This side of the 51allout office at least never really understood the appeal of Panini sticker albums. To us, a panini was a sort of upmarket sandwich (i.e. the type you can’t buy at Subway) that usually has sundried tomatoes in it. This gap in our lives may explain why we’ve never really looked at major international tournaments in terms of the impact of individual players. These sorts of affairs are about teams after all, and it’s no good getting all excited about the impact a player like Lionel Messi could have, if the right back in his team happens to play for Newcastle United. Also there is the fact that adults collecting stickers is a bit, well, childish. Unlike adults collecting Pokemon cards, which is all sorts of awesome.
But, for the sake of getting into the swing of things, we have decided to highlight who, in our opinion at least, might be some of the key performers at this year’s T20 World Cup. We just advise to keep in mind that having a player like Brendon McCullum among your ranks tends to be somewhat evened out by a player like, well, Luke Ronchi.
T20 cricket may have matured a great deal over the past few years (honestly, it has), but one thing still remains the same: getting off to a good start is non-negotiable. If one team gets off to a flyer, and the other crashes and burns, no amount of tricky field placements or bowling changes will help turn the tide. It’s for this reason Alex Hales is absolutely vital to England’s chances of not, well, embarrassing themselves completely. Given that he is still the number two ranked batsman in T20 cricket, that shouldn’t be too much to expect, should it?
Watson did pretty well in the last T20 World Cup really, dragging an otherwise inept Australian outfit to the semi-final stage. Nobody seems to have bothered to tell him to play any differently since, so the past two years have effectively served as one long practice session for this tournament. Given the last time he visited Bangladesh he was responsible for killing at least 29 paying spectators during that innings in Dhaka, he’s probably rather looking forward to returning. Australia shouldn’t be quite so reliant on him this time round, but then again, given their track record in the tournament, perhaps they will be.
We imagine being a high school careers counselor in Sri Lanka would be a pretty cushy job. Can’t get your head round maths? Hopeless at science? Have you ever considered a career as a mystery spinner then? Sri Lanka seems to produce as many mystery spinners these days as Russia does gun-toting nationalists. Or America diabetics. Senanayake is not the newest mystery spinner on the scene, but he is surely the most effective. For reasons that are not readily apparent, most batsman find him simply unplayable. Watching him bowl to dumbfounded Aussie batsmen in the Big Bash a few seasons ago is one of our most cherished cricketing memories. The Sri Lanka vs. England fixture is already circled on our calendars as a result.
Until recently Shakib was the highest ranked T20 all-rounder. He now sits fourth on that list, although admittedly its credibility is somewhat suspect owing to the sixth place ranking of Dutch high flyer, M. R. Swart. Nevertheless Shakib is a proven performer on the T20 scene (even if Big Bash commentators don’t know who he is) and a vital part of the Bangladesh squad. They’ll be hoping he won’t be required to make too many runs, although after the fiasco that was the Bangladeshi 2011 ODI World Cup campaign, nothing can be discounted.
It would appear to be a case of stating the bleeding obvious to say that if India are to win this tournament, Jadeja will need to play a major role in getting them over the line. It might not seem quite so straightforward, however, when you consider that he averages 10.57 with the bat in T20 internationals, with a high score of 25. Or has 8 wickets with an economy rate of 7.12. Those are not quite the statistics you would be wanting to hang a nation’s hopes on. It will be telling for India if commentators spend more time talking about Jadeja’s on-field performances during the tournament, as opposed to just the usual rabbiting on about how much money he makes.
We bloody love Shapoor. The sort of bowler who would rather kill the batsman than get him out. He looks like he lives on a diet of amphetamines and Slayer CD’s. We don’t expect Afghanistan to do much during the tournament, but we hope that Shapoor at the very least severely maims one batsman. Is that too much to ask for? Is it?