Cape Town - Former England captain David Gower has named the two sides he believes will contest this year’s T20 World Cup final, although he is the first to admit that the unpredictability of the format is likely to leave him with egg on his face.
The tournament takes place in Australia between October 18 and November 15, with the West Indies the defending champions after a dramatic last-over win against England in Kolkata, India in 2016.
But the West Indies, who have two titles to their name, don’t make it into Gower’s final match-up - let alone the semi-finals.
“I think it will look very much the same as the (One Day International) World Cup last year, with the semi-finals made up of Australia, New Zealand, India and England,” he says.
“England will be working mighty hard to make sure they become champions in both the 50-over and 20-over formats, but all those teams have a very good chance. India recently lost to New Zealand, and New Zealand we know have a very strong team ethic. The Aussies always have good players, and England at the moment are blessed with some fine talent.
“If I had to say which two would make the final, I’d probably have to go with England and Australia. But like all these things, it’s a meaningless prediction as these games can change so quickly.”
As for South Africa, who face Australia in three T20s starting on Friday, Gower believes much will depend on their captain and team selection.
“For South Africa, (Quinton) de Kock is just a standout player. They’ll definitely need him and a couple of others to give you runs on the board,” he says.
“One of the things missing (for South Africa) at the World Cup in England last year was that sort of general confidence; catches going down, and situations going downhill rather than going forward. It’s impossible to quantify, but if you’re not quite sure of your plans, or not quite sure how to make them work and execute them, it makes the game tougher at the highest level.
“Mark Boucher is a proper character and he’s a major figure in South African cricket, but the thing with coaching is that when you have 11 of the best players in the world, that job becomes easier. Unfortunately for Boucher, that is not always the case, meaning that rather than make up the one or two percent against your rivals, you have to make up 10 percent, and that becomes quite a margin.”
Gower will be in South Africa in early March as a member of the Lord’s Taverners Celebrity Cricket XI. The UK-based disability sports charity will play two matches in Cape Town against its sister organisation Lord’s Taverners South Africa to help raise awareness of the work of the charity locally, which includes Table Cricket, an adapted version of the game which gives those with physical and learning disabilities the chance to play the sport we all love.
“The thing about Table Cricket is there are people like us who are able-bodied and able to play cricket out on big fields, and if you have an ounce of talent and ability, you can make a life out of it, as I’ve done, which is fantastic,” says Gower, who has been part of the Taverners for close to 40 years.
“But then you get these children who are not so able in many different ways. What the Lord’s Taverners have done in the UK is roll out these types of projects across the country for a long time now. And it’s amazing to see these kids really just enjoying themselves. It’s simple, it’s effective, and it gives them a sense of the team spirit that we have grown so accustomed to.”
Some other famous sport stars who will make the trip include former England captain Mike Gatting, ex-Three Lions fast bowling duo Andy Caddick and Gladstone Small, Worcestershire Women’s cricketer Chloe Hill, as well as former England rugby internationals Rob Andrew and George Chuter.