T20 World Cup Group Stage: All you need to know about teams and players to watch out for

Four out of the eight teams in the group stage will progress to the Super 12 phase of the tournament, which begins on October 23.

FILE PHOTO: Co-host Oman secured the sixth and final spot at the 2019 T20 World Cup qualifier to make it to the Group Stage of the 2021 T20 World Cup.   -  The Hindu

Eight teams, in two groups of four, will battle it out in the group stages of the event in Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Four teams, the top two from each group, will progress to the Super 12 stage of the tournament, which begins on October 23.

The top eight ranked teams as of December 18, 2018 qualified automatically for the Super 12. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, ranked ninth and 10th, respectively, made it to the group stage. Six teams came through the 2019 qualifier event to secure their spots in the group stage.

Here is a quick look at the eight teams that will compete for the four Super 12 spots and key players who are likely to have an impact.

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GROUP A

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka stumbled to an all-time low when it failed to achieve automatic qualification for the marquee event. In the torrid five years since the last T20 World Cup, Sri Lanka has witnessed seven captaincy changes with just 11 wins from 45 matches. 

The Lankans' recent performances involve a 3-0 drubbing at home against South Africa in September after clinching its first bilateral series (2-1) win over India in July. Led by Dasun Shanaka, Sri Lanka will have its task cut out in the Group A qualifiers against Netherlands and Ireland that are capable punch above their weight.

Players to watch out for: 

Wanindu Hasaranga: Hasaranga’s potent leg-breaks and a sharp googly spun a web against a young Indian side recently, soon earning him his first IPL contract. The 24-year-old also provides lusty blows with the bat down the order, making him a fine prospect to watch. 

Chamika Karunaratne: Karunaratne impressed one and all with his mature cameos down the order in Sri Lanka’s recent series against India and Sri Lanka. Karunaratne also offers a good seam-up option for his side and possesses the knack of chipping in with quick wickets.

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Ireland

The Irishmen are set for their sixth T20 World Cup appearance since 2009 in the UAE. Having failed to move past the group stage in 2016, Ireland suffered a string of poor performances before instilling its sheen under skipper Andrew Balbirnie. Known to stage the occasional upsets, Ireland will have to pip Sri Lanka and the Netherlands in its bid for making its progression to the Super12 stage.

Players to watch out for:  

Paul Stirling: Ireland will pin its hopes on Paul Stirling to deliver explosive starts at the top of the order. Since the 2016 T20WC, Stirling has racked up 1744 runs in 52 matches - the second-best among all batters in the format.

Curtis Campher: The young gun from South African who switched nationalities with his Irish passport, Campher has developed rapidly in his short stint with the national side. A capable willow-wielder and a nippy seamer, Campher will be one of Ireland’s X-factors in the first round.

Netherlands 

Netherlands got a direct entry into the T20 World Cup Qualifier, having taken part in the 2016 T20 World Cup. Netherlands won five out of six league games and then thrashed UAE in the playoffs to seal a 2021 T20 World Cup spot. Netherlands eventually won the Qualifier, beating Papua New Guinea in the final.

Players to watch out for:

Ryan ten Doeschate: He was the second-highest run scorer for Netherlands in the Qualifier, and the 41-year-old would hope to make an impact in what will be his last tournament.

Roelof van der Merwe: A handy left-hander, Merwe picked 11 wickets in seven games at an economy of 7.19 in this year's Vitality Blast and was pivotal to Somerset's run to the final. This will be Merwe's fourth T20 World Cup —  the first two were with South Africa.  

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Namibia

Namibia qualified through the Africa regional qualifier for the 2019 T20 World Cup qualifier, where it finished fourth after winning four its six group stage matches to reach the playoffs.

Players to watch out for:

Gerhard Erasmus: Captain of Namibia, Erasmus was named player of the tournament in the qualifier. An all-rounder who bats in the middle-order at a healthy strike rate, Erasmus also opens the bowling occasionally with his off-spin.

JJ Smit: A bowling all-rounder with a knack of picking wickets consistently with his left-arm medium pace, Smit also plays crucial cameos lower down the order, averaging as high as 33.0 while doing so.

GROUP B

Bangladesh

Having slipped to a lowly number 10 in the ICC T20I rankings on December 31, 2018 - Bangladesh failed to attain direct qualification for the 2020 T20 World Cup that was rescheduled to 2021. 

Bangladesh, the host of the 2014 edition, will begin its campaign in the group stages for the second time after 2016 alongside Oman, Papua New Guinea and Scotland. The Asian Tigers had a stellar 2021 T20I season as they successively toppled Zimbabwe, Australia and New Zealand at home.

While the Mahmudullah-led side is likely to seal a top-two spot, it might still be in store for some surprises in Group B. 

Players to watch out for: 

Shakib Al Hasan: The only player to achieve the 1000 runs - 100 wickets double in T20Is - sums up the artillery Shakib offers. Bangladesh’s chances directly revolve around the wily southpaw.

Mustafizur Rahman: He may have not lit up the IPL this time, but Mustafizur’s variations with the ball would make him a threat for most oppositions in the group stage. "The Fizz" is also second on the list of leading wicket-takers in T20s in 2021, with 49 wickets from 39 matches.

Scotland

Scotland earned a direct entry into the 2019 T20 World Cup qualifier event by virtue of its rank. It finished fourth in Group A with three wins and as many losses from six matches. It eventually secured the fifth spot for qualifying for the main draw after winning both its playoff matches and will make its fourth appearance at the T20 World Cup.

Players to watch out for:

Richie Berrington: The batting all-rounder who also bowls right-arm medium fast, Berrington plays the anchor in the middle-order and was the architect of Scotland’s first victory over a Full Member of the ICC, scoring a 56-ball century against Bangladesh in 2012.

Kyle Coetzer: The 37-year-old skipper’s experience will be crucial as Scotland eyes a berth in the Super 12 stage of the tournament. A seasoned veteran of the County Championship in England, his technique and composure will be a perfect foil for fellow-opener George Munsey’s explosive batting.

READ: T20 World Cup: Batters with most sixes in T20 WC history

Papua New Guinea

In 2019, Papua New Guinea advanced from the East Asia-Pacific regional qualifier, topping Group A at the global qualifier in the UAE. They won five matches and lost just one. This will be Papua New Guinea's maiden T20 World Cup appearance.

Players to watch out for:

Assad Vala: The PNG skipper comes at No. 3 and is his team's batting linchpin. Vala's offspin also comes in handy.

CJ Amini: Amini, the vice-captain is an exceptional fielder. That coupled with his leg-spin bowling and ability to play cameos at the death make him a crucial member of the team. 

Oman

The co-host secured the sixth and final spot at the 2019 T20 World Cup qualifier after losing just two of its six Group B matches followed by a couple of setbacks in the playoffs.

Players to watch out for:

Jatinder Singh: The Ludhiana-born opening batter has some explosive knocks to his name and with some more consistency he can provide his side with a strong platform to launch off from.

Khawar Ali: A versatile cricketer who opens the batting and picks wickets at regular intervals, giving little away with his leg spin. His 191 runs and seven wickets in his last four T20Is bear testimony to his all-round impact.

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