The 2021 T20 World Cup is just a month away, and as we build up to the tournament, it's a good opportunity to take a look at the 3 biggest match-winners for each of the teams that will be competing for the cup.
These are players who have consistently won games for their side, or have the potential to do so. In a format where individual performances can be the difference between victory and defeat, those who shine through with their ability to perform under pressure hold the key to success in the T20 World Cup.
Let's take a look at some of the names who might rock the tournament!
Who's who of this year's T20 World Cup
India are not short of true T20 match-winners, but at the end of the day, their three best might just be their top cross-format stars. Jasprit Bumrah has the ability to turn games around whenever he bowls, switching seamlessly between an attacking wicket-taker and a death-bowling genius, and his superb form of late (albeit in Tests) should hold him in good stead.
The same can be said about vice-captain Rohit Sharma, who, if he gets going, is only known to leave the field after the game has been all but won. His ability to attack quality spin bowling will make him even more dangerous in the UAE.
And then, of course, there's Virat Kohli. India's captain has seemed somewhat out of form (compared to his usual standards) since mid 2020, but in this format, he's remained fantastic in every way. Case in point: he was the Player of the Series in India's T20I series against England earlier this year. It's also worth remembering that Kohli was the Player of the Tournament in both of the last two editions of the T20 World Cup. Cricket's biggest superstar leads from the front, and he's expected to do so in his final T20 World Cup as captain, too.
Also watch out for: Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Varun Chakravarthy
England's electric batting lineup contains many gems, but Jos Buttler can render almost any bowling attack ineffective with his innovative shots. Though his recent form has been lukewarm, the 'keeper-batsman is known to stand up when it matters most, and that might well be the case in the T20 World Cup.
A more conditions-minded pick would be Adil Rashid, the experienced leg-spinner who is no stranger to turning games around. Batsmen will definitely need to exercise caution while facing him.
Despite the presence of these stalwarts and others, relative newcomer Liam Livingstone might just be England's trump card. During The Hundred and England's home series prior to it, Livingstone showed just how destructive a six-hitter he can be, with his 42-ball hundred against Pakistan the best of his many grand performances. Factor in his excellent fielding and handy spin-bowling, too, and you get one of the biggest threats in this T20 World Cup.
Also watch out for: Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood, Moeen Ali
In a team stacked with T20 superstars, it's not easy to pick just three -- but captain Kieron Pollard elevates himself above his peers in every way. The most experienced and successful T20 cricketer ever, Pollard has recently shown in the IPL, CPL, and for the West Indies that he's returning to his destructive best after a brief lull. Combine that with his handy cutters, electric fielding, and inspiring captaincy, and it's easy to see why the Trinidadian will be so important for his team.
Even if he doesn't perform, the West Indies have more than enough potential match-winners, including the fearsome Andre Russell. Russell's batting (and his strike rate) is a brand in itself, and he almost doesn't need an introduction -- especially not just a few weeks after he blasted a 14-ball 50 in the CPL. With a few other such performances this year, including some with his fiery bowling, he looks ready to light up the T20 World Cup.
In comparison to Russell and Pollard, Fabian Allen might not seem as important to the West Indies, but what gets him onto this list over Dwayne Bravo, Chris Gayle, and others is his current form in all three departments. He's the best fielder in a team already filled with great fielders, his slow left-arm bowling is at its accurate best right now, and his nerves of steel while smashing boundaries at the death mean that Allen can influence the game at any time.
Also watch out for: Evin Lewis, Dwayne Bravo, Nicholas Pooran
Glenn Maxwell's runs in the first half of the IPL were very encouraging, especially because of the ability he showed in completely changing the flow of an innings in the middle overs.
Like many other entrants on this list, he's also an excellent fielder, which makes the job of strike bowlers like Mitchell Starc easier. Starc can pose a significant challenge to batsmen in both the powerplay and the death overs, with his ability to swing the ball and bowl inch-perfect yorkers as well as his sheer pace.
Despite the presence of multiple star batsmen, it's the in-form Mitchell Marsh who the Aussie will look to for solidity in the middle order. His consistency across conditions this year should inspire confidence in fans ahead of the T20 World Cup, even if he doesn't perform as a seam bowler-- although recent performances suggest that he will.
Also watch out for: David Warner, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood
Babar Azam is not considered one of the world's finest batsmen, especially in T20Is, for no reason. He regularly churns out runs at the top of the order, which sets the innings up for the rest of his team very well. UAE conditions aren't an issue for him either, and neither do they bother his opening partner Mohammed Rizwan.
The recent form of these two batsmen has allowed Pakistan to reach impressive scores, and both of them have the ability to accelerate through the innings at will.
And when there are runs on the board, Pakistan's star pacer Shaheen Afridi becomes all the more tricky to tackle. Tall, left-armed and very quick, Afridi can rip through teams in the powerplay before finishing off the job with a frugal display at the death. With plenty of recent success under his belt, Afridi could be one of the toughest pacers to score off in this year's T20 World Cup.
Also watch out for: Mohammad Hafeez, Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan
Glenn Phillips has been on a rampage of sorts ever since top-level cricket returned late last year. A T20I century against the West Indies late last year preceded some fabulous innings in the Vitality Blast, The Hundred, and the CPL, and he's likely to continue smashing bowlers everywhere come late October.
He might receive support from Mitchell Santner, who is known to bring out big shots when needed, although the all-rounder's main contribution in the T20 World Cup will be as the restrictive left-arm finger-spinner that every team needs. Even when compared to other teams' choices for this role, Santner is very difficult to score quickly off.
One batsman who will definitely provide adequate support for Phillips is the ever-reliable Kane Williamson, who is not just the Black Caps' captain, but also their best batsman on slower tracks. Often wrongly considered too slow for T20s, New Zealand's all-format talisman boasts of an amazing IPL record and is also the No.9 T20I batsman ain the world ccording to ICC rankings.
Also watch out for: Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult, Martin Guptill
One of South Africa's best batsmen in recent years has been wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock, who is no stranger to scoring quick in the powerplay. It's his wonderful strokeplay that the Proteas will count on to get them off to good starts in this year's T20 World Cup.
On the bowling front, there's Tabraiz Shamsi, the No.1 T20I bowler in the world, whose left-arm wrist-spin is too much for many batsmen to handle. He's been South Africa's best bowler by some distance this year, with 28 wickets at an unbelievable average of 12.85. On top of that, he's conceded less than a run a ball. As the pitches in the UAE slow down, his stranglehold on batsmen will only grow stronger.
Shamsi will be even more effective with Kagiso Rabada in the side. The Proteas' star fast bowler has proven in the IPL what a force he can be in the death overs, while his powerplay skills have never been a secret.
Also watch out for: Aiden Markram, Anrich Nortje, Keshav Maharaj
This year's T20 World Cup is the best chance the Afghans have ever had of making the knockout stage of a major ICC tournament, and star leg-spinner and former captain Rashid Khan in particular holds the key to his team's success.
The No.3 T20I bowler in the world is virtually unplayable when on song, especially in the UAE, and good performances from him could carry Afghanistan into the knockout stage. He'll have all-rounder Mohammad Nabi, whose miserly spells help Rashid rip through batting line-ups, for support, while his batting can propel his team to good totals while safeguarding against a collapse.
Although it's Mujeeb Ur Rahman who completes Afghanistan's enviable spin trio, swashbuckling southpaw Najibullah Zadran may prove more crucial to his team's chances. Zadran rarely lets go of an opportunity to finish games, and his destructive batting has won many matches-- including the West Indies' only loss in their successful 2016 campaign.
Also watch out for: Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmanullah Gurbaz
Sri Lanka's batting hasn't been at its best this year, but the return of Kusal Perera may help the Lions in that regard. The entertaining left-handed opener is known for his boundary-filled rampages, especially in this format, and his presence should help his fellow batsmen feel at ease at the crease.
Wanindu Hasaranga can certainly chip in with the bat, too, but he's more valued as a leg-spinner. The No.2 T20I bowler in the world, Hasaranga's recent dazzling form on turning wickets should give Sri Lankan fans reason to hope that they can bowl their way to a good finish.
Seam bowler Dushmanta Chameera is another star of the Sri Lankan attack, especially considering how he uses his pace and bounce in the powerplay.
Also watch out for: Dhananjaya de Silva, Avishka Fernando, Maheesh Theekshana
Star all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan will once again be counted on to shore up Bangladesh's batting lineup, which has struggled to fire this year, and will continue to miss the services of Tamim Iqbal in the T20 World Cup. His left-arm spin should also prove quite a handful in helpful conditions.
At least in the bowling department, though, he won't be alone, especially considering Mustafizur Rahman's recent return to form. The left-arm pacer's cutters have been incredibly effective this year, and the addition of swing to the death-bowling genius's arsenal will make him a tough proposition for batsmen in the T20 World Cup.
Not many players who debuted in 2021 feature on this list, but left-arm finger-spinner Nasum Ahmed easily makes the cut. The Tigers' latest spin-bowling threat has been nearly unplayable this year, with 18 wickets at an average of 15.55 and an economy barely over 6. While the pitches in the T20 World Cup are unlikely to aid him as much as the ones in Bangladesh did, the rookie knows how to succeed against quality batsmen, and will be confident of making an impact at the showpiece event.
Also watch out for: Mahmudullah, Afif Hossain, Shamim Hossain
Opening batsman Paul Stirling, who has been enjoying a purple patch this year, is sure to rock the T20 World Cup. Even Trent Boult admits he will be one of the toughest batsmen to bowl to in the tournament, and with Stirling's form, Ireland have a great chance of making it to the Super 12 and proving Boult right.
Also coming off recent successes is Simi Singh, the bowling all-rounder whose quick runs and tidy bowling have been priceless this year. His maiden ODI five-wicket-haul came earlier this year in the UAE, and Singh will bank on that familiarity to outsmart batsmen from around the world.
With pace and bounce expected, at least early on in the T20 World Cup, Mark Adair will come into play for Ireland. The tall pacer's skill with the new ball makes him a troublesome customer in the powerplay, while his ability to smack sixes at the end of an innings makes him all the more useful in a T20 tournament.
Also watch out for: Shane Getkate, Gareth Delany, Kevin O'Brien
Set to retire from all forms of cricket at the end of the year, Essex captain and Dutch legend Ryan ten Doeschate will surely savor another chance to demonstrate that he remains the world's best Associate team batsman.
Similarly, spin-bowling all-rounder Roelof van der Merwe, who featured for Somerset in the Vitality Blast finals, will relish the slower conditions that will set in after a few T20 World Cup matches.
The Netherlands also stocked one of their best sides ever with many amazing fast bowlers, including Brandon Glover. Glover was his side's best bowler in the 2019 T20 World Cup Qualifier, where he took 16 wickets at just 10.68 runs a piece. His pace will be a fantastic weapon in a Dutch arsenal that aims to go farther than it usually does in the T20 World Cup.
Also watch out for: Fred Klaasen, Colin Ackermann, Max O'Dowd
The ICC T20I rankings offer a rough idea of just how good Scotland's finest are: No.11 bowler Mark Watt is an economical left-arm finger-spinner who loves luring batsmen into ill-fated shots with his flatter offerings, while No.3 all-rounder Richie Berrington is both a reliable middle-order batsman and a clever operator when bowling seam-up.
He's also just one of two Scottish cricketers with a T20I century-- the other is No.19 batsman George Munsey, whose strike rate of 155.01 should be evidence enough of his destructive tendencies. The hard-hitting opener is used to giving Scotland great powerplay scores, and he may enjoy the surfaces in Oman early in the T20 World Cup.
Also watch out for: Safyaan Sharif, Calum MacLeod, Alasdair Evans
Former South African all-rounder David Wiese may have surprised many when he declared himself available to represent Namibia in this year's T20 World Cup, but it's certainly no surprise that he's made the side. His recent all-round exploits include two CPL 5-fers, which helped take his side to the finals.
His teammates include fellow all-rounder Jan Frylinck, who is both a superb seam bowler and a dangerous batsman, especially at the death. Speaking of batting, captain Gerhard Erasmus will have to shoulder the bulk of Namibia's batting load, but he's shown before that he's up to the task-- such as in the 2019 T20 World Cup Qualifier, where only Paul Stirling outscored him.
Also watch out for: JJ Smit, Bernard Scholtz, Stephan Baard
Papua New Guinea
For Papua New Guinea to qualify for the Super 12 of this year's T20 World Cup, they'll need the astute captaincy, steady batting, and tricky off-spin of Assad Vala for sure.
But "The Barramundis", as PNG are called, much more than a one-man show: Norman Vanua and his crafty seam bowling and lower-order runs have bailed PNG out of many a tricky situation (his performance against Kenya in the 2019 T20 WC Qualifier speaks volumes), while Tony Ura, if he can turn his form around, is the batsman PNG need to set up challenging totals for their bowlers to work with in this year's T20 World Cup.
Also watch out for: Damien Ravu, Nosaina Pokana, Charles Amini
Oman's success in the 2019 T20 World Cup Qualifier was in large part thanks to aggressive opener Jatinder Singh, who scored the third-most runs in the tournament, and fast bowler Bilal Khan, who claimed the most wickets (18, at an average of). Both are in good form, too, with Singh even scoring a 60-ball ODI ton against Nepal recently.
Captain and No.9 all-rounder Zeeshan Maqsood may not stand out in comparison, but as one of the best of his team's all-rounders, his contributions in familiar conditions could be the difference between Oman making it to the Super 12 in this T20 World Cup and getting left behind, especially considering Khawar Ali's uncertain form given his recent injuries.
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Also watch out for: Khawar Ali, Aqib Ilyas, Mohammad Nadeem