India and Pakistan will meet in the Super 12s stage of the 2021 men's T20 World Cup, to be co-hosted by the UAE and Oman between October 17 and November 14. This will make it the first face-off between the two teams in more than two years, their last fixture having come in the 2019 50-over World Cup.
On Friday, the ICC announced the make-up of the groups - both for the first round and for the Super 12s stage - for the big-ticket tournament, which will be the first multi-team, global event organised by the ICC since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic early last year. The final of the World Test Championship, featuring India and New Zealand, was hosted in Southampton last month.
The ICC did not unveil the schedule for the 16-team tournament, which is expected to be finalised shortly.
The first-round matches will be split between two groups, with the games to be played in the UAE and Oman. Group A has Sri Lanka, Ireland, Netherlands and Namibia, while Group B has Bangladesh, Scotland, Papua New Guinea and Oman. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the Super 12s, which will be played in the three UAE centres - Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
Teams in the Super 12s have been pooled into two groups as well. India and Pakistan are in Group 2 alongside New Zealand, Afghanistan and two qualifiers - B1 and A2. Group 1 comprises defending champions West Indies along with England, Australia and South Africa and the other two qualifers - A1 and B2. The groups, the ICC confirmed, were selected on the basis of the team rankings as of March 20, 2021.
In the 2020 edition of the tournament, which was originally scheduled for Australia and was later postponed by the ICC because of the Covid-19 pandemic, India and Pakistan were in different groups because they were No. 1 and No. 2 in the ICC T20I rankings at the time of the deadline. That would have been the first time the two teams would not have contested in the group stage of a global tournament since the 2011 50-over World Cup.
This time, India are second behind England, and ahead of New Zealand, followed by Pakistan, Australia, South Africa, Afghanistan and West Indies.
"There are some great match ups offered by the groups and it starts to bring the event to life for our fans as our first multi-team event since the onset of the global pandemic draws closer," Geoff Allardice, the ICC's acting chief executive, said in a statement on Friday. "Given the disruption caused by COVID-19, we selected the cutoff date as close as possible to the event to ensure we were able to include the maximum amount of cricket in the rankings which determine the groups.
"There is no doubt we will witness some highly competitive cricket when the event gets underway in just three months."
The tournament was earlier scheduled to be played in India, but owing to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic in the country, the BCCI decided to move it overseas, even though the Indian board continues to be official hosts for the event.
'Good to get Oman in the frame of world cricket' - Ganguly
The ICC had named the UAE as the back-up venue for the tournament in 2020 itself. Recently, it decided to add Oman as a venue keeping in mind the volume of cricket that the UAE - especially Abu Dhabi - has hosted since the pandemic began. The UAE will also host the remainder of the 2021 IPL from September 19 until mid-October.
The ICC felt having Oman as an additional venue would help keep the main grounds in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah fresh for the Super 12s stage. An ICC team is in Oman this week to inspect the two ovals at the Oman Cricket Academy.
"It is good to get Oman in the frame of world cricket with the hosting of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup," Sourav Ganguly, the BCCI president, said. "It will help a lot of young players take an interest in the game. We know it will be a world class event in this part of the world."
Jay Shah, the BCCI secretary who is also the current president of the Asian Cricket Council, said Oman, who are one of the teams participating in Round 1, deserved to be on the global map: "Co-hosting the World Cup will put Oman Cricket on the global stage. They are also playing the Qualifiers and it will be an icing on the cake if they make it to the Super 12s."