a batsman who can hold the innings together as his partners keep up the run rate, playing their shots.
According to Indian skipper Virat Kohli, the Indian Cricket team started to prepare for the event which is supposed to be held in Australia later this year right after the 50 Over World Cup last year, when they travelled to the West Indies for a 3 match T20 Series. Since the T20 series in the Caribbean started, India have played 20 T20Is, out of which they have gone on to win 15, including a 5-0 whitewash against New Zealand in New Zealand, suffered 3 losses, and two games have been washed out.
“The T20 World Cup in 2020 is a big focus for us, and it’s important that we use the next 12 months to place ourselves for the best possible position to compete for another major ICC trophy. One players will be really motivated to take their opportunities when they get selected for the T20I matches to put themselves forward for the T20 World Cup, as we want to have a settled team combination by the time we get to Australia.” Indian captain Virat Kohli was quoted saying these lines by the ICC last October.
Due to the fact that India have played so many T20Is in such a short span of time, and due to the influence of the IPL over the years, the Indian Cricketers can adapt to any situation that is thrown to them and try to perform their best.
Unlike England, India have the services of quality fast bowlers at the death, to go with spinners, both finger and wrist, who can increase pressure in the middle overs by keeping the runs under check from one end and picking up crucial wickets from the other. The class of Rohit and Kohli at the top of the batting order gives a sense of assurance as well. There are two things that India should be worried about, the first being their fielding. Despite a resounding 5-0 series win against the Kiwis, the standards of the fielding from the Indians were very low. One cannot expect so many dropped catches and painful, costly leakage of runs due to misfielding from a top notch Cricket team, so work needs to be done on that. Secondly, picking the right combination of players in the XI. The selection and treatment of the players over Virat Kohli’s tenure as captain has been lacklustre to say the least. So, in a way, not getting to play many T20 matches before the event will benefit the team, as too many experimentations with the team combination before the tournament might turn out to be farcical.