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Which Players and Teams Might Stand Out at Next Year’s T20 World Cup?

Rashid Khan

There was huge disappointment earlier this year when it was announced the Men’s T20 World Cup was to be postponed till 2021. Inevitable, given the scale of the coronavirus pandemic, but still disappointing. Still, if there’s one plus point about having to wait another year before the action commences, it’s that we have more time to indulge in one of our favourite pastimes: speculating. Which players might be picked for various squads? And which dark horse teams might be worth a punt or two? 

There are certain players who are surely shoo-ins for 2021. With these stars, it’s not a matter of betting on whether they’ll be included; it’s more a question of just how well they might perform. A case in point is Rohit Sharma, who recently cemented his status as one of the all-time T20 greats by leading the Mumbai Indians to their record fifth consecutive Indian Premier League victory. As ‘Hitman’ began to trend on social media in the wake of this famous win, there were calls for Sharma to take over the reins as the India captain at next year’s T20 World Cup. Which makes sense, given that the Mumbai Indians have claim to be considered the greatest T20 team in the world. Just ask Kieron Pollard, who said as much in a recent interview.

Over in the West Indies, a popular figure who looks likely to make headlines in next year’s World Cup is Jamaican Sheldon Cottrell. A former soldier who back in 2011 was one of the troops standing guard during an India/West Indies ODI, he’s since garnered a formidable reputation as a fast-medium bowler and right-handed batsman. We should also mention his celebratory salute, which has become something of a cult sensation among his fans, and stems from his days in the armed forces. Despite having been a regular T20 pick in recent times, Cottrell hasn’t let himself get complacent, recently saying that “what I’ve gotten my success in the West Indies team from is saying to myself that my spot is not sure. That mentality keeps me fighting.”

Yet, despite his modesty, it seems highly likely he’ll be gracing the pitch at the postponed World Cup. The same can be said for one of the biggest stars in the T20 firmament right now – England’s Dawid Malan. Currently ranked number one in the ICC T20I batsman rankings, he’s been showered with acclaim for his role in England’s clean 3-0 T20I series sweep against South Africa. Malan achieved a spectacular 99 not out during the proceedings, later joking that he “needs to go back to maths class” for just missing out on the hundred. Even so, you don’t have to be a whiz with numbers to recognize how great Malan’s stats are, and punters will surely be betting on the tenacious batsman to rack up a hefty haul of runs in 2021.

But then there’s the question of the tantalizingly talented players who still have a question mark over their World Cup chances. Would you bet on England’s Joe Root to make an appearance, for example? His credentials as a player are impeccable, and he certainly proved his worth in the last T20 World Cup, especially when he accumulated a 44-ball 83 against South Africa in one of the most exciting chases in T20I history. Root was England’s top run-scorer in that 2016 tournament, but his T20 showings have been thin on the ground of late, and Root himself has admitted he’s suffered from a lack of opportunities. That said, he’s clearly keen to get back on it with a return to T20 form at some point in the new year. 

Ed Smith, England’s chief national selector, has said that Root is “one of England’s greatest ever cricketers” and that “if there was a major tournament around the corner, as there will be next autumn with the T20 World Cup, we could easily include him.” But Smith also conceded that Root “will need to have some rest over the next year”, so it’s a tough one to call. 

The same goes for promising Aussie batsman Josh Philippe, who back in 2017 was dubbed by one journalist “the baby-faced rookie who bested England”. This was in reference to an exciting confrontation during England’s Magellan Ashes tour, when Philippe – then just 20 years old – came close to a century, cracking 16 boundaries into the bargain. Both Philippe’s parents were cricketers, so he has genetic pedigree, and he’s recently made his debut in the Indian Premier League with Royal Challengers Bangalore. It’ll be fascinating to see how things go for him in the lead up to the squad selection for Australia in the World Cup.

As for which teams will excel in the tournament… Well, while all eyes will be on hot favourites like England, Australia and India, anyone looking to have a punt on a dark horse could look to Afghanistan. After all, Rashid Khan is reckoned to be the world’s best T20 bowler, while Mohammad Nabi is one of the best ODI all-rounders on the planet. This kind of talent means Afghanistan may provide some lucrative upsets during the World Cup.

It’s also worth considering Sri Lanka. Despite previous form (they won the T20 World Cup back in 2014), they’ve been underwhelming on the T20 front in recent years. However, their fortunes may change thanks to the advent of the Lanka Premier League, the brand new T20 franchise league which will surely reinvigorate the national attitude to this format, just in time for next year’s World Cup. 

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