Supersized World Cup sets stage for new generation of T20 giant-slayers

Supersized World Cup sets stage for new generation of T20 giant-slayers


Split across four groups, the main contenders are joined by a dozen more including the US and Canada

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(Reuters) – A record 20 teams have converged upon the United States and West Indies ahead of the Twenty20 World Cup, offering plenty of chances for cricket's lesser lights to shine in the month-long spectacle which begins on Saturday.

Split across four groups, the sport's usual trophy contenders are joined by a dozen more hopefuls eager to make their presence felt, starting with Canada and co-hosts United States who both make their tournament debut in the opening match in Dallas.

Uganda will also feature for the first time and for veteran spinner Frank Nsubuga, 43, it marks the apex of a personal journey which began in 1997, a year before his country was granted membership to the International Cricket Council (ICC).

"I've been playing for 27 years for the national team, to see this dream is making me so, so happy," he told Reuters.

"We want to leave a legacy... we want to leave something the world can see."

The T20 showpiece had previously grown from 12 to 16 teams since its 2007 inception and the format's unpredictable nature has seen many strong outfits humbled.

In the 2022 edition, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies fell to Netherlands, Namibia and Scotland respectively, three blossoming sides capable of ruffling more feathers this time around despite operating with a fraction of the budget distributed by the ICC to test-playing nations.

Despite beating eventual champions England during the group stage of the last World Cup, Ireland face an uphill Group A battle placed alongside India and Pakistan.

Afghanistan, whose talismanic captain Rashid Khan and predecessor Mohammad Nabi return from Indian Premier League duty, pose a constant white-ball threat and will fancy their chances of a top-two finish in Group C ahead of two-time victors West Indies.

Bangladesh are no longer pushovers but the T20 World Cup has not been a happy hunting ground and a 24% winning record suggests it will be difficult to advance past South Africa and Sri Lanka in Group D.

To have any hope of reaching the 'Super 8s', Oman would need to stun Australia or England in Group B.

Nepal, travelling without spinner Sandeep Lamichhane who was recently cleared of rape on appeal but has been unable to secure a visa to enter the US, and Papua New Guinea enter their second showing with minimal expectations but nothing to lose.

"You never know what's going to come out of a T20 because it changes almost every ball," said Uganda's Nsubuga.