With the ICC World T20 starting on Tuesday, ANT SIMS boldly picks out some of the players who’ll be worth watching no matter what.
Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler – England
The two Bs from England are bound to be explosive. Bairstow has been seriously impressive over the summer, particularly against South Africa, when he stepped in at Lord's to score 95 and 54 while under some serious scrutiny. He flopped in the only ODI match he played, and his exploits were curbed in the rain-reduced T20s, but his contributions for Yorkshire and his impressive showing against Pakistan in Dubai earlier this year have allowed the selectors to keep the faith in the youngster. A hard-hitting batsman whose natural style is to "see ball, hit ball", if Bairstow can channel his domestic form, he'll be one of the most explosive stars of the tournament.
Buttler, meanwhile, shot to stardom during the 2010 domestic season when he clobbered 440 runs for Somerset in the CB40. His run with the England lions has been equally impressive, scoring 262 runs at an average of 87.33 when the Lions toured to Sri Lanka earlier this year. During the recent T20 series against South Africa, he smacked an unbeaten 32 off just 16 balls, and while he managed just five in England's warm-up match against Australia on Monday, he's got serious promise.
Glenn Maxwell – Australia
The Victorian made a name for himself when he scored a 19-ball 50 against Tasmania in the 2011-12 season. He continued to impress on the Australian domestic circuit, and a stint with Hampshire in the Friends Life T20 saw him score 179 at an average of 44.75. Maxwell was equally impressive during Australia's recent ODI series against Pakistan – not only with the bat, but also with the ball. His part-time spin will come in very handy on the slow, low-turning pitches of Sri Lanka.
George Dockrell – Ireland
Dockrell is just 20 years old, but he's already one of the highest-rated spinners on the international stage. The Irishman has represented his country at age group cricket since the was Under 13. He's just been named the ICC Associate and Affiliate Player of the Year – finishing as top-wicket taker during the ICC's voting period. The youngster also has a good head on his shoulders, once sitting out on an international match as his exams took preference. The twirler is sure to have field day on Sri Lanka’s pitches, and could very well be a match-winner for Ireland.
Thisara Perera – Sri Lanka
South Africans will remember Perera from his unbeaten 69 off 44 in Kimberley earlier this year. After his knock, he quaintly suggested to the press contingent that those in the room rather direct their question to his skipper. He hasn't done all that much since then, but the all-rounder thrives in the short format of the game in the pinch-hitting role. He might not score the most runs of the tournament, but on a day when he does come off, he'll be an absolute treat to watch.
Farhaan Behardien – South Africa
“Fudge”, as he is affectionately known, had a massively impressive season with the Titans during South Africa's domestic T20, finishing as fourth highest run-scorer after scoring 333 runs in 13 matches at an average of 66.60. Behardien had a good stint with the A team in Ireland in August, with an unbeaten 88 and a nifty 51 in two 50-over outings. He's a wristy player who uses both classy flicks and his bottom hand to score runs as fast as he can. When he gets going, Behardien is an absolute delight to watch – but whether he can harness his domestic form to create fireworks on the international stage, only time will tell. He might not feature in the starting line-up first up, but when he does get a go, make sure to catch the highlights.
Saeed Ajmal – Pakistan
Ajmal is no stranger to the spotlight. If his action isn’t being debated, he’s ripping through batsmen with his crafty spin. He hardly goes wicketless in a match and is bound to give batsmen nightmares – anybody worth making a bold call will tip him to finish one of the top wicket-takes of the tournament; provided, of course, that Pakistan manages to make it past the Super Eights.
Shakib Al Hasan – Bangladesh
As an all-rounder in the shorter format of the game, Al Hasan almost stands unrivalled. He's ranked 9th in the world as an all-rounder and 10th as a bowler by the ICC. Since bursting onto the international stage in 2006, he's been one of Bangladesh's most important players. He got his campaign off to a good start during their warm-up clash against Ireland, taking 2-21 and chipping in with a super 52 off just 23 balls – a knock which featured five sixes and three fours. The sub-continental conditions are his playground, and he might very well be the difference Bangladesh needs to propel it past the group stages. DM
Photo: England's Jonny Bairstow throws a ball during a training session before their third cricket test match against South Africa at Lord's in London August 15, 2012. REUTERS/Philip Brown