When the last ICC Men’s T20 World Cup took place in 2016, the entire landscape of the format was different. MS Dhoni and Daren Sammy were captaining their sides, Rashid Khan was not yet a global phenomenon and the format, in general, was not as refined as it is now in terms of data and matchups.

That being said, this year’s edition, like all the previous ones, is set to be as competitive as ever. Teams have been able to build their squads for a familiar battleground, the UAE, which has hosted the IPL, PSL, T10 League and internationals in the last few months.

Yet, no side is perfectly balanced; every team in the history of T20 cricket has had some shortcomings simply due to the volatility of the format and this set of teams is no different.

On that note, let us take a look at one key strength and evident flaw of each team that has had direct entry into Group 1 of the Super 12 stage.


Strength: Powerplay maximization

The conditions in the 2021 IPL were vastly different from those in 2020. Scoring in the middle and death overs was significantly more challenging. Middle over scoring rates fell from 7.6 RPO to 7.0 RPO whereas death over scoring fell from 10.1 RPO to 8.4 RPO. While the powerplay rates were similar, it meant that maximizing the early overs was more important now as compared to earlier given that the softer ball will be more difficult to score off.

Scoring rate by Phase in IPL recently

  Middle overs Death overs
IPL 2020 7.6 10.1
IPL 2021 7.0 8.4

Eoin Morgan’s Kolkata Knight Riders took this into account and adopted an ultra-aggressive powerplay batting strategy, something that England would look to replicate as well. Jason Roy and Jos Buttler are two of the fastest starters in T20 cricket, particularly against pace bowling. They will be primed to maximize the field restrictions and offer a scoring rate buffer if the hitters in the middle overs falter against spin.

Weakness: Lack of top quality spin

One of the cornerstones of succeeding in the UAE has been applying the breaks in the middle overs with quality spin bowling. While Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali can act as support spinners, England may feel the pinch of possessing a top tier T20 spinner if conditions slow down. They will likely employ the strategy of backing their strengths with Tymal Mills and Mark Wood likely to act as middle overs enforcers if needed. That has merit to it, but in a group featuring Australia and South Africa who are historically suspect against spin, it may be seen as an opportunity lost.


Strength: Glenn Maxwell’s middle overs prowess

Maxwell’s numbers against away-going spin in the 2021 IPL are as follows:

Maxwell vs spin in IPL 2021

  Left arm orthodox Wristspin
Average 59 67
Strike Rate 153 172

It is mindboggling that a right hand batter in the middle overs was able to produce such numbers on the pitches on offer. Maxwell’s range against spin, with his sweeps and down the ground power, makes him the most lethal spin hitter in the world on present form. He almost single-handedly carried RCB’s middle order, catapulting them into the playoffs, and if he can replicate such a performance for Australia, it will paper over the remaining batters’ deficiencies against spin.

Weakness: Death overs batting

In the recent bilaterals Australia have played, Mitchell Marsh was promoted to the #3 position and had immediate success. They are likely to continue with that, meaning Steve Smith, Matthew Wade and Marcus Stoinis will be batting one or two positions lower than ideal.

With the exception of Stoinis, who had some success as finisher in the 2020 IPL, none of the remaining lower order hitters inspire any confidence. They may well have to depend on Pat Cummins, whose batting has seen a rise in the last two IPLs, as a pace-hitting finisher.

West Indies

Strength: Giant killers at the death

Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard’s death overs strike rates since 2019 read 219 and 212 respectively. Only AB de Villiers at 231 has a higher strike rate at the death in this period. Having not just one, but two of the most destructive six hitters in the world gives the West Indies enormous flexibility. By floating up one of Pollard or Russell, they can force the opposition into depleting overs from their best bowlers, benefiting the other at the back end.

In addition, it will enable the likes of Evin Lewis, Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer to attach lesser value to their wicket and play fearlessly, knowing the firepower that is to follow. Russell and Pollard require little time to unlock their six-hitting range meaning a set batter will not necessarily be required to bat through.

Weakness: Powerplay bowling

During their home series against Australia and South Africa, West Indies had almost all bases covered barring powerplay bowling. They conceded at over 9 RPO in nearly all their powerplays, burdening Dwayne Bravo and Obed McCoy to pull things back at the death.

The issue was so severe that they excluded all of Sheldon Cottrell, Jason Holder and Fidel Edwards, the designated powerplay bowlers, from the World Cup squad. With the loss of Fabian Allen due to injury, the powerplay bowling load will be solely on the returning Ravi Rampaul. Given he has been out of the international circuit for a long while, his task will be cut out stepping into such a crucial role.

South Africa

Strength: High pace bowling

South Africa possesses two of the world’s most exciting speedsters in Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje. They can not only consistently hit speeds in excess of 140kph, but also bowl in all phases of a T20 innings. In what is likely to be a bowling attack featuring Rabada, Nortje, two spinners and an allrounder, the spearheads offering multi-phase value will hold them in good stead.

While both Rabada and Nortje employed a yorker heavy death bowling strategy in the Caribbean during South Africa’s tour, they are easily capable of switching to a hard length ploy if conditions demand it. With some method to complement the raw skill on offer, they could counter some of the middle orders that are vulnerable to high pace.

Nortje and Rabada speeds in IPL since 2020 (blue = Nortje, orange = Rabada)

Weakness – Batting vs spin

South Africa’s batting is highly dependent on Quinton de Kock and Rassie van der Dussen, both of who have a much weaker record vs spin than pace. To add to their woes, Aiden Markram and David Miller are plagued with similar issues, leaving them with no specialist spin hitters to complement their power against pace. If teams recognize this shortcoming and load their lineups with spin, it is likely that South Africa will have no answer to it.

One potential short-term fix could be floating up Heinrich Klaasen but given his lack of form in addition to Aiden Markram and van der Dussen favouring earlier entry points, it could be tricky to do so. This means the openers and Miller will have to go extremely hard versus pace in the powerplay and death, which could be a very volatile batting strategy.

This is the first part of the analysis, the second part will feature Group 2 teams.

Karthikeya Manchala is a cricket enthusiast with a passion for numbers. He tweets @Static_a357.