T20 World Cup 2021: Top 10 players to watch out for in the Super 12 stage

T20 WC 2021: Here is a list of the top 10 players who may make it big in the upcoming Super 12 stage of the showpiece tournament.

Babar Azam, Shakib Al Hasan, Rashid Khan, and Ishan Kishan

Clockwise (from top left): Babar Azam, Shakib Al Hasan, Rashid Khan, and Ishan Kishan.   -  AP/PTI

The first top-level global event to be conducted after the COVID-19 pandemic by the International Cricket Council, the T20 World Cup 2021 has already provided some more thrills after the absorbing Indian Premier League. The Super 12s will hopefully showcase some brilliance from numerous less-familiar players from around the world, those who could not feature in the IPL. And who can resist the temptation of an upset by a less-fancied group of cricketers? Scotland’s shock win over Bangladesh at Al Amerat does whet the appetite for more.

Here are some cricketers who can excel in the Super 12s.

1. Liam Livingstone

The England batter can whip the ball hard in all directions and single-handedly turn contests around. He possesses a strong bottom hand and can quickly come down hard on the ball to generate leverage. At Trent Bridge, in a T20I against Pakistan in July, he scored 103 off 42 deliveries to nearly hand his team victory, smashing nine sixes and six fours, mainly through cuts and pulls and slogs off spinners.

Livingstone may have struggled with the bat for Rajasthan Royals in the second leg of the IPL, but he does have runs under his belt this season, having topped the batting charts in the Hundred (348 runs at 58). It seems he does enjoy the ball coming on to the bat, but given the fact that he has had the warm-up in some of the sluggish tracks of the UAE through the IPL, he is sure to try to adjust quickly to tee off again.

2. Dawid Malan

Another England batter who can score quickly, Malan has brute force as well as finesse. He is the top-ranked T20I batter in the latest ICC rankings, and the fastest to 1,000 T20I runs.

Malan didn’t play the second leg of the IPL, but he did play the Hundred, scoring 214 runs to be fifth among the leading run-getters in the competition. He showed his versatility as a batter when within five days of having played his ninth 100-ball contest, he was defending solidly and quietly accumulating runs in a Test match against India at Leeds. He watched the ball closely and made good use of the late cut or the dab through third man.

Malan uses the late cut well in limited-overs matches as well, and when needed, can play unorthodox shots such as the ramp shot. All in all, he is likely to be a thorn in the opposition’s flesh at the T20 World Cup.

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3. Babar Azam

The Pakistan captain has often been compared to Virat Kohli and for a reason. Babar is known to have scored runs against some of the best bowling attacks, and in some of the most challenging conditions. Moreover, like Kohli, he is a prolific run-getter in all formats. He sits second among batters in the ICC rankings for T20Is, ahead of Kohli at No. 4, and is second to Kohli in the list of players with the most player-of-the-series awards in T20s (Kohli 7, Babar 5).

Babar is coming into the T20 World Cup on the back of some excellent performances in the National T20 Cup, a domestic competition. Playing for Central Punjab, he scored 286 runs at 7.50 and a strike-rate of 143. He scored an unbeaten century, too.

Like Kohli, he will be Pakistan’s talisman in the T20 World Cup. Consistent performances with the bat can inspire the rest of his team to excel as well. Given how the team conjured a surprise in the 2017 Champions Trophy, a second T20 World Cup title for Pakistan in 2021 is a realistic possibility.

4. Glenn Maxwell

The 33-year-old Glenn Maxwell hit a purple patch in the second leg of the IPL, finishing with 513 runs in the tournament, scored at a strike-rate of 144.10. He scored half-centuries in four of his last six matches, becoming the lynchpin of Royal Challengers Bangalore’s bid for its maiden title which ended with a defeat in the Eliminator. Maxwell has shown he can score on sluggish tracks as well as hard ones.

Australia will surely look up to him to continue to shine in the UAE as it comes off three series defeats this year – in New Zealand (3-2), in the West Indies (4-1) and in Bangladesh (4-1). Maxwell opted out of the tours of the Caribbean and Bangladesh, and in New Zealand scored a solitary half-century in five matches.

All that will hardly matter, though, as he looks to continue to plunder the bowling in the same venues as in the IPL. He recently indicated that the fact that he was given a consistent batting spot (No. 4) aided his run-scoring form, and he will hope that he is given the same spot when he plays for the national team.

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5. Ishan Kishan

Wicketkeeper-batter Ishan Kishan has shown his prowess with the bat in numerous IPL matches and domestic competitions in the past. His form dipped in the IPL this year, but he came roaring back to score two half-centuries in the last two matches for Mumbai Indians, including a 32-ball 84 on October 8 that deflated Sunrisers Hyderabad in their last group game.

If Ishan is chosen in the first XI, he could set the stage alight with his blitzkrieg. Ishan has played three T20Is for India in his career, all of them this year. He scored an unbeaten 20 in a T20I in Sri Lanka in July, and 60 in two matches against England in March, including an innings of 56 (32b) in Ahmedabad. He scored a half-century in July in his ODI debut as well.

6. Tabraiz Shamsi

With 28 wickets in 17 matches, South Africa’s Tabraiz Shamsi is the highest wicket-taker in T20Is so far this season and if he adds four more wickets to his tally in the T20 World Cup, he will hold the record for the most wickets in a calendar year. Shamsi hasn’t just been a prolific wicket-taker, he has also been extremely frugal with the ball, maintaining an economy rate of 5.53, the second-best this year among bowlers with 15 or more wickets.

Shamsi is a left-arm wrist-spinner who can impart spin and dip to his deliveries to fox batters. He has been South Africa’s most successful spinner in limited-overs internationals in the last two years. He’s in form, too, having claimed 12 wickets in six limited-overs matches in Sri Lanka in September. Five of those 12 wickets were in a One-Day International in Colombo – his career-best bowling performance.

Spinners are likely to play a crucial role in some of the slow pitches of the UAE during the T20 World Cup, and Shamsi will be South Africa’s go-to man to deliver the goods.

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7. Wanindu Hasaranga

Like Shamsi, Sri Lanka’s Wanindu Hasaranga has had an excellent year with the ball, taking 22 wickets in 13 matches. This right-arm wrist spinner possesses a deadly googly. He is currently No. 2 in ICC T20I rankings for bowlers, and his career average of 15.28 in 26 matches is the sixth-best of all time.

Hasaranga came into prominence with excellent performances against India in the T20I series in Sri Lanka in July. His spell of 4 for 9 in the third match handed Sri Lanka its first-ever T20I series win against India. It landed him a contract with Royal Challengers Bangalore for the second leg of the IPL where he got two games but couldn’t make an impact.

He did make a mark in another club tournament, though; he finished as the leading wicket-taker (17 wickets in 10 matches) in the Lanka Premier League of 2020-21. Expect him to be among the wickets at the T20 World Cup.

8. Shakib Al Hasan

Shakib Al Hasan is already a modern-day giant for Bangladesh, and his inspired performances with bat and ball can lift the team to great heights. Shakib is known to raise his game against top opponents and in big tournaments. He was a revelation in the ODI World Cup of 2019, scoring 606 in eight matches – with centuries against England and West Indies – and picking 11 wickets. Solo efforts are not enough, though; he needs support from other members of his team if it wants to make it to the semifinals of the T20 World Cup. Its loss to Scotland in the qualifying phase will hurt.

The left-arm spinner took only two wickets in the three matches he played for Kolkata Knight Riders in the second leg of the IPL, but importantly, he did maintain a decent economy rate of 7.19 in the tournament for this season.

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9. Mustafizur Rahman

The left-arm seamer is currently ranked eighth among bowlers in T20 Internationals. His career average of 18.58 is the 10th best among bowlers with 50 or more wickets, and he was the fourth-fastest to 50 wickets in the format. He is known to bamboozle batters with his cutters and slower balls; he mixes up his lengths well and has a decent fast delivery in his arsenal as well.

In the recent five-match T20I series against New Zealand, Mustafizur took eight wickets at an average of 11. In one of the matches, he took 4 for 12 to help skittle out New Zealand for 93 and facilitate a six-wicket win.

He took three wickets for Rajasthan Royals in the second phase of the IPL and was a bit expensive as well in the tournament (ER: 8.41), but given his credentials and his consistency over a number of years, he is likely to be among the wickets at the T20 World Cup.

10. Rashid Khan

The Afghanistan leg-spinner is already a superstar for his effectiveness with the ball and will be key to his team’s chances at the T20 World Cup. He is usually a top wicket-taker, but wickets or no wickets, he almost always dries up the runs from his end. His career economy rate of 6.35 in all T20 cricket is testimony to that.

Rashid has been so consistent that since his ascent to No. 5 in the T20I rankings for bowlers in 2016, he has never been out of the top five. Indeed, for more than two years, he held on to his No. 1 spot.

Rashid’s performance in IPL 2021 was noteworthy yet again, if not extraordinary. He was a lone bright spot for Sunrisers Hyderabad, taking 18 wickets at 20.83 and an economy rate of 6.69.

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