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World T20 2021 | Not here just for the show, debutants Papua New Guinea have high ambitions

For the first time, a team apart from giants Australia and New Zealand from the Asia Pacific would become part of the legacy called cricket World Cup when the Barramundis from Papua New Guinea take centre stage against Oman in the first match of the ICC T20 World Cup 2021. 

This would be an iconic moment in the history of the tiny island nation as after Rugby League and Australian Rules Football (both not worldwide known games), cricket would become the third sport where it would be participating at the biggest stage of them all. 

The importance of this has not yet been fully engulfed by the players, who would become the first lot to represent their country in World Cup and neither by the people Down Under. Assad Vala, the skipper of the PNG team summed it up in an interview with ICC. 

"It has been a long time coming. We have come close on many occasions. We are a couple of days away from playing our first World Cup match. The boys are looking pumped up for the game on Sunday,” Vala said on Thursday.

“During this pandemic, it will mean a lot for people back home. We are trying to put a smile on their faces,” he added. 

However, the road to the World Cup wasn’t easy at all and neither has it been easy ever since their qualification. 

PNG Road to World Cup 2021 

Having come agonizingly close to a World Cup Qualification spot in 2013 and 2015 ICC T20 World Cup Qualifiers, where they finished eighth on both occasions with only six teams qualifying, the Barramundis made sure in 2019 that they finished top of the pile in a group that comprised of the likes of established nations such as the Netherlands, Scotland and Kenya.

The Vala-led side won five of its six games, losing only to Scotland by four runs and finished top of the group even as it was tied with the Netherlands on points, but had a better net run rate. 

Although having qualified already basis their Grup topping feat, in the semi-finals, PNG beat Namibia and qualified for the final in which they were handed a seven-wicket defeat by the Netherlands. 

The 2019 World Cup Qualification was actually for the 2020 T20 World Cup, scheduled to take place in Australia, but due to the Pandemic, the PNG are playing the 2021 World Cup on that qualification ticket. 

However, ever since the Qualifier in 2019, the next time PNG got to play international cricket was in September 2021, i.e. just a month ago. It was evident in their form as they lost all four ODIs (two each against Nepal and USA), and two T20Is (against Scotland and Namibia) coming into the World Cup. 

In the warm-up games also the team has suffered severe defeats and hence going into their maiden World Cup, it is the belief and togetherness of the team that has more value than the form they are in. 

A close-knit unit

A large portion of Papua New Guinea's squad hail from in and around the Hanuabada village, a coastal town near Port Moresby and most of the players in the squad have played almost their entire cricket together, right from the age groups. 

The form of the team might not be at its best right now, but the people in the squad have seen it all before. They know how to come back and they have done it in the past as well. It might be the big stage that gets the players going finally. 

A team of all-rounders

The PNG team has more than six people in the squad who can both bat and bowl. The names Charles Amini, Assad Vala, Chad Soper, Jason Kila, Gaudi Toka and Norman Vanua are the ones who can change the course of the game with both bat and ball. Apart from Toka and Kila, all of these players are experienced as well. 

While Soper has played only six T20Is, he has an experience of 28 ODIs, in which he has scored 408 runs and taken 38 wickets with his right-arm medium-fast. The skipper Vala has also had one of the best careers so far with two T20I fifties and 3/7 as his best bowling effort, claiming 19 wickets and scoring 391 runs in only 18 games. 

However, the two all-rounders that matter the most are Vanua and Amini. While Vanua is a bowling all-rounder and can finish games with both bat and ball, Amini, who comes from a cricketing family holds the key as he can bat in the middle and bowl at the death and has 232 runs and 14 wickets to his name in just 16 T20Is. 

The big ambitions 

Vala in his interview also said that PNG are not here just for the showcase that they have become the third Oceania team to get to the World Cup, rather, they are here to show that they belong and they would want to get to the second round so that they can play better teams and get inspiration to qualify more in near future. 

“We want to play to the best of our abilities. We want to express ourselves. We want to make it to the second round to test ourselves against the best teams in cricket. We don't want this World Cup to be a one-off. We want to keep improving. We want to get exposure and knowledge against the best teams,” said Vala. But can they do it is the question? Can they get to the second round?

Can they do it?

The two teams that PNG can look to defeat are Oman and Scotland. While they have lost to Scotland in their previous two encounters, with the last loss being a quite big one. However, they can draw inspiration from their 2019 Qualifier clash against Scots where they remained just four short of a win.  

As far as the match against Oman is concerned, it is the most important for PNG. They have not played Oman before in T20 World Cup and although Oman have been at this stage before, PNG are well versed to get one past the hosts and if they can do it, their next meeting against Scotland might become a virtual qualifier for the second round. And at that stage, you never know what might happen. 

PNG World T20 2021 Squad

Assad Vala (c), Charles Amini, Lega Siaka, Norman Vanua, Nosaina Pokana, Kipling Doriga, Tony Ura, Hiri Hiri, Gaudi Toka, Sese Bau, Damien Ravu, Kabua Vagi-Morea, Simon Atai, Jason Kila, Chad Soper, Jack Gardner.


17 Oct vs Oman

19 Oct vs Scotland

21 Oct vs Bangladesh 

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World T20 2021| Experienced Bangladesh seek positive start

“Stealing a win from the jaws of defeat” is a prominent saying especially in sports. But for Bangladesh, the phrase gets a bit different. There have been instances where the Bangladesh side has failed to keep the nerves and suffered defeats from the position where they were well set for easy wins. For instance, that encounter against India in the World T20 2016 where Bangladesh required 2 runs off the last three deliveries but Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah gave away their wickets while taking the aerial route and the rest was done by MS Dhoni and his swift running and great presence of mind. Dhoni was involved in Mustafizur Rahman’s runout who was running towards the striker’s end for a single to take the match in the Super Over. There have been multiple instances of the same where Bangladesh have just let go of a game from their hands. But if they had lost matches from winning positions, the Bangla tigers have been involved in some major upsets too. They defeated Pakistan in the 1999 edition of the 50-over World Cup, India in 2007 in the group stage and South Africa in the Super 8s, England in 2011 and 2015, South Africa and West Indies in 2019. Apart from this, they do have some bilateral series wins under their belt as well. Having said that, Bangladesh will have to battle it out in the qualifying stage to make it to the Super 12s in the World T20 2021. Bangladesh begin the campaign against Scotland in Al Amerat on October 17, 2021 (Sunday) which is also the second match of the opening day of the tournament. The Asian side will then lock horns with Oman on October 19, 2021 and PNG on October 21 at the same venue. The side will be led by Mahmudullah while the squad comprises the likes of Mushfiqur Rahim, Mustafizur, Shakib Al Hasan, Soumya Sarkar and Taskin Ahmed. Team News The opening batsman Tamim Iqbal had opted out of the tournament earlier stating that it would be unfair to the players who have been playing regularly in the side for quite sometime while he has been away after the left-handed batsman had hurt his knee during Sri Lanka tour. "I don't think my injury is a concern, because I think I'd be fit before the World Cup. The main reason is I don't think it would be fair on those players who have played in the last 15-16 T20 matches that I haven't played,” he said. Though Tamim made it clear that he wasn’t retiring from T20Is. Experience is all that matters The likes of Rahim, Shakib and even Mustafizur are probably the most experienced players in the Bangladesh unit. Rahim would have the onus of anchoring the innings for the side as he has the ability to hold the fort at one end while the other batters can chip in with some runs and build partnerships with him to hand the team a good total. The expectations would be a bit high from Shakib and Mustafizur as the two players are in the groove as they were a part of the Indian Premier League held in UAE. While Shakib’s side KKR made it to the final, Rajasthan Royals for whom Mustafizur plays gave a tough fight but eventually bowed out of the tournament in the league stage itself. The team management and the fans would expect Shakib to produce some impressive performances both with the bat and ball. The left-handed all-rounder is capable of picking up wickets consistently while can chip in with important runs just like he scored a four against RCB in the eliminator match to help his side reduce the pressure and eventually win the game. Mustafizur on the other side has been pretty successful in deceiving the batsmen with the slow deliveries and if he continues to do so, the opponents’ batting unit would struggle against him. Apart from these three, skipper Mahmudullah, Liton Das, Sarkar and Taskin Ahmed are other prominent names in the line up. Batting- A concern The Bangladesh side might struggle in capitalising on the good starts that they get. The power-hitting in the middle-overs can become an area of concern for the team management and probably this would be the time when the Bangla tigers would need their skipper going all guns blazing. Mahmudullah is one of the batsmen in the unit who can take on the bowlers, fire all cylinders and fetch some quick runs. Bangladesh have never won a World T20 and would seek a positive start when they take the field on Sunday. SQUAD: Mahmudullah Riyad (Captain), Mohammad Naim, Soumya Sarkar, Litton Das, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Afif Hossain, Nurul Hasann, Mahedi Hasan, Nasum Ahmed, Mustafizur Rahman, Taskin Ahmed, Shamim Hossain, Rubel Hossain, Mohammad Saifuddin, Shoriful Islam Reserve: Rubel Hossain, Aminul Islam Biplob


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