The World T-20 Qualification starts tomorrow here is how I think the teams will fare using little more than observation and intuitive experience.
There are 14 nations competing for six places in next year’s World T-20 to be held in India. There are many combinations and permutations as to how results can go but this is my unscientific predictions of how things will work out for the various nations and their final placing.
In the first of my groups let me introduce the Almost Certain’s:
- Ireland. Winner of almost everything available for associate nations over the last 10 years or so Ireland are almost certain to run out as winners of this tournament too. Too strong with too much depth in their squad expect them to win it all despite recent losses to Scotland and having both of their warm up games abandoned due to rain.
- Afghanistan. The only nation to consistently challenge Ireland over the last 8 years or so. Perennial runners up in almost every associate competition. With depth in batting, one of the best bowling attacks in the associate world (if not the bigger world) and confidence to match their attack. The only thing going against them in this comp is the different conditions they will find themselves in. Nevertheless, if Ireland doesn’t win it Afghanistan will.
- Scotland. Bungled out of the previous qualifier and failing to make what seemed like a guaranteed top six place after a shock loss to Bermuda and patchy performances elsewhere the Scots are back to looking mean and hungry shaking off their earlier compliancy. Local conditions should help them into a guaranteed top 6 placing this time as will a new attacking top order that still retains the clinical class of last qualifier won’t hurt their chances.
- Netherlands. The breakthrough stars of the last World T-20 who shocked the associate world by beating Ireland in phenomenal circumstances in the group round to progress into the super ten where they went on to shock the whole world by beating full member nation England in humbling circumstances. Their road since (and slightly before) then has been bumpy which included them losing their one day status and losing various top players in varying circumstances But the Dutch are too good to be kept down for long and they have already forced their way back into the World Cricket League Championship and will be determined to stay on the world stage by qualifying in the top six.
The second of my groups competing for a top six finish is what I would call The Serious Challengers:
- Nepal. New boys on the block in many respects but Nepal have been making consistent headway and progress over the last decade culminating in qualification for the previous World T-20 where they beat fellow challengers Hong Kong and upset long time geographical rivals Afghanistan. They only failed to progress into the super ten because Bangladesh had a better run rate. Conditions that do not favour them and a continued over reliance of a couple of star players will make it hard for them but they should have enough in the tank to push for a top six place, or at least get close.
- Hong Kong. The surprise package of the previous qualifiers Hong Kong seemed to come from nowhere to overtake longer established nations who thought they had it in the bag to qualify for the World T-20 in Bangladesh. Defeating the host nation in the group round showed the world that qualifying for the tournament was no anomaly. Going on to claim One Day Status ahead of more established nations announced a shakeup of the old world order in associate cricket and garnered respect that they will be keen to hold onto. Unfamiliar conditions will work against them but they will be pushing hard for a top six finish.
- Papua New Guinea. Another new challenger on the block the rise of PNG cricket to world level has come about in recent years by dominating the East Asia Pacific region for almost as long as the league has been in place. They claimed One Day Status ahead of associate nation giants falling down the rankings as PNG continue to rise. A top 8th place finish in the previous qualifying tournament was disappointing to a team who has bigger things in mind and on the imminent horizon.
- United Arab Emirates. The old New Challengers, the UAE have been on or around the scene for over a decade. Previous high of appearances in world cup were replaced by years in the wilderness. A fight back over the last 6 years culminated in them regaining One Day Status and appearing in the 2015 world cup. No doubt keen to hold onto their regained status of world challenges they will fight hard for a top six finish. Conditions will be against them.
- Canada. A previous giant of associate cricket Canada have fallen and fallen hard. Losing their one day international status and tumbling down to division 3 of the world cricket league Canada seem to be in free fall. They still have some strong aspects to their batting and could cause an upset or two and maybe even claim a top six upset to start to regain lost heights but finishing outside the top six seems more likely.
- Kenya. Kenya are also a previous giant of associate cricket whose free fall out of One Day international Status and the World Cricket League was only reprieved when Ireland and Afghanistan were promoted out of it and into the ICC ODI Championship. Since then they have little opportunity to prove that things have changed for the better and more of the same can be expected from them in this tournament too.
- Namibia. Namibia have overtaken Kenya to be the best of the southern Africa associate nations but their occasional flashes of brilliance are often curtailed by failing to produce the big effort in the big games when it really matters. They seem to be in the middle of a mediocre cycle at the moment and expect that to continue for the duration of this competition.
- Jersey. Gaining qualification by winning the European division one tournament Jersey have leapfrogged higher ranked competitors and find themselves where they want to be, competing for even higher honours. Expect them to do their best to challenge higher ranked nations but this could realistically be regarded as a learning curve for the Channel Islanders. A steep learning curve.
- United States of America. With their governing body in disarray, both before and after a suspension from the ICC for a multitude of reasons, America are one of the few teams who effectively have no chance of progressing to a top six finish. Their star player has decided to try his hand at making it in the West Indies Caribbean Premier League and a training camp (organized by the players themselves, not the governing body in America, (still the USACA at the moment)) predictable fell apart due to lack of finances. A team with some talent but that hardly plays together due to the vast size of their nation may show the odd moment of goodness but will be hard pressed to do much more.
- Oman. Oman hasn’t played a game of cricket together since they won their regional tournament to get into this qualifier last year. They have flip-flopped with America for the wooden spoon every other time they have played at this level. Expect that to happen again this time round too.