Despite not proceeding beyond the Asia regional finals in qualification for this year’s T20 World Cup after finishing behind Singapore and Qatar, Nepal is now just one step away from a second appearance at a global event after the ICC announced its qualification pathway for the 2021 T20WC on Thursday.

The announcement included the news that the ICC had shelved reported plans to scrap the global qualifier in favour of a regional approach. The global pathway remains, albeit in a modified form, using a mélange of criteria.

The new “one-off” qualification process will take into account finishing places at the upcoming 2020 event, world rankings at the start of 2020 and regional pathway tournaments, culminating in two parallel eight-team global (or as Bertus de Jong has described them; ‘supra-regional’) qualifiers being played in 2021, with each event providing two teams spots at the World Cup.

This decision has resulted in a bigger global qualifier ‘pool’; two more teams than 2019’s men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier’s 14.

With only four spots up for grabs at the 2021 event – as opposed to the six berths which were played for at T20WCQ 2019 – the 12 teams, who made round two of the 2020 event in Australia will gain automatic entry into the tournament the following year.

A thread in reaction to the news by Bertus de Jong

The bottom four teams at the 2020 World Cup will drop back one step, to the 2021 global qualifiers where they will also be joined by the next four best T20I ranked teams as of 1 January 2020. The remaining eight sides will qualify through regional events.

While it may have been “at the heart of establishing this one-off process” according to Will Glenwright, ICC General Manager Development, the philosophy of providing a meritocratic pathway has been diluted this time around with the use of rankings to give four teams a pass to the global qualifiers, including two teams who were not at T20WCQ 2019: Zimbabwe (Ranked 11) and Nepal (12). The other two sides are UAE (15) and Hong Kong (20).

The decision to give Zimbabwe an automatic spot is understandable; they were due to compete at T20WCQ 2019 but were disqualified from participating due to the conditions of their suspension from the ICC.

The series of global pathway events leading up to and including 2019’s global T20WC qualifier was as engrossing and exciting as it was meritocratic; but the use of rankings to seed some teams and not others – rather than by using recent performances in ICC events – would appear to fly in the face of that meritocracy.

UAE and Hong Kong both qualified for the knock-outs of last year’s qualifiers. Behind them were Canada, Jersey, Kenya, Singapore, Bermuda and Nigeria.

After finishing two places above Nepal, atop the table at the 2019 Asia regional final, Singapore could be forgiven for feeling particularly aggrieved at the ICC announcement. Ranked only one place behind Hong Kong, they finished with two wins at the global qualifier, including a victory over Scotland on day one of the event. Despite their strong recent performances and marked improvement, they will now have to win one of the two Asia regional events to book a spot at one of the two global qualifiers.

Eight teams to progress from regional qualifiers

As it was for the 2020 event, eight sides will progress to the global qualifying event/s from regional events. This time around it will be by way of 11 qualification events which will take place across the five ICC regions (Africa, Americas, Asia, East-Asia Pacific and Europe).

The ICC have adjusted the spread of the eight regional qualifiers from what was in place for 2019 T20WCQ, reallocating one of Africa’s three spots to Europe, who will now see two side progress from its regional final.

One can only assume this is as a result of the perceived strength of the remaining African members, considering Namibia – a qualifier from the region in 2019 – is guaranteed a place at least at the 2021 global qualifiers after securing their place at the 2020 T20 World Cup.

With Ireland, Netherlands and Scotland also guaranteed to be in at least the global qualifiers, the two spots afforded to Europe will be music to the ears of Germany, who missed out on progressing last time by 0.053 on net run rate, behind Jersey.

The planning of the pathway to the second global event provided the ICC “with a one-off qualification challenge” according to ICC Head of Events Chris Tetley who had “worked through a number of options together with Members and we’re all strongly in favour of this approach which allows for both global and regional competitions.”

Despite an unenviable record – the region has never provided an Associate team for a T20 World Cup, nor has one made it past a T20WCQ round stage since 2012 – the Americas has retained its two places at the global qualifiers.

As an aside, and as Bertus also points out, the ICC release refers to teams’ ranking when determining in regional finals in relation to Kenya and Nigeria’s participation, but it would appear to be an error – and that teams who participated in T20WCQ 2019 will be afforded spots in regional finals (where played) rather than by ranking, as Uganda, Ghana and Botswana are all above 40th placed Nigeria.

The 11 regional events for the 2021 T20 World Cup:

Africa

  • The two highest ranked teams in Africa as of 1 January 2020 will automatically qualify for the Africa final; Kenya (25) and Nigeria (40)#
  • The remaining participating teams will compete in one of two sub-regional qualifiers
  • The top two teams from each sub-regional event will progress to the Africa Final
  • The winner of the Africa final will progress to one of the global qualifiers

 Asia

  • Participating teams will compete in one of two regional events
  • The winner of each regional event will progress to one of the global qualifiers

East Asia Pacific

  • Participating teams will compete in one regional final
  • The winner will progress to one of the global qualifiers

Americas

  • Participating teams will compete in one regional final
  • The top two teams will progress to one of the global qualifiers

Europe

  • The highest ranked team in Europe as of 1 January 2020 will automatically qualify for the Europe final; Jersey (26)
  • The remaining participating teams will compete in one of three sub-regional qualifiers
  • The top team from each sub-regional event will progress to the Europe final
  • The top two teams from the Europe final will progress to one of the global qualifiers

The 11 qualifying events will take place between March and September 2020. The two eight-team global qualifiers will take place between March and July 2021 and the distribution of the 16 teams across the two events will be confirmed following the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2020 when all participants will be known.

All Members who meet the (as yet unseen) ICC Event Participation Criteria (EPPC) will be eligible to participate in the qualification events.

The sixteen-team 2021 T20 World Cup replaces a previously scheduled eight-team Champions Trophy.

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