10 players to watch at the 2016 ICC World T20
1 David Warner (Australia)
This left-handed dasher stands only around 171 centimetres (around 5ft 7 in the old money) but packs a powerful punch. And he has all the tricks. Warner made his name in Twenty20 before refining his technique to become one of the best (and most dangerous) Test batsmen in world cricket. It is a measure of how lethal he can be that he is on this list ahead of his opening partner Aaron Finch, another powerful strokemaker who can score at a rapid rate. Their opening union will be a massive threat to rivals at India 2016. Warner is a clean hitter of the ball and is also not frightened to pull out the reverse sweep and other innovative shots. He also has had plenty of experience and success in the Indian Premier League, playing 83 matches for the Delhi Daredevils and Sunrisers Hyderabad, averaging 34 at a strike rare of almost 140. So the conditions will hold few fears for the feisty Warner.
2 Martin Guptill (New Zealand)
The big Kiwi has emerged as a key player for the Black Caps with a series of dazzling displays in the limited-over formats. Chief among those was his astonishing 237 not out from just 163 balls in the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cricket Cup against the West Indies. He clubbed 24 fours and 11 sixes in what was the second-highest score in one-day international cricket. He has backed that up with a string of good scores, including 93 from just 30 balls in a one-dayer against Sri Lanka in late 2015, with nine fours and eight sixes. Suffice to say when he hits them, they stay hit. Also a useful off-break bowler.
3 Andre Russell (West Indies)
If you were building a prototype player for T20 cricket you could do worse than take a look the Jamaican Russell. He bowls in the mid 140s, blasts sixes with ease and is some sort of superman in the field. Russell has styled himself as almost a full-time T20 gun for hire and he has generally fared well whenever he has taken the field, be it in the IPL, Australia’s Big Bash League or for the Windies. Has played in the IPL since 2012 for the Delhi Daredevils and Kolkata Knight Riders and sits top of the list of players with the highest strike rates: a staggering 177.88 at an average of 25.73. For the Daredevils he also took a double hat-trick (four wickets in successive balls) with his right-arm pace. He is so much of an all-rounder he has even turned out a few singles as “Dre Russ’’. We have plumped for Russell ahead of all-time T20 great Chris Gayle, just to mix it up. Watch out for Gayle if he makes it to India; playing for Royal Chargers Bangalore, he once belted 175 in an IPL match off 66 balls with 13 fours and 17 sixes.
4 AB de Villiers (South Africa)
Abraham Benjamin de Villiers is simply a world-class player. The Proteas’ captain and best player will carry many of their hopes as they chase a drought-breaking limited-overs title. De Villiers tops the ICC batting rankings in the 50-over game (as at January 2016) and is no slouch in T20 either. He holds the record for the fastest 50 in ODI history (16 balls) as well as the fastest hundred (31 balls). He is one of those annoying people who is good at whatever he turns his hand to; he also excelled as a junior in rugby, golf, swimming, tennis and hockey. Has played with great success in the IPL (highlight a 133 off 59 balls for the Royal Challengers Bangalore), so expect him to be one of the prime movers in India 2016. He will need to be if the Proteas are to reach the final stages.
5 Ben Stokes (England)
With Kevin Pietersen out of the picture, Ben Stokes has stood up as a potential match-winner, with both bat and ball. Stokes is a powerful left-hander and has hit a golden patch of form which included an amazing knock of 258 off just 198 balls in a Test against South Africa at Cape Town. He has a knack of taking wickets with his right-arm fast medium bowling and is a stand-out in the field. Stokes gives England a powerful presence down the order and can capitalise on fast starts from the likes of Alex Hales and Eoin Morgan. He could be a surprise packet for this ICC World Twenty20.
6 Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka)
We can’t go all batsmen, so we have gone for the intriguing Malinga the Slinger. There is some doubt about whether he will be fit for the T20 in India, but let’s hope so. Malinga is worthy of mention when talking about the greatest T20 bowlers of all and he also captained Sri Lanka to the 2014 T20 title. His unique slinging action, variations of pace and swinging yorkers make it almost impossible for batsmen to score heavily off him and he also takes wickets with alarming regularity. His stats in the Indian Premier League are testament to his standing in the shortest form of the game. The Mumbai Indians star has taken more wickets than any other player in IPL history. In 98 matches, he has 143 wickets at an average of 17.8 and an economy rate of 6.67 with a best of 5-13. Just a joy to watch when in full flight, though he is turning 33 in 2016 and is not quote as sharp as he was. Still bowling in the mid 140s.
7 Shahid Afridi (Pakistan)
The Pakistan T20 is 35 but has been at the top of the short-form games for many years. Tagged “Boom boom’’ Afridi in his younger days for his power hitting, he is a genuine all-rounder and his wrist spin will be a key weapon on the subcontinental pitches. The legendary Afridi holds the mark for the longest six ever recorded, measured at more than 155 metres and clearing the stadium roof at Johannesburg. Afridi rates himself a better bowler than batter so could be in for a huge tournament. What a way it would be to go out if he could lead his country to glory on the turf of Pakistan’s most bitter enemy. One thing is for sure: he will come out swinging.
8 Kane Williamson (New Zealand)
This outstanding Kiwi player has arrived as arguably the No.1 batsman in the game and it will be fascinating to see how he adapts to the shortest format. He has big shoes to fill coming in as captain to replace Brendon McCullum, a pioneer in the T20 game famed for his power hitting and ramp shots. McCullum has already said he won’t be playing in India and will retire after the coming Test series against Australia. The tournament will be poorer for his absence. Williamson is a very different player, much more classical, yet hits with surprising power and superb placement. He is surrounded by power hitters such as Guptill and Ross Taylor, so could be the glue that holds the Blacks Caps’ batting line-up together. His off-breaks might also be useful on the turning Indian pitches.
9 Virat Kohli (India)
A super batsman with dazzling footwork, and should be primed for a big tournament. Kohli rates in the top few batsmen in the world in both T20 and the 50-over format and has also been an outstanding player in the IPL over the past few seasons as well as being player of the tournament at the 2014 ICC World Twenty20, at which he averaged more than 100! He is captain of the Test team and vice-captain to MS Dhoni in the shorter forms of the game and will be the home team’s most important player for this event, a tag which brings with it a tremendous amount of pressure. A big tournament here though could cement his place in the Indian psyche as the successor to the great Sachin Tendulkar.
10 Yuvraj Singh (India)
We had to go with Yuvraj here because of what a wonderful story it would be if the veteran all-rounder can play a part in an Indian triumph on home soil. The 34-year-old has been through so much, including a battle with cancer, and was recalled for the January tournament in Australia, giving him a chance to press his claims for the ICC World T20. He has not played for the national team since the 2014 final loss to Sri Lanka when he infamously made only 11 off 21 balls. This from the same man who famously hit Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over at the 2007 World Twenty20. He also holds the record for the fast half-century in T20s, off just 12 balls! Throw in the facts he is a wily left-arm spinner and has a wealth of experience and he will hopefully play a big role when the important matches roll around.