All eyes on the prize. Captains of some of the leading contenders for the ICC Men's T20 World Cup in the UAE. Image Credit: Gulf News/Agencies

The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup is here. Right here in the UAE. It’s been a long wait since the last World Cup in 2016. The Cricket World Cup (50 overs) and the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the delay. Cricket has resumed, spectators are back and the T20 World Cup is on. Enough reason for cricket fans to celebrate.

The seventh edition began at Al Amerat in Oman on October 17 to choose the four teams that will compete with the big boys. Action in the Super 12s starts on Saturday (October 23, 2021) and the new winners will scale the podium on November 14. Let's take a look at why this World Cup is special.

World Cup and the future of T20

Shyam A. Krishna, Senior Associate Editor

The T20 World Cup comes at a time when the shortest cricket format is the favourite of spectators. Every cricket tour has a liberal sprinkling of T20 games. Twenty20 leagues worldwide are thriving, and professional cricketers hop from one league to another through the year. Spectators and sponsors are coming in droves, making the leagues lucrative affairs. So it’s a win-win for everyone.

T20 games are played around the year, giving rise to new approaches, tactics and strategies. Countries have specific teams for T20 tournaments, and some cricketers play only in the shorter format for national teams. These players have realised their potential and have focused solely on T20 games: India’s Washington Sundar is one example.

Although the first T20 International was played in 2005, there have been only six T20 World Cups. Sixteen years is a long time in the life of a format, although they have been minor modifications along the way. But the allure of change is irresistible.

Tests, the purest form of cricket that started in 1877, has survived the ravages of time. But only barely. One-Day Internationals (50 overs) and T20 have stolen the thunder. More formats may be coming: the T10 is yet to take off in a big way, but the Hundred may be a more potent threat.

Right now, the Hundred is limited to England, but soon it could spread to other countries. Who knows, there could be a World Cup for Hundred.

The future of ODIs looks bleak, but T20 is not under threat. As long as the lure and lucre are there, T20 will survive. This World Cup could provide pointers to its longevity.

Evolution of T20 World Cup

T20 cricket has existed for decades in several countries in myriad forms. One of the earliest formats was Cricket Max, conceived by Martin Crowe, but confined mainly to New Zealand.

The origins of modern T20 games can be traced to the demise of the Benson and Hedges Cup in England. Dwindling crowds and fleeing sponsors forced the England and Wales Cricket Board to seek alternatives, and ECB chief Stuart Robertson’s idea of a 20-over game found favour. English counties competed for the Twenty20 Cup in 2003, and its popularity spread to other countries. The natural progression was the first T20 World Cup in 2007.

Initially, most countries didn’t take it seriously. India sent a second-string team to the inaugural edition in South Africa. Still, the team under a new captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni won, much to the surprise of the cricketing world. The event also featured six sixes in an over by India’s Yuvraj Singh.

The format was a huge success, and T20 games became a rage. Over the years, several leagues sprouted in cricketing countries and even in Canada. The Indian Premier League is the biggest of them all. The Big Bash League in Australia, Pakistan Super League, Caribbean Premier League and others too attracted professional cricketers from all over the world.

The ICC T20 Men’s World Cup in the UAE and Oman is the seventh iteration. Since 2007, it has been held every two years except in the year of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup (50 overs). The seventh edition has come after a five-year delay, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Delayed it may be, but the interest in the tournament is very high. The T20 World Cup is here to stay. At least for now.

Flashback: All the T20 World Cups in pictures

Gautam Bhattacharyya, Senior Associate Editor

The T20 World Cup may have seen only six editions, but it has certainly come a long way from being an ambitious experiment of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2007 in South Africa.

Seven players to watch at the World Cup

Jai Prasad Rai, Pages Editor

KL Rahul
India’s KL Rahul plays a shot during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup warm-up match against England at ICC Academy ground in Dubai on October 18, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

K L Rahul, India

T20s record: Matches 45, Runs 1,557, Average 39.92, Strike rate 142.1

K L Rahul has been in great form in IPL 2021. Though Punjab Kings didn’t make the playoffs, he finished the season with 626 runs from 13 matches averaging 62.60 and securing the Orange Cap in the league stage.

The Indian opener has been scoring heavily in the recent past, including the England tour. He’s likely to open the innings, and the right-handed batsman from Karnataka can provide Team India good starts with his solid shot-making skills.

Liam Livingstone
England’s Liam Livingstone plays a shot during the second Twenty20 international cricket match against Pakistan at Headingley in Leeds, England, on July 18, 2021. Image Credit: AP

Liam Livingstone, England

T20s record: Matches 8, Runs 206, Average 34.33, Strike rate 167.47

Liam Livingstone may have represented England in the T20s only on eight occasions, but he has made most of the opportunities to make the World Cup squad. The big-hitting right-hander has featured in T20 competitions across the globe and was named the Most Valuable Player of the inaugural ‘Hundred’ competition in England.

He also had a good run in Australia’s Big Bash League for Perth Scorchers, where he amassed 426 runs in 14 matches. In the T20 Blast, Livingstone smashed an unbeaten 94 from just 58 balls to inspire Lancashire to victory over Derbyshire.

Josh Inglis
Australia’s Josh Inglish, a wicketkeeper-batsman, has impressed with his T20 skills in the Big Bash League. Image Credit: AFP

Josh Inglish, Australia

T20s record: Matches 63, Runs 1,645, Average 32.9, Strike rate 151.6

The uncapped English-born wicketkeeper-batsman’s inclusion in the Australian squad might have come as a surprise, but the 26-year-old has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in T20 cricket.

Inglish made an immediate impact in the 2021 Vitality Blast for Leicestershire, scoring the most runs (531) in England’s domestic T20 competition. He also impressed in the home event, the Big Bash League.

Babar Azam
Pakistan captain Babar Azam bats during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup warm-up match against the West Indies in Dubai, UAE, on October 18, 2021. Image Credit: AP

Babar Azam, Pakistan

T20s record: Matches 61, Runs 2,204 runs, Average 46.89, Strike rate 130.64

Babar Azam is one of the finest players from Pakistan. Given his consistency (he’s never averaged less than 37 in a calendar year) at the top of the order, Pakistan will rely heavily on their skipper to carry the batting.

The 27-year-old is ranked second on the ICC T20I batsmen rankings and has amassed 20 half-centuries in the game’s shortest format. He also became the fastest to score 7,000 runs in T20 cricket, beating Virat Kohli and Chris Gayle.

Tabraiz Shamsi
South Africa’s Tabraiz Shamsi celebrates during the second One Day International cricket match against Pakistan at the Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 4, 2021. Image Credit: AP

Tabraiz Shamsi, South Africa

T20s record: Matches 42, Wickets 49, Average 21.63, Economy rate 6.79

Despite being known for his antics on the ground, no batsman would dare to take the Proteas left-arm wrist-spinner Tabriaz Shamsi lightly. Being the highest-ranked T20I bowler in the world, Shamsi has carved a niche for himself in the past year and a half.

He has picked up 28 wickets in 17 T20I matches this year, more than any other bowler. With teams in the UAE looking out for wrist spinners, Shamsi can play a stellar role for South Africa.

Nicholas Pooran
West Indies’ Nicholas Pooran bats during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup warm-up match against Pakistan in Dubai, UAE, on October 18, 2021. Image Credit: AP

Nicholas Pooran, West Indies

T20s record: Matches 34, Runs 634, Average 22.6, Strike Right 124

Nicholas Pooran’s success in franchise cricket, especially in the 2020 Indian Premier League, makes him an impact player for the Caribbean team. His powerful hits sail over the ropes with much ease.

The West Indies’ vice-captain could not replicate his previous season’s success in this year’s IPL and ended up with 85 runs at an average of 7.72 playing for Punjab Kings. Pooran says it’s just a blip, and it would not affect his performance in the World Cup.

Devon Conway
New Zealand’s Devon Conway bats against Australia during their fifth T20 international match in Wellington, New Zealand, on March 7, 2021. Image Credit: AP

Devon Conway, New Zealand

T20s record: Matches 11, Runs 473, Average 59.1, Strike Rate 151.1

The Johannesburg-born Kiwi has had a remarkable run within a short span. Besides a Test double-century and an ODI century despite having played only three games, Devon Conway has an exceptional T20 record. His T20I batting average of 59.1 is the highest for a New Zealander and the highest for any player who has batted more than five innings.

Conway’s T20 international experience has been limited to New Zealand pitches, so it will be interesting to see how he copes in the UAE.

Meet the teams at the World Cup

A.K.S. Satish, Assistant Editor

India’s Virat Kohli wants to win the T20 World Cup as he is relinquishing captaincy at the end of the tournament in the UAE. Image Credit: AFP


The T20 World Cup in the UAE offers the best chance for India to clinch their second T20 title. The players are in good touch and are familiar with the UAE conditions following the second leg of the Indian Premier League. Except for a couple of debatable selections, India have picked the horses for the course.

Additionally, the players will be eager to give a gift to Virat Kohli, who relinquishes captaincy at the end of the World Cup. This is his last chance to get his hands on a major international trophy. The inclusion of former Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni should help Kohli and the younger players in the team.

Filled with all-rounders, the team have a good blend of pacers and spinners. Batting mainly revolves around Rohit Sharma, Kohli and KL Rahul, who is in the form of his life after narrowly missing the Orange Cap for the top run-scorer in the IPL.

Squad: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper), Ishan Kishan (wicketkeeper), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Rahul Chahar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Varun Chakravarthy, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami.

Head coach: Ravi Shastri

Star players: Rohit Sharma, Varun Chakravarthy.

Best finish: Champions (2007)

Kieron Pollard
Kieron Pollard leads the West Indies who are gunning for their third T20 World Cup. Image Credit: AP

West Indies

The T20 format is best suited for the West Indies, home to stroke players and fast bowlers. Their cavalier approach is fraught with risk, but they have had plenty of success — West Indies are the only team to win the T20 World Cup twice.

The second triumph was fashioned in an improbable manner. Needing 19 to win off the last over in 2016, Carlos Brathwaite blasted four sixes off Ben Stokes at Eden Gardens, Kolkata, in India.

The new squad is a mix of youth and experience. Veterans Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell are the pillars, while the next-generation players of Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmeyr are batsmen cast in the Caribbean mould.

The bowling looks fragile despite the return of veterans Ravi Rampaul and Roston Chase. Injury and the fitness of some players are a concern for skipper Pollard.

Squad: Kieron Pollard (captain), Nicholas Pooran, Akeal Hosein, Dwayne Bravo, Roston Chase, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Evin Lewis, Obed McCoy, Lendl Simmons, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr.

Head coach: Phil Simmons

Star players: Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell

Best finish: Champions (2012, 2016)

Eoin Morgan helms England who are on a high after winning the 2019 Cricket World Cup at Lord's. Image Credit: AP


The Three Lions have had a rollercoaster ride in recent times. England narrowly lost the 2016 World Cup but won the 50-over World Cup in a close encounter with New Zealand. They also missed a spot in the final of the maiden World Test Championship after losing to India.

Eoin Morgan’s side are one of the favourites in the UAE. But they have worries. Star players Ben Stokes, Sam Curran and Jofra Archer have pulled out over injuries, and captain Morgan is in the midst of a major slump in form. Even though he sounded confident ahead of the tournament, the variable bounce and slow pitches will not suit Morgan’s high-risk shots.

The teams from the sub-continent will thrive on these surfaces, and it could make the job of spinners Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid difficult.

Squad: Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow (wicketkeeper), Sam Billings, Jos Buttler (wicketkeeper), Tom Curran, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Tymal Mills, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

Head coach: Chris Silverwood

Star players: Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali

Best finish: Champions (2010).

Babar Azam
Babar Azam leads a talented Pakistan side seeking to win their second T20 World Cup. Image Credit: AP


Pakistan come to the World Cup without adequate preparation following the cancellation of the series with New Zealand and England. But they are natural cricketers who know the UAE conditions better than anyone. Moreover, Pakistan have won the last 10 T20 internationals in the UAE.

The return of Fakhar Zaman, Shoaib Malik and Sarfaraz Ahmed will provide adequate experience to the team, led by the talented Babar Azam. Malik was not in the original squad, but a back injury to Sohaib Masood gave the 39-year-old all-rounder, who was part of the 2009 World Cup-winning squad, the chance to make a comeback.

The batting will revolve around Azam, one of the best batsmen in world cricket with more than 2,000 T20 runs. Young Haider is a player to watch while Hasan Ali could be the premier bowler of the tournament, according to captain Azam.

Squad: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shoaib Malik.

Coaches: Matthew Hayden, Vernon Philander

Star players: Shoaib Malik, Fakhar Zaman

Best finish: Champions (2009)

Mohammad Nabi
Mohammad Nabi captains Afghanistan who have performed way above expectations in the international arena. Image Credit: AP


Afghanistan caught the world’s attention when spinners Mohammad Nabi, Amir Hamza and Rashid Khan kept the feared West Indian batsmen in check to defend 123, World Cup’s second-lowest total, in 2016, which the Caribbeans finally won.

Excellent performances in T20 Internationals paved the way for Afghanistan’s Test status. Most of the wins have come against Ireland, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Their biggest wins were against West Indies, and they are yet to record a win against India, Pakistan and England. That shows a lack of big-match temperament.

The biggest trump card is Rashid Khan, who baffles batsmen with his mystery spin. The leg-spinner hasn’t had much success of late as batsmen tend to play him out.

The 23-year-old Hazratullah Zazai is an exciting talent with his big-hitting talent. He belted a record 16 sixes in an unbeaten 162 off 62 balls against Ireland after reaching his half-century in just 12 balls.

Squad: Mohammad Nabi (captain), Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Hazratullah Zazai, Usman Ghani, Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan, Gulbadin Naib, Najibullah Zadran, Karim Janat, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Hamid Hassan, Fareed Ahmad, Naveen Ul Haq.

Coach: Lance Klusener

Star players: Rashid Khan, Hazratullah Zazai

Best finish: Super 10 (2016)

Temba Bavuma
Temba Bavuma leads South Africa who are struggling to shake off several crises. They are in the process of rebuilding the team. Image Credit: AFP

South Africa

South Africa’s cricket has been reeling from several crises in the past few years, and several players have left the country or retired prematurely. A good example is AB de Villiers, who still plays franchise league. Faf du Plessis was the second top run-scorer for IPL champions Chennai Super Kings.

Imran Tahir and Chris Morris have been left out as South Africa chose to bank on youngsters. Players who signed the Kolpak deal became ineligible to play for South Africa, including David Weise, who now plays for Namibia, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell and Rilee Rossouw.

Despite the troubles, the Proteas possess one of the best pace attacks with Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi, supported by spinners Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi. But the batting is frail and dependent on Quinton de Kock, Temba Bavuma and David Miller.

South Africa have not fared well in the ICC events, and that’s unlikely to change despite the record-equalling seven consecutive Twenty20 wins, including series victories against Sri Lanka, West Indies and Ireland. Maybe less expectations will ease the pressure on the Proteas, who are rebuilding the team.

Squad: Temba Bavuma (captain), Keshav Maharaj, Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper), Bjorn Fortuin, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, Aiden Markram, David Miller, W Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen.

Coach: Mark Boucher

Star players: Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada

Best finish: Semifinals (2009, 2014)

Aaron Finch
Aaron Finch, the Australian captain aims to win the trophy missing from their mantle piece. Image Credit: AFP


Aaron Finch-led Australia are seventh in the world Twenty20 standings, having suffered a 4-1 mauling at the hands of Bangladesh. Constant chopping and changing of players coupled with injuries haven’t helped the Australians, who were unstoppable at the turn of the century.

Barring Glenn Maxwell, most Australian batsmen were struggling for form in the Indian Premier League. And that includes David Warner. The bowling depends on the spinners, but Josh Hazlewood’s display for the Chennai Super Kings is a positive sign.

For all the aggressive brand of cricket, the Australians are yet to win a Twenty20 World Cup title.

Squad: Aaron Finch (captain), Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins (vice-captain), Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa.

Captain: Aaron Finch

Head coach: Justin Langer.

Star players: Glenn Maxwell, Adam Z ampa.

Best finish: Runners up (2010)

Kane Williamson steered New Zealand to the World Test Championship, after making the final of the 2019 Cricket World Cup. The Kiwis have a winning combination, but the conditions in the UAE do not favour their game. Image Credit: AP

New Zealand

Kane Williamson’s New Zealand were unlucky to lose the 50-over World Cup final to England in 2019. Since then, the Black Caps have gone on to clinch the World Test Championship. But New Zealand will not find the conditions in the UAE in their favour, and their talismanic skipper Williamson is not in the best of form.

While most players have been involved in the IPL, they have not played as a team in the recent past, and the cancellation of the tour of Pakistan deprived them of the crucial match play.

If the batsmen can post good totals, the Kiwis have the bowling strength to rein in their rivals. It is here the experienced Martin Guptill will play a significant role, not just giving New Zealand a good start but also helping maintain consistency in their displays.

Squad: Kane Williamson (captain), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Kyle Jamieson, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert (wk), Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee.

Head coach: Gary Stead

Star players: Trent Boult, Mitchell Santner.

Best finish: Semifinals (2007, 2016)

T20 World Cup 2021 fixtures v2
Image Credit: Gulf News

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