We are locked and loaded for the Super 12 stages of the 2021 T20 World Cup after the four teams from Round 1 went through whirlwind journeys to make it to the next leg.

While a huge part of T20 is being adaptable to conditions and matchups, team construction largely revolves around innate strengths and weaknesses given the resource pool.

On that note, let us look at one key strength and shortcoming in each of the squads in the Super 12 group where Virat Kohli and Co feature. This article will focus on the automatically qualified Group 2 teams; the previews for Group 1 teams is here.


Strength: Defensive multi-phase bowling

Unlike most other teams, India have constructed a squad whose bowling attack will be highly dependent on spin. While Varun Chakaravarthy, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are not necessarily wicket takers, they will be used to restrict run flow in the middle overs. This will elicit more risk off Jasprit Bumrah and the other seamers, which will mutually benefit the attack.

Varun in particular could be used in any phase to employ defensive strategies with his fast, flat googlies extremely difficult to get away especially for left-handers. Jadeja, although less mysterious, can also bowl flat trajectories to restrict right-handers. All of India’s bowlers, barring Shardul Thakur, maintained an economy of under 8 RPO in the recently concluded IPL, supporting this strategy.

IPL 2021 Economy Rates

 Bowler ER
Varun Chakaravarthy 6.58
Ravindra Jadeja 7.06
Rahul Chahar 7.39
Ravichandran Ashwin 7.41
Jasprit Bumrah 7.45
Mohammed Shami 7.51
Bhuvneshwar Kumar 7.97

Weakness: Top order stacked with RHBs

One of the keys to succeed in the UAE in the IPL was to maintain left hand-right hand combinations throughout the batting order given the assistance for spinners. India are pitted in a group of teams which feature attacks rich with left arm spin and wristspin. If India go with a top order of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav, the RHBs will be an easy target for the spinners.

Apart from Suryakumar against wristspin, none of the other RHBs have a favourable record against away spin. This might force India to promote Rishabh Pant to #4, pushing Suryakumar into an unfamiliar #5 position. How India manipulate their batting order will play a massive role in deciding their batting fortunes in the middle overs.


Strength: Top-tail bowling

Pakistan’s squad was shuffled to bring in a fresh set of batters, but their pace bowling attack is settled and strong as ever. Shaheen Shah Afridi, one of the best new ball bowlers in the world, will look to maximize any swing or seam with the new ball. Shaheen’s shortcomings at the death will be covered for by Hassan Ali, the best death bowler in the PSL, and Haris Rauf – another death bowling specialist.

Pakistan play two matches each at Dubai and Sharjah, and one match at Abu Dhabi. At Dubai, Shaheen’s new ball prowess will come into play. At Sharjah, where conditions have been predominantly slow and low, Hassan’s into-the-pitch bowling will bring the stumps into play.

Weakness: Low-intent top order

While it is harsh to classify this as a weakness, given Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan are often steady and solid in the powerplay, their lack of intent could hurt Pakistan in UAE conditions where the first six overs have proved to be decisive recently. As discussed, in the Group 1 previews, the scoring rate in the post-powerplay phases in the 2021 IPL massively dipped, necessitating an aggressive approach at the top.

Scoring rate by innings phase

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

Babar and Rizwan can be particularly slow against away spin when starting their innings and take time to get their eye in before playing big shots. If teams tie Pakistan down in the powerplay, it will put massive pressure on Fakhar Zaman and Asif Ali to accelerate because Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez can struggle to unlock their big hitting gears from ball one as well.


Strength: Spin bowling variety

The presence of Rashid Khan automatically makes Afghanistan’s spin attack one of the top three in the tournament. Add Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb ur Rahman to that and that elevates them to the top. Rashid has been the most economical bowler in the UAE legs of the last two IPLs and while Nabi and Mujeeb have not had as many IPL games, they have a wealth of international experience in these conditions.

Economy versus batting type

Mohammad Nabi 6.34 7.25
Mujeeb ur Rahman 6.62 6.62

For SRH, Rashid was mainly tasked to bowl to LHBs as the attack leader, but in the Afghanistan setup, Nabi and Mujeeb can predominantly bowl to the LHBs, leading Rashid’s value to increase multi-fold. Mujeeb can act as the new ball specialist, Rashid can enter the game in the latter half while Nabi bowls according to matchups. Nabi and Rashid also add big hitting value with the bat, highlighting how big a role they will play to Afghanistan’s success.

Weakness: Lack of batting stability

While Afghanistan possess an explosive top order featuring Hazratullah Zazai, Mohammad Shahzad and Rahmanullah Gurbaz, none of them have been heavily tested against top quality pace attacks they will face in their group. They can be relied upon for a fast start against weaker new ball attacks, but in conditions with bounce or movement, there is a high risk of collapse.

To compound their problems, Asghar Afghan and Karim Janat are unlikely to generate a high strike rate in the middle overs, burdening Mohammad Nabi and Najibullah Zadran. As a batting unit, they could stitch together an innings with quickfire 20s throughout the order, but in case of a collapse, there is no one to glue together a large innings.

New Zealand

Strength: Middle overs variety

In recent years, T20 cricket has seen the rise of middle-order spin hitters like Nicholas Pooran, Glenn Maxwell and Rishabh Pant. The natural direction of evolution has meant the value of high pace enforcers has subsequently risen. Lockie Ferguson embodies this shift in dynamics.

It will not be Ferguson alone, though. If teams try to counter him with a pace hitter, Mitchell Santner is one of the most frugal left arm spinners in the world with his variations in the middle overs. He can extract turn on ragging pitches and has a wicked arm ball as a restrictive variation on flatter pitches. Together, they make a formidable combo.

Weakness: Fragile middle order

It is no secret that New Zealand’s middle order will be highly dependent on Kane Williamson to anchor through the middle overs and also accelerate towards the death. Devon Conway, Glenn Phillips and Jimmy Neesham have performed well on flat pitches in New Zealand but have struggled to adapt to slower tracks and larger ground dimensions.

Furthermore, Conway will potentially be out of position at No 4 and so will Phillips at No 5. As seen in the recent Hundred and CPL, Phillips struggled to adapt to the role switch after starting his career as a specialist opener. Phillips, at 5, has a strike rate of 111, the lowest for any batting position he has played in and very suboptimal for the role requirements.

This is the second part of the analysis, the first part featuring Group 1 teams is available here.

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