Mumbai: Arch-rivals India and Pakistan were today placed in the same group for next year's ICC World Twenty20, setting the stage for a high-voltage clash between the two sides on March 19 in Dharamsala.
The ICC today unveiled the groups and schedule of the event, which will be staged across eight venues in India from March 8 to April 3.
The two countries are currently undecided on whether to engage in a bilateral series later this month owing to political tensions. India will open their campaign against New Zealand on March 15 in Nagpur before taking on Pakistan. India's other matches will be against the qualifying Group A winners in Bengaluru on March 23 and Australia in Mohali on March 27.
A total of 58 matches, including 35 men's and 23 women's games, will be played in the 27-day tournament in Bengaluru, Chennai, Dharamsala, Kolkata, Mohali, Mumbai, Nagpur and New Delhi.
New Delhi and Mumbai will host the semi-finals on March 30 and 31, respectively, while Eden Gardens in Kolkata will be the venue of the April 3 finals. ICC Chairman Shashank Manohar, who attended the launch ceremony in Mumbai, said, "India is a country where cricket is a religion and not many places can match the passion for the game like India. I am fully confident that the Board of Control for Cricket in India will deliver an outstanding world cricket event, just like the ICC Cricket World Cups in 1987,
1996 and 2011."
"The ICC and BCCI are fully committed and will work together to make this a memorable event. I invite fans from across the world to witness fast-paced cricketing action on the field and enjoy the hospitality and culture of India, off it." BCCI Secretary Anurag Thakur promised a well-organised World Cup.
"We, as hosts, are fully prepared to organise one of the most entertaining spectacles in world cricket. We draw experience from hosting three ICC Cricket World Cups and are ready to make the ICC World Twenty20 India 2016 one of the most memorable events.
"Our preparations are in full swing, and BCCI and ICC is working together to make it a lifetime experience for the
players and the fans. India is a vibrant country - young, full of colour, energy and exuberance - and is very much like the concept of Twenty20 cricket itself. We would encourage everyone involved with the game to experience the best of India," he said.
The women's semi-finals and final will be followed by the men's knock-out matches. There is a reserve day for the finals.
The men's event will carry a total prize money of USD 5.6 million, which is an 86 per cent increase from the 2014 tournament, while the total prize money for the women's event is USD 400,000, which is a 122 per cent increase from the Bangladesh event.
There have been five different winners of the men's event while the England women's team won the inaugural tournament at home in 2009 before Australia won three straight titles in the West Indies, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in 2010, 2012 and 2014, respectively.
According to the men's event format, eight sides in two groups of four, will feature in the first round matches with the group winners joining eight sides in the Super 10 stage (two groups of five teams).
The top two sides from both the Super 10 Groups will then qualify for the semi-finals. In the women's event, the 10 sides will be divided into two groups and the top two sides from each group will progress to the semi-finals.
The first round matches in the men's event will take place in Dharamsala and Nagpur from March 8-13 and will feature Bangladesh, Netherlands, Ireland, debutant Oman (all in Group A), Zimbabwe, Scotland, Hong Kong and Afghanistan (all in Group B).
In a double-header on the opening day on March 8, Zimbabwe will face Hong Kong in the afternoon match, to be followed by the evening match between Scotland and Afghanistan. Both the matches will be played in Nagpur.
The group winners will join Australia, England, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies and host India in the Super 10 stage, which will be played
alongside the women's event from March 15 to 28.
Men's defending champion Sri Lanka have been placed in Super 10 Group 1 along with South Africa, West Indies, England and the Group B winner. They will open their title defence against the Group B winner in Kolkata on March 17, and play West Indies in Bengaluru on March 20, England in New Delhi on March 26 and South Africa in New Delhi on March 28.
Hosts India, which won the inaugural tournament in South Africa in 2007, are in Super 10 Group 2 along with 2009 winner Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand and the Group A winner.
Pakistan will take on the Group A winners in Kolkata on March 16, before locking horns with India. Their remaining two matches will be in Mohali against New Zealand and Australia on March 22 and 25, respectively.
Meanwhile, in the women's tournament, 2009 champions England are in Group B along with the West Indies, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and will start off against Bangladesh in Bengaluru on 17 March. Their other matches will be against India (22 March in Dharamsala), West Indies (24 March in Dharamsala) and Pakistan (27 March in Chennai).
Australia women, who will be bidding to win the title for the fourth straight time, is in Group A along with South Africa, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Ireland. Their opening
match will be against South Africa (18 March in Nagpur), followed by matches against New Zealand (21 March in Nagpur), Sri Lanka (24 March in New Delhi) and Ireland (24 March in New Delhi).
The ICC World Twenty20 trophy was also showcased at the ceremony before its departure to Scotland on December 13, as part of the Nissan Trophy Tour. The trophy will return to New Delhi on 1 February after visiting 11 countries.