opinion

MITCHELL JOHNSON: Australia, India, Pakistan and West Indies favourite for T20 World Cup finals

Mitchell Johnson
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Mitch Marsh can lead Australia to victory.
Mitch Marsh can lead Australia to victory. Credit: Ashley Allen/Getty Images

The 20-team T20 World Cup kicks off on Sunday morning with something very exciting for world cricket as the United States and Canada meet in the opening group match.

Who would have thought the eyes of the cricket world would be on Grand Prairie Stadium in Texas.

It’s the kind of thing we haven’t seen much of but I’m sure we will see a lot more of it as cricket’s globalisation gathers pace.

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The growth of cricket in the US is strong, fuelled by a large population of expats from the subcontinent, and co-hosting the World Cup with the West Indies is a great step forward.

And don’t think the Americans won’t give a decent account of themselves. They’ve already stunned Bangladesh – who play all formats and have a good short-form side – not once but twice to win their series 2-1. Coached by former Australia batsman Stuart Law, the USA are not just making up the numbers. They want to beat teams.

I know I’ve often written that Twenty20 cricket is my least favourite form of the game for many reasons, but even I can’t argue with the fact it’s growing the game in other countries.

In time these developing nations will be better equipped and challenging at some point in the future.

We can see that with teams such as the Netherlands and Afghanistan, who improve the more involved they are.

Papua New Guinea, Uganda, Oman and Nepal are other teams who have grown on the back of T20 cricket and all of them will feature at the World Cup.

Picking a winner from the biggest ever field to contest a T20 or 50-over World Cup is no easy task.

As we’ve seen previously, there will be upsets, matches washed out and luck playing its part. The ability to withstand pressure will be key.

If I had to nominate the semifinalists now I would lean towards India, Australia, Pakistan and a shock in the West Indies, who didn’t even qualify for the main part of the tournament in the last edition two years ago.

In conditions that might favour the slower bowlers, teams with good spin options and seam bowlers who can bowl slightly off pace and cutters should do well.

Australia and India are the two sides I am most confident in.

The other two can be a little more hit and miss on the big stage but they are also teams that have previously won T20 World Cups.

The West Indies are a big chance with their home advantage and having the crowds behind them in that vibrant atmosphere could really drive them through.

They also have a talented T20 unit and gave a reminder of that with what they did to the Australians in the warm-up game on Friday as Nicholas Pooran smashed 75 off 25 balls.

Shamar Joseph and Akeal Hosein of West Indies celebrate the wicket of David Warner.
Shamar Joseph and Akeal Hosein of West Indies celebrate the wicket of David Warner. Credit: Ashley Allen/Getty Images

The Windies have the batting, the bowling and the athleticism in the field and they will be a team that might just do it this time around.

My fourth pick was out of a few different teams in England, Pakistan, South Africa and New Zealand. It’s a toss of the coin for me as I would think all these teams are capable, it just comes down to who will win those big moments.

England beat Pakistan in their warm-up series, but I never underestimate the Pakistan team.

They are a team that can be hard to stop if they get some momentum, which is probably why I am going with Pakistan for the last semifinal spot. Also, if pitches are slow or staying a bit low, conditions could very much suit them.

Australia should get out of their group and through to the Super 8s without too much worry.

With four groups of five and only the top two from each progressing, the pressure will be on for some of the bigger nations.

But Australia and England will fancy their chances in Group B, which also comprises Namibia, Oman and Scotland.

Monank Patel of the USA poses prior to the ICC Men's T20 Cricket World Cup West Indies & USA 2024.
Monank Patel of the USA poses prior to the ICC Men's T20 Cricket World Cup West Indies & USA 2024. Credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

The game against England will be the obvious test for the Aussies, though Mitch Marsh’s team will be confident they can beat the reigning champs and top their group.

Marsh will be a key player for Australia and his leadership will be crucial throughout. With the strength of the batting line-up, changes in the middle order or even a pinch-hitter coming up the top at times will be vital decisions to be made.

Marsh has a cool head on his shoulders and has enough experience now to lead a winning side. Australia have the personnel and the big-game experience to go all the way.

The Aussies will be on a high after becoming world champions in Test cricket and one-day cricket over the past 12 months. This T20 trophy would top the cabinet up just perfectly for them after the disappointment of missing the semifinals at home two years ago.

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