After 2020 and COVID-19 brought the cricketing world to grinding halt, 2021 offers hope that cricket can pick up where it left off in March last year. From Netherlands to Mongolia, and Thailand to Brazil, here are six key stories that could play out in the Associate world this year.
1. World Cup debuts
When the T20 World Cup kicks off in October, it will feature five Associate teams including two debutants. Namibia finished 4th in the 2019 World Cup qualifiers in the UAE to qualify for the T20 World Cup for the first time, their first major event since the 2003 World Cup. Papua New Guinea finished 2nd at the qualifiers and will make their first appearance at a senior world cup.
Namibia’s draw for the first round will see them play Bangladesh, Scotland and the Netherlands. Whilst they enter the tournament as the lowest ranked team – currently 19th – they may still cause an upset. Their bowling attack features a balanced mix of seamers and spinners, which brought them success in the UAE. Spin bowlers Pikky Ya France, Bernard Scholtz and captain Gerhard Erasmus could all find the wickets in India favourable. Coupled with that, the batting features two destructive power hitters in JP Kotze and JJ Smit. Namibia beat Scotland in their last T20I contest, and may pose a threat again.
Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea will face up against Oman, as well as full members Sri Lanka and Ireland. PNG topped their group at the qualifiers, and lost narrowly in the final to the Netherlands. Led by captain Assad Vala, the PNG squad features a list of all-rounders who can step up to fill the role required of them. PNG’s biggest strength, however, is in their fielding, arguably the best in the Associate game. PNG shoud not be underestimated, and Oman and Ireland should expect a strong challenge. The PNG ‘Barramundis’ have a realistic chance of making the 2nd round.