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Williamson feels several match winners across teams adds to the intrigue

Kane Williamson
Expect the unexpected was the main message from Kane Williamson ahead of the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, with the New Zealand captain insisting ‘anything can happen’.

Expect the unexpected was the main message from Kane Williamson ahead of the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, with the New Zealand captain insisting ‘anything can happen’.

The Black Caps are still searching for their first title in the shortest format, having previously reached the semi-final stages in the inaugural tournament in 2007 and again in 2016.

Their recent form in global tournaments suggests they will be tough to beat, having only narrowly lost out to England in the final of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 before claiming the inaugural ICC World Test Championship this year.

But speaking in the pre-event captains’ media sessions, Williamson warned that the calibre of match-winners throughout the tournament means nothing can be taken for granted.

“It’s an amazing competition and it’s obviously been a long time coming. There are match-winners throughout and anyone can beat anyone on the day,” said Williamson.

“There are going to be a number of challenges along the way. It’s a pretty short tournament so you want to hit the ground running, you want to try and get a bit of momentum early.

“But in these world events when you’re playing a different opposition every three days at a different venue there’s some adjustments to make quite quickly.

“Having a world event is always an exciting opportunity to showcase all the talent around the world and the T20 format naturally makes things exciting and ultra-competitive.

“The match-winners that are in every side that are involved in this tournament means that on any given day anything can happen. It’s a fantastic event and one all teams are looking forward to.”

Another team going in search of their first ICC Men’s T20 World Cup title are Australia, who were defeated in the semi-finals by eventual champions India in the very first edition in 2007.

The cricketing superpowers reached the final three years later but fell at the last hurdle to England while they also lost to the eventual champions in 2012 as the West Indies won their semi-final match.

And while they failed to reach the knockout stages in both 2014 and 2016, captain Aaron Finch believes his squad possesses the talent to finally end their T20 drought.

“It would be huge, obviously it is the one that has eluded us, we have been close a couple of times but we’ve also been quite a distance off in other times,” said Finch.

“We’re still very confident going into it. We’ve got a group here that has played a lot of T20, not a huge amount together, and guys are at different stages of their preparation.

“It comes down to getting it done on the day. Every team can win any game, we know that in T20 cricket, there’s match-winners right across board so we just have to turn up at the right time.”

Like Australia and New Zealand, South Africa have competed at every ICC Men’s T20 World Cup but have yet to lift the trophy, reaching the semi-finals in 2009 and 2014.

However, the Proteas have the No.1 ranked bowler in the format, with no player in world cricket taking more wickets in T20Is this year than 31-year-old wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi.

A series win over defending champions West Indies in the summer also suggests they are finding form at just the right time and skipper Temba Bavuma is quietly confident about their chances.

“We’ve had a lot of cricket and we’ve also had some positive results, which has been good for our confidence as a team especially with us being a young fairly inexperienced side,” he said.

“The opportunity for guys to play with each other, get to know each other, has been good and I think we’ll be taking all those learnings and lessons forward and putting them to good use.

“As a unit there’s probably not as much expectation from people from the outside without all the big names but for us as a team there is a certain level of expectation on us as a team.

“We are definitely not coming to fill in a number or anything like that. We’ve done our work as a collective, that’s the main thing for us and that’s our main focus.”

Papua New Guinea are one of two teams making their ICC Men’s T20 World Cup debut in the UAE and Oman, securing their place through the 2019 ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier.

And after near-misses in their qualification attempts for the 2014 and 2016 editions, skipper Assad Vala said their maiden appearance will be a special moment for his country.

“It’s a really proud moment for myself and the boys, it’s been a long time coming. We’ve come so close on so many occasions and we’re just looking forward to playing our first match,” he said.

“It means a lot to the people back home. For us we’re just trying to play well and put in a performance that puts a smile on everyone’s face, starting with the game against Oman.”

Namibia are the other debutants at the 2021 edition and ahead of their opening match against 2014 champions Sri Lanka, captain Gerhard Erasmus paid tribute to those behind the scenes.

“We’ve gone through a period of three years now where we’ve played some good cricket and transformed our cricket brand and as a country it’s something we can be proud of,” he said.

“This T20 World Cup is a celebration of that for us. There are lots of people working hard behind the scenes, the administration and family members, lots of people we can be thankful for.

“There are lots of people over the years that have put in hard work into cricket in Namibia, sometimes it can be a thankless job, but we know those individuals and the fans back home are very proud of this team and hopefully we can give something back.”

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