Monank Patel
USA skipper Monank Patel. Photo by Shiek Mohamed

The captains of the eight teams in ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier B are determined to prove they belong on the big stage when the hotly anticipated tournament kicks off in Zimbabwe this week.

Eight nations will duel for a spot in this year’s ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia as the hosts bid to book their place in the event for the first time in six years.

Jersey, Singapore and the United States will hope to topple Craig Ervine’s side in Group A while Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Uganda and the Netherlands make up the other half of the week-long tournament.

Zimbabwe did not participate in last year’s ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and captain Ervine hopes bouncing back on home soil can reinvigorate the cricketing nation.

The experienced left-handed batter, 36, said: “It has been many years since we’ve been involved in the World Cup, which is disappointing. There’s a lot at stake for us as a country and if we’re able to qualify again, all of a sudden the pieces of the puzzle start coming together again.

“It’s always very exciting to be playing at home in front of your home crowd and when you start to get results, you start to pull people together. That’s definitely something we need to find again – we want to start pulling Zimbabweans together, win some games and make it exciting for them to watch us.”

The hosts featured at the previous four editions of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup prior to last year while the Netherlands, who starred in 2014, 2016 and 2021, are another big-hitter. Scott Edwards’ side were eliminated in the group stage in India and the UAE and come into this week’s qualifier fresh off a three-match one-day international series against England.

The visit of Jos Buttler’s side has triggered a wave of cricketing fever across the nation and wicketkeeper Edwards, 25, hopes his team can harness that feel-good feeling and secure another milestone.

He said: “There’s a lot of hype around cricket in the Netherlands at the moment – it’s huge for Dutch cricket. It’s been a pretty busy summer – we’ve been speaking about taking a lot of confidence from playing these top nations, showing what we’ve learnt and proving that we’re a better team because of those games. The World Cup is massive for associate nations, so it’s always high on the agenda.”

One side the Netherlands will have to negotiate are Uganda, appearing at their first ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier for almost a decade after missing out in 2015 and 2019.

Captain Brian Masaba is relishing the opportunity and hopes his side’s fearless approach can reap rewards this week. “It’s been a while waiting for this opportunity, so everyone is pretty excited about it,” he said. “We play a very exciting brand of cricket – we like to go out and have fun. We wear our hearts on our sleeves and try to represent the country with honor.”

Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong are the other two teams in Group B aiming to spring a shock against the Netherlands.

PNG captain Assad Vala, whose team featured in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup for the first time last year, said: “It was a dream come true to get to the last World Cup, but this is a different ball game. We enjoyed the experience of playing in the big stadiums and we want to go again to experience that atmosphere.”

Group A side USA are hoping to do well and inspire the next generation. Qualifying for this year’s showpiece would be the perfect way to accelerate that trend and captain Monank Patel, whose side have never featured in the tournament, said: “It’s a big thing and a vision for us to qualify for the World Cup. This is a lifetime opportunity for us to perform and make sure we qualify – we are really confident, and we will do our best in the upcoming games.”

All games in the Qualifier will be streamed live on FanCode in the Indian sub-continent and on across the rest of the world.

ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier B match day 1 fixtures:

11 July – Zimbabwe v Singapore 09h00, Queens Sports Club

11 July – Jersey v USA, 09h00, Bulawayo Athletic Club

11 July – Netherlands v PNG, 13h00, Queens Sports Club

11 July – Hong Kong v Uganda, 13h00, Bulawayo Athletic Club

Match start times are all in local time