Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi
The Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. South Africa and Australia meet in the Super 12s opener of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup on October 23, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

The T20 World Cup 2021 is indeed very special. The last cricket World Cup was in 2019, when England won the 50-over tournament. Much has happened since then. More precisely, COVID-19 happened. And competitive cricket ground to a halt.

When international cricket resumed after a 116-day interval, the longest gap between matches in 37 years, spectators were kept out of stadiums to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. That too has become a memory; the Dubai International Stadium was nearly packed for the Indian Premier League final last week.

Irish Eden Belleza/Gulf News

So when the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup rolls into the UAE, cricket had come a full circle. The COVID threat has diminished, and sports activities are in full swing. But safety protocols remain in place so that the virus doesn’t make a comeback.

Cricketing action has been taking place at a frenetic pace in the secure environs of biobubbles. True, it takes a toll on the players, but it helps keep the sport alive. Most cricketing nations have been playing, especially India, who have toured Australia and England. The most successful T20 franchise cricket, IPL, concluded in the UAE after a COVID-induced break and change of venue.

The T20 global showpiece is a timely reminder that normality has returned to our lives. And we have started enjoying the things we love most. Cricket is a passion that brings cricketers and supporters together. When the Super 12s begin on Saturday, the UAE stadiums will reverberate with the sound of white-ball striking the willow and cheers will rise from the stands.

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The weather in the UAE is cooling down. The pitches haven’t seen too many run-fests in the IPL, but the strips would have settled down when the Super 12s get underway. Spinners and slower deliveries of pacemen will get purchase. There may not be too many run riots, but there will be enough to keep the spectators engrossed. Exciting battles await.

Two-time winners West Indies will begin the defence of their title won in 2016. India and Pakistan will be keen to deny the Caribbean cricketers and win another trophy for themselves. England will want to add the T20 crown to the 50-over World Cup. New Zealand, enjoying some of their best cricketing years, are already World Test Championship winners, but they are hungry for the T20 trophy, especially since England denied them the 50-over World Cup. Australia and South Africa, both cricket powerhouses, will want to win the missing silverware; they meet in the Super 12 opener on Saturday.

Who will win? It doesn’t matter. The T20 World Cup is back after a five-year delay. Cricket has won already.