T20 World Cup Group A Preview: Strengths, weaknesses and players to watch out for

Ireland must play out of its skin to displace India or Pakistan from the top two spots before the  Super 8 stage.

Published : May 30, 2024 09:52 IST - 6 MINS READ

Will this be the last time Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli play a T20 World Cup together?
Will this be the last time Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli play a T20 World Cup together? | Photo Credit: AFP

Will this be the last time Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli play a T20 World Cup together? | Photo Credit: AFP

It would be pragmatic to label India and Pakistan as the favourites to progress from Group A at the upcoming Twenty20 World Cup in the West Indies and the USA.

However, on May 10, with less than a month to go for T20 cricket’s biggest extravaganza, former American football defensive end J. J. Watt’s famous words - “Success isn’t owned, it’s leased. And rent is due every day” - may have come as a rude awakening for Pakistan, the 2009 champion and last edition’s runner-up.

Meeting each other for the first time in the shortest format after 15 years, Ireland registered its first win in men’s T20Is over a full-blooded Pakistan squad in the first clash of a three-match series in Dublin.

Although Pakistan won the remaining two fixtures, would the team deal with the loss as a mere glitch in the matrix? After all, the two sides are set to go up again in a month’s time at Lauderhill, Florida, on June 16.

From Zimbabwe edging Australia in 2007 to Namibia beating then Asia Cup defender Sri Lanka two years ago, the T20 World Cup is no stranger to upsets. Given the single round-robin format of the group stage, even one win against the odds can prove to be decisive. So, there will be no room for complacency.

How late is gracefully late?

Babar Azam (in pic) and Mohammed Rizwan have been left to do the heavy-lifting for Pakistan more often than not.
Babar Azam (in pic) and Mohammed Rizwan have been left to do the heavy-lifting for Pakistan more often than not. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Babar Azam (in pic) and Mohammed Rizwan have been left to do the heavy-lifting for Pakistan more often than not. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

And obviously, there are bigger worries for Babar Azam’s men — for starters, there’s no knowing who they are until Pakistan plays its T20I series opener against England on May 22. Going into a marquee tournament, it is imperative to strategise months ahead with a core 11 in mind. As Ramiz Raja said on his YouTube channel, it does seem like “Pakistan are stuck. They can’t handle the combinations. Every player is on trial”.

The individual performances in Dublin are bound to confuse the selectors further.

Former pacer Umar Gul’s nephew, 23-year-old Abbas Afridi, may have finished with six wickets, the second-most successful in the series after leading paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi, but he conceded 112 runs off the 71 balls he bowled.

Naseem Shah and Mohammad Amir took four wickets combined and leaked runs at a touch below 10 an over. Hasan Ali, who replaced Naseem in the third T20I, gave away 42 runs in three overs without taking a single wicket.

In the batting department, left-handed opener Saim Ayub appeared clueless. He averaged 21.66 in the series, while Babar and Mohammed Rizwan were left to do the heavy-lifting again.

Once the squad is finalised, the biggest challenge awaits Pakistan on June 9 when it meets archrival India, presently the No. 1 T20 side, at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York.


Hardik Pandya, who captained Rohit Sharma in the 2024 Indian Premier League, will return to being the latter’s deputy in India’s blue.

The top-order of India looks mostly settled, with Rohit and Yashasvi Jaiswal set to open. Batting mainstay Virat Kohli follows. However, it wouldn’t be that bad an afterthought to have Kohli open alongside Rohit and get Sanju Samson to come in at three.

The middle order will have the big-hitters in Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, and Hardik Pandya.

In the bowling department, Rohit has opted for a spin-heavy approach, with Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, and Yuzvendra Chahal in the 15-member squad.

The absence of a fourth frontline seamer indicates India is expecting the ball to turn in the West Indies when the tournament rolls over to the business end. This also indicates Hardik, a fast-bowling all-rounder, may often be called upon to roll his arm over for the full quota of four overs. The tournament will also mark the return of Pant to international cricket after a horrific car accident kept him away from the game for more than a year. He has been impressive in the IPL for Delhi Capitals, having scored 446 runs in 13 innings at an average of 40.55 and a strike-rate of 155.40.

What do Ireland, USA and Canada bring to the table?

Although Canada went down by 86 runs to Bermuda in the opening game of the Americas qualifier, an amazing recovery saw it seal a debut appearance in the quest for the biggest prize in T20 cricket. Under the able leadership of all-rounder Saad Bin Zafar, it defeated the Cayman Islands twice and Panama by margins of 100-plus runs each time to set up a date with Bermuda again in the final. This time, though, it got the better of the host.

However, in April, Canada got a reality check when it toured the US for a five-match series, where Monank Patel and Steven Taylor’s pyrotechnics coupled with Harmeet Singh’s economical spells resigned the visitor to a 4-0 series drubbing (one match was abandoned). Despite the commanding win, what would bother the host nation is the limited gametime it has had leading into the tournament. Before the said series, it last played a match in July 2022.

Canada, the sole Americas qualifier, and host USA will play the tournament-opener on June 1 at the Grand Prairie Stadium in Dallas.

Having featured in all men’s T20 World Cups since 2009, Ireland is a certified giant-killer. And this time, nothing is different.

The side has gone with an experienced line-up, retaining an overwhelming 11 of its squad of 15 in 2022.

Two teams that will qualify

In Group A, it’s evident who the top two will be without much thought.

Ireland will have to come up with the performance of a lifetime to be able to remove either India or Pakistan from the top two slots ahead of the Super 8 stage.

The USA and Canada will be here for the ‘big-match’ experience. They need to keep their nose to the grindstone and any positive outcome that comes along the way will remain an unforgettable moment.

Dark horse

Ireland is a glowing example for the Davids of the world. It has sent Goliath packing, not once but many times over. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have fallen prey once in 2024.

Against India, in August 2023, Craig Young had removed Yashasvi Jaiswal and Tilak Varma off successive deliveries shortly before the match got called off due to rain. India had saved its blushes with a two-run victory via DLS.

In March 2023, it hammered Bangladesh at the latter’s home.

Three standout players

Jasprit Bumrah: Bumrah’s outstanding performance in the recent IPL is noteworthy. Despite Mumbai Indians’ underwhelming campaign, he took 20 wickets in 13 innings with an impressive economy rate of 6.48, the best among bowlers with a minimum of 10 overs. With Shami opting out due to injury, Bumrah leads India’s pace attack with support from Mohammed Siraj and Arshdeep Singh.

Babar Azam: Babar has been Pakistan’s highest scorer in T20Is throughout 2023–24. He has scored 600 runs at an average of 40.00 and a strike rate of 143.54. His century against New Zealand in 2023 is the only hundred scored by a Pakistani batter in that period. His strength lies in the variety of shots he can play against spin and pace.

Curtis Campher: Campher, a South Africa-born seam-bowling all-rounder representing Ireland, achieved a unique feat by taking four wickets in four consecutive deliveries in a T20 World Cup match against the Netherlands in 2021. Since 2023, he has been the team’s third highest run-scorer with 388 runs in 19 innings and has also taken seven wickets.

(Note: Preview was written prior to Pakistan’s team announcement)

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