India have the team to win on UAE pitches
Shyam A. Krishna, Senior Associate Editor
A beaming Virat Kohli will hold the T20 World Cup aloft at the Dubai International Stadium on November 14. I think that’s a distinct possibility. Given the trend of matches and the behaviour of UAE pitches, India are best equipped to top the field, and they should take the trophy after 14 years.
If IPL games are any indication, spinners can influence the results. India have quality spinners to throttle the rivals in the middle overs, and their batsmen are better players of spin. There’s also variety in the attack, with Jasprit Bumrah leading a potent pace pack.
All good teams need not win. Indian players must be tired, having played so many matches in the IPL, the World Test Championship and the England series. Life in bio-bubbles can be challenging, as West Indian Chris Gayle admitted. But I think India have the team to last another three weeks from the start of the Super 12s on October 23. England are one of the favourites on the sheer strength of their performance in the 2019 Cricket World Cup. So are New Zealand, who lost the 2019 World Cup final and won the 2021 World Test Championship. Both sides have strong batting line-ups and pace attacks. But they are short on quality spinners, which would be a disadvantage on the slow turning pitches. And England’s strategy of blazing away may come unstuck in the middle overs.
More than England and New Zealand, Pakistan will thrive in the UAE. With Babar Azam, Shaheen Afridi and a bunch of talented spinners, they are genuine contenders. Australia will fade away in the semi-finals, and South Africa and West Indies won’t make the last four. That makes India favourites in my book. They will win.
My money on West Indies to retain the world title
Gautam Bhattacharyya, Senior Associate Editor
The T20 World Cup roll of honour shows five teams sharing six titles. I feel the West Indies can win this edition in the UAE. The only country to have won it twice, the maroon shirts have enough firepower to win a third time despite being in a relatively tougher group in the league stages alongside England, Australia, South Africa and two unknown quantities from the qualifiers.
The unpredictability of this format makes it difficult to choose between the top teams — and two to three good performances can swing the match away from the favourites. A full-strength West Indies, who have several game-changers in the ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons, Darren Bravo and skipper Kieron Pollard, are capable of doing that. There are question marks over the fitness of Russell, while the spin attack is not as varied as some other squads — but I would still back this ‘Dad’s Army’ to win one more time.
My vote is for Pakistan — again
Ashfaq Ahmed, Senior Assistant Editor
Even when the odds are against us, we, Pakistanis, are always optimistic about our cricket team. Our Prime Minister Imran Khan instilled this ‘confidence’ in our otherwise unpredictable team when he lifted the Cricket World Cup trophy in 1992. No one had expected the team led by Imran Khan to win the most prestigious tournament back then.
I am confident that this comparatively younger Pakistani cricket team will make the final and lift the T20 World Cup in the UAE. We will have to overcome the likes of India, New Zealand and Afghanistan in the group to progress before possibly taking on other superpowers such as England, Australia or the holders West Indies. But I am optimistic that the Pakistan team will claim the T20 trophy for the second time.
Australia can click at just the right time
Matthew Smith, Sports Editor
While Australia have never claimed the T20 World Cup, now in its seventh edition, the time is right for them to break their duck. The Aussies have gone through a rough patch recently, losing the short-format series to Australia, New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and the West Indies, but with many of their players such as Josh Hazlewood and Glenn Maxwell thriving in the recent IPL in the UAE, glory could be just around the corner. With the likes of Mitchell Starc, Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa ready to join the party and Marcus Stoinis back to full fitness following a hamstring injury on IPL duty for Delhi Capitals, the Aussies have a line-up that will take some stopping.
Steve Smith and captain Aaron Finch are both batting well and will be key at the top of the order to get the runs. A slender victory over New Zealand in their first warm-up match in Abu Dhabi shows they know how to win ugly too, and — with two semi-finals and a runners-up finish in previous editions of the T20 World Cup — there is a team spirit that can take them one step further. Confidence will be high, but the one concern may be David Warner, who is struggling with the bat and will need to get his eye in quickly as there is no mercy in this swiftest format of the game.
India are my firm favourites this time around
Anis Sajan, Special to Gulf News
I am backing India to go all the way in this World Cup for many reasons. First and foremost, all their players have recently played the high-profile IPL, which has given them enough match practice, and the squad has a mix of experience and youth. In Virat Kohli, they have a captain and a player who has the best average in the world of 52.65 after 90 games with a strike rate of 139, which is phenomenal. Moreover, he has the best lieutenant in Rohit Sharma, who has played more than 110 T20s for India and has a strike rate of 139, with a wealth of expertise and five IPL titles. In KL Rahul, India have a player who was the second-highest run-getter in the 2021 IPL in the UAE on the same pitches, with 620 runs.|
This line-up is backed by Suryakumar Yadav, who is rated very highly and has all the shots in the book. In Ishan Kishan, they have an opener who is destructive from ball one and can tear apart any bowling attack. Moreover, in Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja, they have the best finishers. Their bowling is spearheaded by Jasprit Bumrah, who I believe is the best bowler in the T20 format, and, in Varun Chakravarthy, they have a mystery spinner who I think will be India’s trump card going into this World Cup. India have fallen short after winning the first T20 World Cup in 2007, but this is Kohli’s and India’s golden chance to add another title now that they know the conditions well in UAE and most of their players are in form after having played the IPL.
Current form, my heart and even my head say England will win it
Imran Malik, Assistant Editor
I never like to tip my team but this time it isn’t just my heart speaking, it’s my head too. England are the top-ranked T20 team at the moment and they are the current 50-over World Cup champions, so this represents a great opportunity to add the T20 World title to the list of honours. I genuinely feel they will do it because in Dawid Malan, they have the world No. 1 T20 batsman, while Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali can spin a web around the best batters out there. Yes, they will miss Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, but the return of left-arm fast bowler Tymal Mills will add pace to their bowling attack.
Their biggest threat will come from India what with this being the last tournament for Virat Kohli as their captain and he will want to go out on a high. Also, several players will be coming into the tournament on the back of playing in the Indian Premier League and they will be more used to the UAE pitches which will give them an advantage. But still, England — who last won the tournament in 2010 and got to the final in 2016 — will emerge victorious. Someone had better tell the engraver to start etching the letter ‘E’ on the trophy because the T20 World Cup is coming home!
Strength in depth is enough for England
Thomas Wragg, Assistant Editor
Football might not have come home for England this summer at Euro 2020 but the country’s cricketers can make sure one sport returns to its birthplace with victory at the T20 World Cup. Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, who were both so pivotal in England’s 50-over World Cup triumph at Lord’s in 2019, will both be sorely missed but there is enough strength in depth within the squad to ensure they avenge their dramatic defeat in the final to the West Indies five years ago. That defeat came at the hands of Carlos Brathwaite — he hit a heartbreaking four successive balls for six in the final over to clinch victory from the jaws of defeat. Thankfully for us England fans, the 33-year-old won’t be back to haunt us again after being left out of the 15-man squad. England will win the whole thing but expect stern opposition from India, Pakistan, West Indies and New Zealand.
West Indies can surprise the world again
Jai Prasad, Pages Editor
Carlos Brathwaite’s four consecutive sixes in the final over off Ben Stokes during the previous T20 World Cup final in 2016 that snatched a dream win from England’s hands still reverberates for every cricket fan. This kind of intensity in their game makes me pick the West Indies as favourites for this edition. My belief in them is further strengthened when you consider the defending champions are the only team to win this event twice. More so since the Windies are known to have one of the most fearsome T20 sides in the world. Most of their players in the current squad regularly play the shortest version across the world in different leagues and are well acclimatised with this format of cricket.
Skipper Kieron Pollard is known for his power-packed knocks, followed by ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle, who on his day can turn a match in his favour. The 42-year-old might not have had a good run recently, but a player of his calibre just needs one good knock to find his form. There are also the highly rated keeper-batsman Nicholas Pooran, aggressive hitters Lendl Simmons, Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmeyer, Andre Russell and Dwayne Bravo. The bowling has been strengthened with Ravi Rampaul, who returns to the team after a good show in the Caribbean Premier League.
India will give captain Kohli a warm send-off
A.K.S. Satish, Assistant Editor
In a T20 game, a couple of overs can turn a match around, and that result can impact a team’s fortunes in the tournament. Having said that, and analysing teams strengths, weaknesses and form, I pick India to win. Don’t get me wrong, this is not because they are my team. My first pick initially was the West Indies as their cavalier game is best-suited to this brand of cricket. But the two-time champions are not the same; many of their leading players have not been in form in the recent Indian Premier League in UAE.
Even England’s chances are hampered by injuries to star all-rounders Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer. I am not picking India because other teams are weak. Don’t get me wrong again. All the players in the Virat Kohli-led team have now been through the grind for the last one-and-half months and are match fit, mentally and physically. Though the form of a few players — especially from the Mumbai Indians like Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishant Kishan and Hardik Pandya — is a concern, it should not matter much as they can raise their game on the big stage. More importantly, the team is loaded with all-rounders, which gives the batting so much depth. Then they have some bowlers who will not give away easy runs. I see the Men in Blue winning the cup and giving skipper Kohli a parting gift.
India will come good when it counts
Sahil Sajan, Special to Gulf News
There’s a lot of excitement coming into the T20 World Cup, as we are getting to witness it after five years. The defending champions West Indies yet again enter the tournament with a strong squad, but in my opinion, India look like the favourites. India made two surprise inclusions in the squad, which involve Ravichandran Ashwin and Shardul Thakur, who recently replaced Axar Patel, and in particular it raised a lot of eyebrows relating to Ashwin as most of the public were expecting Yuzvendra Chahal — who had a brilliant IPL campaign. Although the trump card for India is none other than Varun Chakravarthy, who has been in outstanding form in the last two seasons of the IPL and has deservedly earned a place in the squad. He has many different variations which can dazzle the opposition, and it will be new to many of the players in the World Cup. Expect a happy Virat on November 14.
Pakistan’s youth can be the key to success at their home away from home
Nasir Khan, Graphic Designer
There are a lot of factors going in Pakistan’s favour to win the T20 World Cup. The team are well aware of the UAE pitches, the weather and all the conditions — and they have a healthy following here to cheer them on. We can easily say the UAE is Pakistan’s second home because they have played a lot of cricket here in all formats over the past decade.
Players such as Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan and Hassan Ali are in very good form and — obviously — with the help of seniors in the shape of Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, they will help win this edition of the T20 World Cup. We will definitely miss some senior guys like Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Amir, but I still believe that Pakistan are capable of winning, as they are all young and energetic.