The recent news that this year’s T20 World Cup will now be played in the UAE and Oman is disappointing for the thousands of Indian fans who were hoping to attend one or more of the matches. However, it is also something of a relief, as it was looking increasingly likely that hosting in India would have meant further delays in view of broader events.
At least now we can look forward to the tournament, safe in the knowledge that it is really happening. All the famous pundits have been weighing in with their opinions, and while the likes of India and England are, of course predicted to be strong contenders, one man in particular fancies a dark horse.
Pakistan wicketkeeper / batsman Kamran Akmal had accumulated almost 20 years of international experience before hanging up his boots last year. For many of those years, Pakistan played their cricket in the UAE, so unsurprisingly, he is backing his old teammates to perform well, given their local expertise. However, in an interview on YouTube channel My Cricket Coach, he was quick to point out that another of the combatants shares the same advantage.
Afghanistan has also made the UAE its professional home since joining the senior circuit, and Akmal feels the more established teams should underestimate the new boys at their peril. He said: “Afghanistan could prove to be a dangerous side, looking at the players they have.”
The fact that Afghanistan were only granted full ICC membership in 2017 means that they tend not to feature in people’s thinking as candidates for the latter stages. However, this is the team that holds the record for the highest ever score in a T20 International (278/3 against Ireland). They also recorded a record 12 consecutive T20I wins, in a run that stretched from February 2018 to September 2019.
The view from the bookies
Of course, opinions from former players are well and good, but if you want to get the real insights, you need to ask the people whose livelihoods depend on making the right sporting predictions. The big name bookies listed at SportsBetting.net.in are a little more phlegmatic about Afghanistan’s prospects of causing a major upset. Most have them at the longest odds of all the ICC full members, and if you want to back them to go all the way and win the World Cup, you can expect to be offered odds around the 50/1 mark.
Most sports books have India down as favourites, and the odds have not lengthened appreciably with them losing home advantage, while last year’s runners up, England, are close behind at about 3/1. Australia are quoted at 9/2, while New Zealand, fresh from winning the inaugural ICC Test Championship, are at 13/2.
But what of the West Indies? It seems strange to call the defending champions and the most successful team in tournament history a dark horse, but that’s exactly what they seem to be. They are at 7/1 odds to pull a surprise result yet again.