"They are very independent players with their own styles"
As per the expectations of fans and pundits, the ICC Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup 2021 has already seen wonderful moments.
However, in a short space of time, there has been a lot to ponder over and talk about.
Much of the discussion has been around the South Asian teams Pakistan and India, along with England.
Pakistan has been at their at very best, doing the unpredictable and playing well in every department. Pakistan has become one of the top favourites, though, they can still make improvements.
England led by Desi players and Jos Butler has equally been outclassing the opposition sides.
India went from zero to gaining momentum after much heavy criticism. We assess their performances, as well as raise some key talking points for further discussion
The Pakistan cricket team had a few jitters when it came to selecting the squad for the T20 Cricket World Cup 2021.
However, the final squad was much better, giving Pakistan a good chance to win the trophy.
Pakistan was never expecting to demolish India by 10 wickets. But that was a dream start for the Green Shaheens.
Pakistan was cool and clinical in that game throughout. ‘Dhoom Dhoom’ Shaheen Shah Afridi was the star with his two unplayable deliveries to Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul.
Though, one should not forget the bowling of unsung hero, Haris Rauf who was exceptional with his spell overall.
Despite ongoing doubts, Babar Azam and Mohammad Riwaz have become the ideal combo. The two were unbeaten in the game against India, putting up a winning stand of 152.
Speaking about the two and how they complement each other, Pakistan batting consultant, Matthew Hayden, told AFP:
“Babar and Rizwan have created a unique opening for themselves. They are very independent players with their own styles but that blend and mix make for the perfect combination.
“They are unique and it’s special to watch the way they have gone about playing in this World Cup.”
He adds, how the pair cruised to victory versus India, without losing a wicket:
“They chased down a target against India for victory in a perfect run chase, none down for a victory that Pakistan will remember.”
More importantly, Pakistan broke the shackles of finally winning a T20 Cricket World Cup match against India.
Haris Rauf came to the party in Pakistan’s Group 2 match, claiming 4-22 from his four hours.
Although it was Asif Ali who went on to finish the job in this game and during the nerve-wracking match versus Afghanistan.
Asif hit a heroic 4 sixers in the 19th over to seal a nail-biting win.
Hitting fours 6s in an over was insane, reminding us of Carlos Braithwaite, smashing off consecutive balls in the 2016 World T20 Cricket final.
In the same game, Haris bowled the fastest delivery of the tournament, clocking 153 kph (95 mph).
In their fourth Group 2 match, Pakistan comfortably beat Namibia by 45 runs without any frills.
By the end of this match, Babar was once again the best T20 player in the world, according to the ICC Rankings.
Famous cricket statistician Mazher Arshad put out a tweet, with an interesting fact:
“Rizwan has opened 18 times in T20Is this year and finished not out on 8 occasions!!! #T20WorldCup”
Can Babar and Rizwan sustain this form in the knock-out stages of the tournament? Well, if they keep playing in this form, they are unstoppable.
Pakistan has been playing their best and delivering when it matters. It seems training under the Pakistan flag has really seemed to unite the team.
Can Pakistan win the T20 Cricket World Cup 2021, without losing? That will be a first for them at a world cup if they manage to accomplish this fantastic feat.
Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali Flying the England Flag
Spinners Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali have been instrumental from the word go for England.
Both took two wickets each in their Group 1 opener against the West Indies, with Moeen bagging the man of the match award.
At the post-match ceremony, Moeen spoke about how he was ready to bowl at the very beginning of the Windies innings:
“They do have a lot of left-handers at the top, so I knew I would be bowling early on.”
Moeen was back at it versus Bangladesh, being on a hat-trick during one stage. The two were also in the mix of things during the victorious matches versus Australia and Sri Lanka.
On the batting front, Josh Butler has been remarkable, particularly with two unbeaten scores. Firstly, he made an unbeaten 71 off thirty-five balls versus Australia.
He followed it up with 101 not-out off sixty-seven balls against Sri Lanka. And with that innings and his first T20I hundred, he became the player of the match.
Afterwards at the presentation, Butler shedded light about how patience was the key in producing that innings:
“I think staying patient and keeping my head. I found it really tough early on.”
“We were just trying to get something going, were finding the spin bowlers a bit tricky and thought 120 might be a good score.
“We each tried to take the small side and target that and I really enjoyed batting with Morgs.”
Butler reached his hundred with a six, which made it even more special. England have been simply phenomenal.
Adil, Moeen and Butler are a key trio for England in the spin-friendly conditions of the UAE. Though Moeen’s batting is a concern, especially if a match goes deep.
Despite the mini-set back of Tymal Mills exiting the T20 Cricket World Cup 2021 with an injury, England is still a strong outfit.
Can they maintain their unbeaten record? Can we expect to see them face Pakistan in the final? Has England peaked too early? Cricket is a funny game and anything can happen.
Team India in Disarray
From the very outset, Team India has been out of sorts. It all began even before their T20 Cricket World Cup 2021 campaign took off.
Virat Kohli had announced that he will resign as the T20 captain, following the 2021 world cup. The timing of it was not good from a big player going into a massive tournament.
Renin Wilben Albert from Crictoday writes that the quitting decision was a distracting factor:
“What was supposed to be a hunt for an elusive ICC crown suddenly turned into the “Let’s win it for Kohli” tune.
“It was a hysteria India could have easily avoided.”
It got much worse, with India struggling in their first two games. In the matches against Pakistan and New Zealand, they went on to suffer crushing defeats.
Firstly their body language was very weak, with a lack of intent. In their second Group 2 game against New Zealand, they did the right thing by selecting exciting young talent Ishan Kishan.
However, it was a big blunder to bring him in the opening position, demoting Rohit Sharma at number three.
To not play Ravichandran Ashwin was also a big mistake in the first two matches. To select a cricketer of his calibre and then not play is somewhat baffling.
Is he there just to act as a 12th man and take drinks on the field?
Common sense did prevail when he came into the playing XI against Afghanistan, taking 2-14 from his four overs.
Team India came back even stronger. After bowling out Scotland for 89, they reached their target in the 7th over.
Is it too little too late for India? Well, it’s not entirely in their hands. Pakistan was the first team from the Super 12s to reach the semi-finals.
Who will rule the T20 cricket world? We will find out on November 14, 2021.