Out of this world: the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup | The game

The Caribbean has a long history of hosting the best cricket teams in the world for a chance to claim sporting supremacy. But, writes Sheldon Waithe, the Men’s T20 World Cup this June — co-hosted with the United States — is a very different ball game

  • West Indies cricketers Chris Gayle and Shai Hope at the 2016 ICC World Cup. Photo by Action Plus Sports Images/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Nicholas Pooran during the T20 International Series between Australia and the West Indies in Adelaide. Photo by Speed Media/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Excited West Indies fans enliven the atmosphere. Photo by PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo
  • West Indies Captain Rovman Powell during the second match of the T20 International Series between Australia and the West Indies in Adelaide, Australia. Photo by Speed Media/Alamy Stock Photo

Bats and balls, big and bold. There is nothing like cricket in the Caribbean. And when you add the explosivity of the T20 format, together with the ultra-competitive nature of a World Cup, the sparks are bound to fly — just like the many sixes cricketing stars will hit into the stands.

This June, our Caribbean region will be eager to capitalise on our proud history in the sport (including as T20 World Champions in 2012 and 2016) and our legacy of players that redefined the way the game is played.

Dwayne “Champion” Bravo, Chris “Universe Boss” Gayle, Sunil Narine, and Andre Russell are just some of the household names that became the most sought-after cricketers for T20’s global franchise structure.

The ICC (International Cricket Council) is also keen on showcasing the legendary festive nature of cricket crowds in the Caribbean for two main reasons. The revelry of the fans — with all their colour, noise, and unique characters — will resonate with global television audiences, enhancing an already celebratory event. That, in turn, can help the game penetrate new markets — hence co-hosting the event with the United States.

The matches in Dallas (Texas), New York, and Lauderhill (Florida) should attract the major cricket nations’ diaspora living in the US (take the mouth-watering India vs Pakistan encounter on 9 June in New York), but also introduce the delights of the game to a whole new fanbase.

No effort has been spared in marketing the event, with a mix of the traditional — beach cricket in idyllic settings, and colourful carnival costumes — and revolutionary images of cork balls raining down onto yellow cabs in Times Square.

The 2024 World Cup is a golden opportunity for the sport, both regionally and globally. “We strategically decided to bid for the men’s T20 World Cup jointly with the US because we wanted to grow the sport in our time zone, which we believe is crucial to our long-term survival,” explained Cricket West Indies (CWI) CEO Johnny Grave. “We’ve got a huge diaspora in North America, and with the USA being the most developed sports market in the world, the more we can reach out to it, the more we are likely to attract high-value sponsors and broadcasters. We believe we made a good decision.”

With 20 teams vying for glory — playing across St Vincent, St Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, and the three aforementioned US venues — there is plenty of scope for travelling fans to immerse themselves in the West Indian way of watching cricket.

With 20 teams vying for glory there is plenty of scope for travelling fans to immerse themselves in the West Indian way of watching cricket

Horns, flags, coolers are the order of the day. This is not a gentle clap accompanied by a “good shot” remark; it’s a jump up and rave, accompanied by thunderous music and a boisterous “Shot, boy!” Matches are four-hour parties, with the afterparties erupting into nearby streets and watering holes — national colours adorning painted faces (even bodies!).

It’s infectious — as is the good-natured ribbing or “picong” when a wicket falls, or a catch is dropped. Fans won’t hold grudges for long — how can they amid all the merriment, and when the fierce cricket played on the pitch is accompanied by (mostly) friendly rivalries in the stands?

Ideally, this World Cup will be a massive celebration of Caribbean culture as well as global cricket — a partnership that should reflect the tagline of region’s T20 franchise tournament, the Caribbean Premier League: “the biggest party in sport”.

So which nation will be partying at the end of it all, after the alphabet of nations from Afghanistan to the West Indies have laid it all on the line, pursuing the right to be deemed world champions?

Consistency will be the key to world domination, together with an understanding of varying conditions from dry spin-friendly surfaces to green tops that favour pace. Add the potential unpredictability of new pitches in the US and, as ever, the cricket played will require equal doses of brain and brawn.

Four groups comprising five teams will form the first stage, before the top two nations in each group move into the Super Eight phase. There, they will be split into two groups of four, with the top two teams in each group progressing to the semifinals. It means that any team contesting the final in Barbados will have played nine matches within four weeks — delightful for the spectators, arduous for the players.

Ideally, this World Cup will be a massive celebration of Caribbean culture as well as global cricket

The top four ranked nations — India, England, New Zealand, and Australia — rightfully take their place as favourites, with stars such as Surya Yadav and Phil Salt ready to shine. Pakistan and South Africa also have strong squads.

The hosts cannot be discounted. “Home advantage is something that is real,” says Windies World Cup winner Samuel Badree. “Our players would know the conditions here much better than those who are coming in … In 2023, [the team] won away to South Africa, they won against India in the region, and then they won against England towards the back end of 2023. We’ve always been good at T20 cricket; it’s always been our strongest format, and I see no reason why this team cannot go all the way.”

Should captain Rovman Powell — and his fiery players such as Nicholas Pooran and Shai Hope — lift the trophy to send the region into rapture, it will be the first time that a host nation has won the T20 World Cup. No pressure, then!

There could also be a surprise package — perhaps in the form of Ireland, Namibia, or the Netherlands turning in giant-slaying performances that propel them into the Super Eights.

It’s a grand party, with an invitation extended to the entire globe to come and enjoy T20, the Caribbean way. The region that gave cricket music, revelry, cheerleaders, noise, and some of the most flamboyant players ever is hosting the World Cup. The result can only be out of this world.

The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup takes place 1–29 June, 2024.

Funding provided by the 11th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme Direct Support Grants Programme.
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