Cape Town - The T20 World Cup has come and gone for the Proteas, but I am still in the sandpit of the United Arab Emirates. And what a lovely sandpit it is.
The tournament really has been an explosion of lights, sounds and high-octane action. It is only fitting that T20, the format of the future, has been played in a region where the future is now. For all of Test cricket’s unique pleasures and the idiosyncrasies of one-day international, it’s the shortest format that has the great global reach. Cricket has often been victim of wanting to remain an “Old Boys Club”, restricted to a handful of nations that once were under the colonial rule of Her Majesty’s United Kingdom, but the 2021 T20 World Cup has broken that door down.
Countries such as Oman and Papua New Guinea have rubbed shoulders with the likes of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, while Namibia and Scotland have even joined powerhouses such as India, Pakistan and New Zealand at the main table.
Among the enduring memories of this T20 World Cup was the Pakistani and Indian teams entering the Scottish and Namibian dressingrooms to share information and provide guidance.
There is no doubt the two associate nations, especially the younger players, would have cherished taking advice from the likes of Virat Kohli and Babar Azam, among others. And that’s why T20 is now a game of the people. It transcends traditions and stereotypes, and is inclusive the way the other formats could never be. It has been around long enough also for patterns and legacies to be developed, with this T20 World Cup bidding farewell to its pioneers in the form of West Indies duo Dwayne Bravo and Chris Gayle.
Although Gayle, commonly referred to as the “Universe Boss”, still wants another crack at a third T20 World Cup next year in Australia, Bravo knows the time has come for the new generation to carry the flag.
The baton will undoubtedly be passed to the likes of Afghanistan superstar Rashid Khan and Pakistani captain Babar to keep the flame burning. Equally, the UAE has proven to be fantastic hosts for the T20 World Cup, particularly as the tournament organisers had just four months to prepare for it, having immediately followed the IPL.
All the venues from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and Sharjah offer unique conditions, with each surface offering a different experience for both batters and bowlers.
There is a real case to be made for the UAE to host the T20 World Cup on an annual basis – if of course it could fit into the congested Future Tours Programme – for it has been wonderful entertainment for both the fans at the stadiums, and those watching at home. The tournament has had a Sevens rugby atmosphere at all the matches, with the respective DJs transforming each match into a music concert.Who would ever forget Kurt Darren’s Loslappie and Shakira’s Waka Waka playing at the Proteas’ matches? With Dubai the centre of the travel world, it could be a major attraction on the international cricket calendar in the same manner that the Dubai Sevens has become over the years. It’s not over just yet. England and New Zealand are set for a repeat of their epic 2019 Lord’s World Cup final in the first semi-final in Abu Dhabi today, before Dubai will be turned into a sea of green when Pakistan host Australia in the other semi tomorrow. I will be at both matches, where I expect England and Pakistan to meet on Sunday in the final.