Saturday Oct 16, 2021
West Indies will again rely on a hardened bunch of T20 specialists in their bid to retain their World Cup title, but are set for a stern test from India, out to secure a first global trophy under Virat Kohli, and an England team bidding to become champions in two formats.
The seventh edition of the showpiece T20 World Cup was set to take place in India, but a COVID-19 surge in the country forced it to relocate.
The tournament will begin on Sunday with co-hosts Oman playing debutants Papua New Guinea in a preliminary Group B match in Muscat.
United Arab Emirates (UAE) will host the Super 12 stage and the knockout matches across three venues — Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi — with 70% fan capacity.
The 16-team tournament is the biggest global cricket event since the COVID-19 pandemic struck and the event had to be shifted even though the Indian board retains its host status.
Kohli will step down as India's T20 captain after the tournament and his team mates will hope to give him, and outgoing head coach Ravi Shastri, a fitting farewell.
Each member of the team has played the UAE leg of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and are familiar with local conditions.
Kohli will be able to tap into the experience of team mentor Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who led India to the inaugural title in 2007.
England will be out to become world champions in both white-ball formats two years after winning their maiden 50-overs World Cup under Eoin Morgan.
Morgan has endured a lean IPL, and they will be without explosive all-rounder Ben Stokes, who is addressing mental health issues, as well as injured fast bowler Jofra Archer.
Bowling all-rounder Chris Jordan believes they still have the "talent and chemistry" to win a second world 20-overs title.
"Having been together for so long, the chemistry is there, the talent is there — all the ingredients are there for us to make a decent run in this campaign," said Jordan.
"The squad is very, very strong and I am pretty optimistic."
West Indies, the only team to have won the tournament twice, will once again bank on their awe-inspiring bunch of T20 mercenaries, cricketing guns-for-hire who ply their trade in the world's lucrative T20 competitions, to accomplish a treble.
Captain Kieron Pollard and fellow all-rounders Andre Russell and Dwayne Bravo are the three pillars of a side teeming with match-winners.
New Zealand have reached the final in three of the last four global tournaments and the reigning world Test champions under Kane Williamson are once again strong title contenders.
Aaron Finch's Australia will be hunting for the one major trophy that has eluded them but their recent form does not inspire confidence.
They head into the tournament having lost their last five T20 series, including a 4-1 thumping of their depleted team in Bangladesh.
Former champions Pakistan will enter the tournament slightly undercooked but motivation will be high.
Babar Azam and his team mates were outraged when New Zealand and England pulled out of their Pakistan tour over security concerns, and plan to channel their anger to improve their performance on the field.
Afghanistan had an even more tumultuous buildup since the Taliban swept to power in August.