The road to the 2024 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in USA and West Indies for African teams will start in Kigali this week, just as the winners of the 2022 edition England settle back home. The two qualification events to the Africa finals will both be held in Rwanda.
Two teams will advance from the eight nations in the first event with the likes of Kenya, Botswana, Seychelles, St Helena, Malawi, and Mali and host Rwanda fighting for spots. St Helena and Mali will be making their maiden appearance at the qualifiers while Kenya is in very unfamiliar territory as well, needing to advance through sub-regionals.
Kenya is ranked 29th in the world and is the highest-ranked team in the tournament, they will carry the pressure of being favourites and will be expected to beat every team. Kenya has lost some steam over the years and a drop-down in the rankings as they are in very unfamiliar territory for a side that has been to the semi-finals of the World Cup.
Kenya will bring a very experienced team to Kigali with the main core of the group very intact, Collins Obuya, Rakep Patel, and Irfan Karim selected for the regional qualifiers. Long-term Captain Shem Ngoche is in the side as a bowler and not the captain, Kenya looking ahead by handing the leadership of the team to the young Sachin Budhia. Budhia was the captain of the Kenya U-19 team at the 2018 U-19 World Cup in New Zealand. The experienced bowling duo of Nehemiah Odhiambo and Nelson Othieno miss out as well with new Vice-Captain Lucas Oluoch taking up the leadership of the bowling. The expectation is that Kenya will progress if they do what is expected of their talent.
Botswana is the second-highest-ranked team in Group A at 44th in the world, coached by Kenya legend Joseph Angara the Zebras are desperate to come of age. They missed out on the finals last year by the barest of margins and a year on they would definitely want to do better. Led by a very versatile player Karabo Mothlanka the South Africans are confident enough to win the tournament.
“Unlike last year we feel that as a side we have prepared much better than we did last year, due to what was happening throughout the world we couldn’t get preparation games away from home,” Captain Karabo said.
“But this time we had the opportunity of going to the Africa Cup in South Africa where we reached the semi-finals and we recently had a trip to Bulawayo in Zimbabwe that have all helped us grow as a group and also work on our skills. Therefore, we want to go all the way and not just look at finishing behind Kenya.”
Hosts Rwanda have the potential of springing up a surprise on either Botswana or Kenya but that would take some serious work from them. Last year they failed to capitalize on their knowledge of the home conditions and finished a distant third from Ghana and Uganda however, Clinton Rubagumya the Captain prefers to be referred to as the underdogs despite playing at home. The side travelled to Tanzania and played five T20 matches but failed to register a single win, without reading so much into the results Rwanda can’t be ignored. Kenyan legend Martin Suji has been with the side for some time and he should now know his players well enough to come up with a winning combination. Kevin Irakoze is one of the few decent leg spinners on the continent but he was used in a very predictable manner always bowling all his quota of overs on the trot which meant teams only need to see him off and take the game to the other bowlers. The runs will have to come from Orichide Tuyisenge who was the highest run scorer for Rwanda during the qualifiers last year but he will need to get support from the rest of the group especially when he fails.
Malawi ranked 52nd in the world and the third-highest-ranked team in the tournament is the team that could cause some shocks, they had a great Africa Cup experience pushing Kenya in one of the games. The South Africans are coached by the experienced Arjun Menoni and are led by the experienced Mozzam Baig show no fear in their style of play. Malawi has been quietly working to improve its team with a couple of players spending time at the Elton Chigumbura academy in Zimbabwe and that experience should help them put in some big shifts in Rwanda.
Seychelles and Lesotho were at the qualifiers last year but both are still finding their feet in international cricket but are no pushovers because they show a lot of desire every time they take the field.
The ten days in Kigali could be the start of something great for some players and teams while for others it could mark the end of the road if they don’t progress. Uganda, Namibia, and Zimbabwe will be waiting to be joined by two teams from this group A Qualifier.
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