As the meaningless group stages of yet another T20 World Cup reaches its climax, the real tournament will begin to take shape.
The Super 8 format offers a lot of opportunity for the top T20 players in the world to come to the fore, consistently, over a period of one week with high quality competition.
With the top 8 teams India, England, West Indies, Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, New Zealand pretty much through to the Super 8s, let’s take a look at the most explosive short-form specialists in the game, and see if they’re primed for the big one.
These players will, in all probability, light up the latter stages of this drab tournament.
Brendon McCullum (NZ)
Fresh from bashing ‘favorites’ Bangladesh into the Pallekelle pitch,McCullum is easily the most destructive wicketkeeper-batsman in the game. His T20 average of 38 trumps not only his ODI and Test averages, but most of the other 135+ strike rate batsmen in the world, and he is the only bright spot in an otherwise struggling limited overs outfit. His indifferent form of 2011 now behind him, McCullum is also the only T20 batsman with 2 international centuries to his name. His form against Pakistan could be irrelevant in the long run, because come Super 8 cricket, he could just be the joker behind his team overachieving yet again in an ICC tournament.
Chris Gayle (WI)
Nothing needs to be said about this man. He single-handedly changed the face of T20 batting when he came into the IPL for RCB, and has never looked back. It’s now less about his form, and more about his sensational consistency to keep it going- and the whole world is glad to see him back in West Indies colours after a long, meaningless layoff that could have cost cricket its greatest hitter. Nothing he does looks violent, but tell that to Rahul Sharma- his most recent victim in IPL 2012.
He could be the main factor behind a highly-talented West Indies actually living upto their pre-tournament favorites tag, with most of the others in the batting order looking to build around his expertly-paced toying with.
Virat Kohli (Ind)
Not your conventional T20 hitter, but his current form makes him anything you want him to be. 3 consecutive T20 half centuries later, and a record-breaking last one year, and Kohli is now the BEST batsman in the best batting lineup in world cricket. His hunger for runs, whether in colours or whites, reeks of the same mature understanding of innings-construction, and even his ugly flat batted swats seem to be clearing fielders by miles nowadays. He could be the difference in an Indian team that hasn’t won any of its Super 8 games in the last 2 editions, after winning the first one.
Eoin Morgan (Eng)
After a sorry run of form against India last year, Morgan is back to where he belongs- and holds the title of the most consistent T20 run-getter in this weak-on-firepower English team. That they will depend highly on their bowling is a given, but Morgan could propel the defending Champions to the last 4, if he shows the kind of form that KP would have, in this format.
Umar Akmal (Pak)
Though his brother Kamran opens the batting and stands more of a chance trying to get those bigger scores, it is Umar who will remain the hero that Pakistan need. A brittle middle-order needs to be shored up by this talented youngster, who hasn’t really done full justice to his ability over the years. His destruction of Australia in the 2010 World Cup semifinal is still fresh in the minds of many, and even if he reproduces half that form here, his team could go very far once again. Pakistan is easily the strongest team in the tournament, but a lot will depend on their batting form.
David Warner (Aus)
The pint-sized Hulk needs to regain the sort of consistency that saw him ascend to the top and become a big-match player. Warner, on his day, is more destructive than Watson or Hussey- though Australia will need him to give them good starts, and can’t keep relying on experience to shore them through in a format that sees him ranked below Ireland. The slow, turning pitches of Sri Lanka could work to his advantage.
Ross Taylor (NZ)
If you think back to what he did to Shoaib Akhtar in the 2011 World Cup, nothing is impossible for the captain of New Zealand, if he gets into beast mode again.
Saeed Ajmal (Pak)
Needless to say, he is the best bowler in world cricket right now, over all 3 formats. Many teams are still struggling to read him, and captain Hafeez uses him cleverly to slow down most teams before they launch into the other bowlers. Ajmal still remains a mystery, and his consistency makes him a bigger threat than Ajantha Mendis.
AB De Villiers (SA)
Given an opportunity, the captain of the most underachieving (and currently the best) team in the world could change the face of a game in 2 overs. Dale Steyn will consider himself lucky to be on the same team, after how he was toyed with in IPL 2012, by his young and freakishly talented captain.
There’s no `C` in ABDe.
Thisara Pereira (SL)
With Angelo Mathews, he forms the best lower-middle order of batting and bowling in T20 cricket- and their great talent can be combined to take Sri Lanka into yet another Final, and not fail, for a change.