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All Set for Historic Cricket Extravaganza in America

The thrills of the IPL have barely settled, and the cricket fraternity is already abuzz with anticipation for the T20 World Cup. This edition of the tournament is truly historic as it’s the first time that the USA is hosting a cricket World Cup. It’s a fitting location as the first-ever international cricket match was played between USA and Canada in 1844. Later, cricket faded into the background as baseball became America’s national sport.

Now, in 2024, cricket makes a grand return to America as the USA cohosts the World Cup with the West Indies. For Indian fans, it is another chance to rally behind the ‘Men in Blue’ and hope they can achieve the Champions’ glory that eluded them six months ago when they fell short against Australia in the ODI World Cup final.

Team India is already in USA, gearing up for a practice match with Bangladesh. The World Cup begins on June 2nd with a USA-Canada game in a virtual recreation of the historic match between the two sides in the nineteenth century. India’s first group match against Ireland is slated for June 5th in New York. Team India is in Group A which includes Pakistan, USA, and Canada and a brief review of India’s prospects against these opponents seems timely.

Despite debates over team selection, India remains the bookmakers’ favorite to win. The team will play their first three matches at the newly built Nassau International Cricket Stadium in Long Island, New York, before heading to Florida for their final group game against Canada.

India’s campaign begins against Ireland, a team they have dominated in past encounters, winning all seven matches between them. Last year, India triumphed over Ireland 3-0 on Irish soil without even playing Team India’s top players. However, the Irish team is known for its ability to upset stronger teams, a reputation they’ve earned by defeating formidable opponents like South Africa in both T20 and ODI formats.

Ireland’s experienced opener, Paul Stirling, is crucial for giving them a strong start. His aggressive batting can challenge Indian bowlers. But their bowling unit, led by Mark Adair and Josh Little, will need to be at its best to contain India’s powerful batting lineup. While India’s experience and talent gives them a clear edge, Ireland’s potential for surprises can’t be overlooked as they recently beat fancied Pakistan.

The most anticipated match, of course, is the one between India and Pakistan on June 9th which is sure to capture global attention. Their last T20 World Cup encounter in 2022 saw India pull off a dramatic win, thanks to a masterful knock by Virat Kohli. India enters this match after a demanding IPL season, and Pakistan will aim to capitalize on any signs of fatigue.

Led by Babar Azam, Pakistan has a fine blend of seasoned stars and exciting newcomers. Azam’s consistency at the top order is pivotal, and Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman are crucial for Pakistan to score big. On the bowling front, Shaheen Afridi’s pace and swing, combined with Mohammad Amir’s comeback, pose significant threats to India’s top order. Historically, India has the upper hand with five wins out of seven T20 World Cup matches against Pakistan. But on the day, the contest could swing either way, making it a marquee match of the tournament.

India’s third match on June 11th against co-hosts USA, will be their final game in New York which India is expected to win comfortably. However, the USA recently stunned Bangladesh by winning a 3-match series 2-1, showing they can pull off surprises. A strong performance by the USA would be significant for promoting cricket in the country though India are the firm favorites.

India’s last group match against Canada will be in Florida. If India wins its previous games, the team management might use this game to experiment with their lineup. Recently beaten 4-0 by the USA, Canada is hardly a strong contender. Barring a miraculous upset, India is expected to trounce Canada and progress to the Super 8 stage.

As India advances, they are likely to face tougher tests from Australia, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka in the Super 8s. The key for India will be to start strong and build momentum in the group stage. The team’s mix of sparkling seniors and young talents can overcome all challenges in this prestigious event.

Besides a comeback of international cricket to America, the 2024 T20 World Cup offers Indian fans a great chance to support Team India on the global stage. As the Men in Blue get ready for possibly the last World Cup of the two legends of the team - Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli - the tournament promises excitement, emotion and a chance to rewrite history!

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL

Siddhaarth Mahan The writer is a specialist on Sports and Cinema who works as an actor in the Hindi film industry

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