T20 World Cup 2024: Will it be cricket’s first global affair in true sense?

An unprecedented 20 teams in the fray, and USA as co-hosts, certainly provide the right ingredients

Team Uganda celebrates on qualifying for the T20 World Cup to be held in West Indies-USA in 2024 (photo: ICC)
Team Uganda celebrates on qualifying for the T20 World Cup to be held in West Indies-USA in 2024 (photo: ICC)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Uganda, Namibia, Papua New Guinea, USA, Oman… Doesn’t quite sound like a line-up for a cricket World Cup. But then, the 2024 T20 World Cup, to be jointly hosted by the West Indies and USA, promises to be like none before. 

For a long time, the term ‘globalisation’ has become a well-worn cliché in the cricket fraternity. There have been the odd sparks from associate countries — with the remarkable journey of Afghanistan coming close to being a gamechanger — but the sport has remained a preserve of its aristocracy over the years.  

Constant tinkering with the number of teams and the formats of both the 50-over World Cup as well as World T20 also brought to the fore the ambivalence of the International Cricket Council (ICC), the sport's global governing body, about throwing the game open in the true sense of the term.

This time, though, they have got the plot right as there is a window of opportunity with the huge untapped market in co-hosts USA. Along with are the Caribbeans, re-entering the frame 17 years after staging a somewhat forgettable 50-over showpiece.  

What’s more important is that, for the first time, 20 teams will form part of the event and be divided into four groups of five each. The top two finishers in each of the groups will move to a Super Eight phase, where the remaining teams will be split into two groups of four. The top two in each group will then make their way to the semi-finals and then the final. 

It will be, hence, an eclectic mix of teams in the fray — Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, reigning champions England, India, Ireland, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Oman, runners-up Pakistan, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Scotland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Uganda, United States of America (USA). 

While the West Indies, a two-time champion in both 50-over and T20 formats, and the USA, will be automatic qualifiers as hosts, African nation Uganda made history when they qualified for their first World Cup earlier this week to take the final spot.

Their journey through the qualifiers shows how this format can make or mar reputations as they carved out four wins of their five fixtures in the qualifying rounds: beating more established nations like Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria, only slipping against co-qualifiers Namibia, who remain unbeaten in the tournament so far.  

For the record, Uganda thrashed Rwanda by nine wickets to ensure a top-two finish in the Africa qualifiers to officially lock their place in the T20 World Cup 2024. It has been nothing short of a fascinating journey for the nation, which took to cricket less than two decades ago.  

Speaking to The Quint, Denis Musali, cricketer-turned-communications manager of the Uganda Cricket Association (UCA), reflected on how it all came together. In the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh in 2004, Musali brushed shoulders with the likes of Eoin Morgan, then with Ireland, Alastair Cook, and Shikhar Dhawan. 

‘’Cricket was never a popular sport here (Uganda). Ugandans were introduced to the sport by white missionaries, who came from Britain in the late 1800s. They built churches and schools, and encouraged kids to play cricket,’’ he said. 

Meanwhile, co-hosts USA have shown method behind madness in trying to grow cricket in what has been perceived as an expat sport. In an interview during the first edition of Major League Cricket (MLC) earlier this year, one of their top officials Tom Dunmore said their main aim was to see the country play the World T20.  

The MLC honcho also said they want to be in it for the long haul: ‘’We do not want to be yet another T20 league in the sport. I can assure you from my experience in the minor league that there are enough young, quality cricketers there on whom we have built the core of these six teams. It will be really worth the effort if we can see the US play in the T20 World Cup.’’ 

The format of the upcoming World T20, where only two teams will be making it from each of the four groups to the Super Eight, will be chalk to the recent ICC World Cup's cheese, where a team got nine league matches to make the knockout stages. The margin of error, hence, will be minimal and surprises may well happen. 

If any of the outsiders can make the cut for the knockout stages, it will be a real success for the event!

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