Today the final names of the qualifiers for the World T20 have been named:
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea and Ireland automatically qualified, having topped their groups, the other four having to qualify. Netherlands and Namibia, having finished second and third in Group A (below Papua New Guinea) qualified by beating UAE and Oman, the third and second-placed teams from Group B.
Leading to final battles between the respective 4th-placed teams in each group, Scotland from Group A and Hong Kong from Group B. Scotland, who finished fourth in Group A, defeated Oman, the third-placed finisher from Group B, to mean that all four of the Group A teams made it through. It was then a choice of which of second-placed Oman and fourth-placed Hong Kong from Group B would make it. The answer, as you can see above, is Oman, who just sneaked in to qualify for a tournament where they were the hosts.
It adds to the credibility of Papua New Guinea’s qualification, given that all three of the teams below them ended up winning through the knockout phase, and hence were very good teams. Not that UAE or Hong Kong are bad teams at all – though UAE were so angry at not qualifying that they punished one of their players with disciplinary action. Certainly UAE, who have long played host for Pakistan’s “home” matches, have had a whole lot of cricket exposure in recent years and are well and truly on the way up.
The World T20 will feature a “Round 1” of group stages before the main event, in which these six qualifiers plus Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will face off in two groups of four, with the top two of each group (four total) making it through to the final stages. They are yet to decide on the groupings, but I believe it might be along these lines:
Papua New Guinea
If that is correct, then Bangladesh and Scotland are probably favourites to make it through from Group A while Sri Lanka should make it through from Group B with Ireland marginal favourites over Netherlands from Group B. Poor old Papua New Guinea, in spite of qualifying in top spot, are not expected to make it to the World T20 proper.
The World T20 will then have 12 teams, the top eight in the world and then 4 of these qualifiers, two of whom were automatically places there as the teams ranked 9th and 10th in the world. Afghanistan and West Indies, who had to qualify for the ODI World Cup, were both in the top eight of the World T20.
The structure just looks better. Imagine if they’d done this with the ODI World Cup.
The top eight for the ODI World Cup would have been the same:
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
Then the two automatic qualifiers through to “Round 1” would have been:
- West Indies
And the six qualifiers from the qualifying tournament would have been:
Then in “Round 1” we would have had, perhaps:
- West Indies
Then the 12-team tournament proper would likely have had:
- West Indies
As our four extra teams to add to the eight main teams.
“Round 1” could have been held a month earlier if teams needed time to rest, but it would have made for a more exciting tournament.
The question is why are we providing such a well-structured World T20 while we are ruining the ODI World Cup, which has such a longer history?
The ongoing Rugby World Cup has 20 teams, and Rugby is nowhere near as popular a sport as cricket. Not even close. While cricket boasts 2 billion out of the world’s 7.7 billion people, Rugby, which refuses to release official numbers, is nowhere near that level. We do know that there are 3.5 million Rugby players worldwide, compared to at least 60 million Cricket players, though, in other words about 20 times the popularity.
So if Rugby can get 20 teams into their World Cup, then cricket should have 400?
Well, that might be a bit much, but certainly it shouldn’t be 10.
The top 20 in cricket are competitive enough with the best in the world to be watchable, and, with a well-structured competition that has things like a “Round 1”, we can make it fun for qualifiers without too many one-sided contests in the main round.
The ODI World Cup used to be well-structured but we lost our way.
Let us hope that, after this exciting-looking World T20, that the next ODI World Cup can be just as good, and we don’t have to rely on New Zealand pulling a rabbit out of the hat to qualify for the final and then tie it!