Wayne Madsen Spencer Johnson Ben Manenti Italy ready for 2024 T20 World Cup bid

A 90mph/145kph left-arm fast bowler, modern county cricket legend, and double Big Bash League winner is among the players leading Italy’s bid to qualify for the 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup.

Italy will compete for one of the two available tournament spots when the seven-team T20 World Cup Europe qualifiers are played in Scotland in July, with the hosts and Ireland clear favourites.

The Europe Qualifier will be held in Edinburgh from July 20 to 28 in a round-robin format. The seven teams involved are Austria, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Jersey and Scotland, with the winners and runners-up advancing to the 2024 T20 World Cup. Two European countries England and Holland have already qualified for the tournament.

Italy are ranked 32nd in the world in T20Is, sandwiched between Tanzania and Saudi Arabia, but Berg and his assistant Kevin O’Brien have been semi-professionals in recent months, running regular weekend training camps in Milan, Bologna and Rome. has led a drive towards mastery.

They hope to supplement the Italian-based elite with a handful of full-time players from around the world, with Berg himself as captain at the age of 42 alongside his commitments with Northamptonshire in county cricket. Will continue to work.

Johnson, a left-arm seamer, starred for the Brisbane Heat in their most recent run to the BBL final, taking nine wickets in the tournament and bowling several quick, counter-spells with the new ball. Johnson’s grandfather moved to Australia from Italy as a teenager, and his manager confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that he had recently obtained his Italian passport and plans to play in July’s qualifiers.

“He’s nervous,” Berg told ESPNcricinfo. “He’s going to be a big boost for us. It’s always good to have someone who can bowl close to 150 clicks at this level. He’s had a tough time with injuries but he’s pretty strong now. Coming back. July.”

Madsen, meanwhile, has scored almost 20,000 runs for Derbyshire since signing for County in 2009, thanks to his Italian passport. “He’s wanted to play for the last couple of years now,” Berg said. “He’s at a stage in his career where he can slip away for maybe a week or two to play in a big tournament like this.”

Madsen will miss two County Championship fixtures if selected. Kent’s Grant Stewart – who has already played 10 T20Is for Italy – is also expected to miss two games to play in the qualifiers.

Manenti, the off-spinning all-rounder who was part of the Sydney Sixers’ BBL title wins in 2019/20 and 2020/21, is also set to make his debut and could play alongside his younger brother Harry. He has had success with the bat for South Australia this season, and also provides a reliable off-spin option.

Former Australian opener Joe Burns is expected to qualify in late 2023. While Italy do not expect him to be available this summer, Berg believes Burns will be in the mix for World Cup selection “if we pull a miracle and qualify. In July”.

‘He’s coming to play for the Azzurri’

Italy going into the European qualifiers with a handful of professionals in their ranks would likely not be universally popular in the associate game. “But at the end of the day, they all have the right to play for us either through their passports or through their bloodlines,” Berg said. “I am more than happy to represent the national team for them.

“It’s not like we’re throwing cash at them or anything like that. They’re coming to play for the love of the blue bloods, to play for the Azzurri. As soon as I mentioned it, they just boarded. But they are ready to help. Yes, we have pros available, but we also have our local players pushing for spots. It’s heartening for me and the guys I work with. It’s shocking that these people are pushing themselves so hard.”

Berg, a South African-born all-rounder who enjoyed an extensive county career with Middlesex, Hampshire and Northants, first played for Italy in 2012. He has been heavily involved over the past three years, initially playing as captain and later as head coach.

“When I came into the job, I wanted to push and direct Italian cricket towards a more professional setup,” he said. “The one thing we struggle with sometimes is getting players time off from work. Some guys work double shifts or double jobs, so it’s hard to stay away from work. We have to play in advance and it can be really difficult.

“Our squad for this summer looks as good on paper as it did at the tournament, but our biggest focus is the week before the tournament. That’s key for us: bonding, getting to know each other and Working for each other.Strengths and weaknesses.

“Hopefully we can catch teams like Scotland and Ireland on a bad day and get to know them. But we’re generally moving in the right direction. If this tournament in July doesn’t work out for us, hopefully That we have everything to push forward. For the next one.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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