Everything you need to know about the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup

The men’s Twenty20 World Cup is on in Australia during October and November, which is two years later than it was meant to happen.

The tournament, initially scheduled for 2020, was postponed because of the pandemic.

It feels like there’s a World Cup every year. Why is this one a big deal?

It’s always a big deal when all the major cricket nations are in one place, given the international schedule is so fragmented. The pandemic caused a pile-up of ICC tournaments; the most recent Twenty20 World Cup was only last year, the next 50-over tournament is in India next year, followed by another Twenty20 in 2024. If this one is anything like the Women’s Twenty20 World Cup, when 86,174 people packed the MCG to watch Meg Lanning’s side win the title just before everything shut down in March 2020, it will be an event to remember.

Aaron Finch’s Australians celebrate their T20 World Cup victory in the UAE last year.Credit:Getty Images

Who are the reigning champions?

Australia. Aaron Finch’s team finally won its first Twenty20 crown in 2021 when the tournament was held in the UAE, defeating New Zealand in the final. Mitchell Marsh was the hero, muscling 77 from 50 balls. It was a major breakthrough, given it took years for Australia to take the newest and shortest format seriously, and to hit on the right formula for it.

What’s the structure of the tournament and where will the matches be?

The tournament, which runs from October 16 to November 13, will be contested by 16 teams, eight of whom have already qualified for the Super 12 phase. The other teams play a series of qualifiers, which means an “off Broadway” start in Geelong on Sunday, where Namibia play Sri Lanka and the UAE face the Netherlands. (The other teams hoping to get through to the main draw are the West Indies, Scotland, Ireland and Zimbabwe.)

Australia’s first match is at the SCG on Saturday, October 22, followed by England v Afghanistan in Perth on the same day. Then, all eyes will turn to the MCG for the sold-out clash that attracts more eyeballs than any other, India v Pakistan, on Sunday, October 23.

The MCG will also host the final, while semis are set down for the SCG and Adelaide Oval; the latter was the scene of a classic quarter-final showdown between Australia’s Shane Watson and Pakistan quick Wahab Riaz during the 2015 50-over World Cup. Other potential highlights include Australia’s clash with England at the MCG on Friday, October 28. You can view the full fixture here.

How do I watch?

You can watch for free on the Nine Network, with all Australian games, semis, the final and selected other big games spread across Nine’s main channel and GEM. For pay TV subscribers the matches are on Fox Sports, or you can stream the tournament on Fox’s streaming service, Kayo. For qualifying and Super 12 matches, children can get in for $5 (subject to availability). For adults, tickets range in price from $20 to $110 for Super 12 matches depending on the category. Click here to buy tickets.

La Nina is back. How will the weather affect the event and what happens if there’s a washout?

A third year of La Nina in a row has certainly had an impact on early Australian season pitches so far, with a little more green grass and softness underfoot than is ideal for most Twenty20 surfaces. That may make for some intriguing contests between bat and ball, particularly in the southern states. The other concern, of course, is heavy rain curtailing matches – as happened on semi-finals day at the SCG in the 2020 women’s event. As a result of that semi, which cost England a chance of making the final, the semis and the final now have reserve days in case of a no-result. Scattered showers are predicted for all three days of the tournament’s opening stint in Geelong.

Who are the favourites? Can Australia go back to back?

Last year Australia won a tournament very few expected them to – much as Allan Border’s young side had done in the ODI equivalent in 1987. This time around, home conditions should suit the Australians still better than the flat surfaces in the UAE, where fielding first under lights was highly preferable due to evening dew and Finch won a fortuitous number of coin tosses. The ICC rankings are famously rubbery, which explains Australia’s modest No.6 world ranking.

India, Pakistan, England and New Zealand can all be expected to figure, while South Africa’s handsome record of success in Australia in all formats should not be discounted. The Black Caps, in particular, will be looking to shake off the bridesmaid tag at ICC events, having run second to Australia last year, and in 50-over world cups to England (in dramatic fashion at Lord’s) in 2019 and Australia at the MCG in 2015. As ever, captain Kane Williamson will be the key to their success.

But will the Australian captain keep his spot in the team?

Finch’s performances in Twenty20 cricket have actually been respectable in recent times, if not the storming displays that first brought him to international attention. What’s been most interesting about the home side’s warm-ups is that he has been willing to drop into the No.4 position – displacing Steve Smith in particular – in case someone such as Cameron Green is considered better placed to open. So don’t expect Finch to drop out of the side during the tournament, merely to drop down the order if team balance dictates.

Is there a fairytale waiting to happen?

Afghanistan are already through to the Super 12 phase and they are always capable of an upset. Veteran spinner Rashid Khan is known to Australian audiences through his exploits for Adelaide Strikers in the BBL, and will have support from Mujeeb ur Rahman and Qais Ahmad.

The West Indies are among the biggest mysteries. They’ve won the Twenty20 World Cup twice, but it remains to be seen whether their young side can step out of the shadow of giants such as Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and Dwayne Bravo to even make it through to the main draw.

T20 is all about sixes, right? Who are the big hitters?

England’s captain Jos Buttler combines rare power with skills so advanced he was able to bat left-handed against Ben Stokes in the nets this week, while in the middle order Liam Livingstone is returning from an ankle injury.

Jos Buttler in action for England. Credit:Getty Images

India’s all-rounder Hardik Pandya demonstrated his hitting ability against Australia on these shores in late 2020. The hosts, of course, have developed a strong group of power strikers, none more notable than Tim David, who has earned his spot through global success in franchise leagues and has already played a few shots to remember for his country. Look out, too, for Glenn Maxwell’s switch hits and Indian keeper-batsman Rishab Pant’s 360-degree hitting.

Virat Kohli is here, but why isn’t he captain of India?

Since his early departure from India’s 2020-21 tour of Australia to be home for the birth of his first child, Kohli has gradually divested himself of leadership roles in all formats. Having already announced he would give up the Twenty20 job before last year’s World Cup, Kohli explained himself as follows: “This was the right time for me to manage my workload. It’s been six-seven years of intense cricket every time we take the field and it takes a lot out of you.” In Kohli’s place, his longtime contemporary Rohit Sharma has assumed leadership of India in all forms of the game. India will also be without the irrepressible quick Jasprit Bumrah due to a back injury, which is a big loss for them and the tournament.

Virat Kohli has an outstanding record in Australia. Credit:AP

How about England? Can they win something in Australia?

Given wretched displays in both Ashes series (2013-14, 2017-18 and 2021-22) and world cups (2015) on Australian soil over the past decade, English efforts to improve in this part of the globe are underlined by who coaches them now.Not only is the white-ball team helmed by Matthew Mott, the former mentor to Australia’s all-conquering women’s side, but he also handpicked another pair of Australians, Mike Hussey and David Saker, to assist him during the tournament. Despite the retirement of Eoin Morgan, architect of the 2019 World Cup win on home soil, England have a strong and varied side with an aggressive and agile mindset. All qualities they did not possess in 2015.

Can Pakistan repeat the success of Imran Khan’s mighty team in Australia 30 years ago?

On the strength of their performances until knocked out by Australia’s epic chase in the semi-finals, Pakistan had looked like the 2021 event’s most likely winners. In Australia, the team’s best qualities should again serve them well. In openers Mohammed Rizwan and Babar Azam Pakistan have perhaps the best two Twenty20 batters in the world right now. At the same time, a varied and speedy bowling attack, spearheaded by Shaheen Afridi, has the quality to change the course of matches. A first up meeting with India at the MCG on October 23 may tell much of the tale.

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