Some players to watch at the Twenty20 World Cup starting on Sunday with an eight-team first round. Four teams from Round 1 will advance to join the top eight teams in the main Super 12 stage from Oct. 23:
JASPRIT BUMRAH (India)
The paceman with the unorthodox bowling action is back to spearhead India’s T20 attack for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak and is likely to become the country’s leading wicket-taker in the format during the World Cup. Five wickets would take him above Yuzvendra Chahal’s record of 63 for India. Bumrah, on the back of a strong test series in England, came out of the IPL as one of competition’s leading wicket takers with 21 for Mumbai Indians at an average of 19.52. He continues to be prolific in all formats with his express pace and consistency off a short run-up. Few pacemen are better at yorkers that could prove to be his best source of wickets on the UAE’s spin-friendly pitches.
DEVON CONWAY (New Zealand)
The left-handed batter has taken international cricket by storm in all formats, underlining not just his talent but his versatility and ability to thrive in different conditions. There was the double-hundred against England at Lord’s on his test debut in June, the 126 against Bangladesh in his third and most recent ODI in March, and then an unbeaten 99 off 59 balls against Australia in one of his 11 innings for New Zealand in Twenty20s. Conway averages 59.12 in T20s and stands out in a way because he is not the kind of explosive power-hitter typically synonymous with the shorter format, rather a thinker and a gap-finder with a clean shot-making ability either as an opener or in the middle order. Born and raised in South Africa, Conway moved to New Zealand in 2017 and — at the age of 30 — has had to be patient for his chance at international level. Having helped the Black Caps to become world test champions, Conway could be the player to lead the team to a first ICC white-ball world title.
LIAM LIVINGSTONE (England)
Livingstone’s two-year plan has paid off. In a bid to get into England’s squad for this World Cup, he decided in 2019 to do a global tour of the T20 franchises so he could experience a variety of conditions and broaden his experience. He is now a regular in England’s T20 team and one of the most thrilling batters in the world. He’s also one of the biggest hitters, as shown in smashing a 42-ball hundred against Pakistan in July — the quickest ever scored by an England player. He was also the top scorer in the inaugural season of The Hundred, the new English domestic competition, in which he hit more sixes than anyone. Livingstone has struggled for runs in the IPL for Rajasthan Royals over the past month, an indication he might not be suited to the slower wickets in the United Arab Emirates. But he is clearly a potential game-changer and match-winner and, in that way, an ideal replacement for the absent Ben Stokes in the England team.
DAVID WARNER (Australia)
Once the best all-format opener in the game, Warner comes into the World Cup with no form and is perhaps emblematic of Australia’s preparations for the competition. He was dropped as captain by Sunrisers Hyderabad before this year’s Indian Premier League was paused for coronavirus-related reasons in April, then dropped from the team entirely after a three-ball duck and a three-ball 2 upon the competition’s resumption last month. Warner also hasn’t played for Australia in the T20 format since September last year, missing recent series against the West Indies and Bangladesh so he could be fresh for the IPL and the World Cup. Australia captain Aaron Finch has said Warner, one of the world’s most explosive batters on his day, will start in the T20 World Cup but is under pressure as his country looks to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2012 and win it for the first time.
TABRAIZ SHAMSI (South Africa)
The spinner is the top-ranked bowler in T20 internationals, which may come as a surprise to some considering the Proteas’ long-established reliance on fast bowling to get the job done. But Shamsi, a left-arm wrist spinner with plenty of variation, is now crucial to the South Africa team and reflects a trend in the short format where slow bowlers are proving to be invaluable. While Shamsi’s wicket-taking ability has never been in doubt, he once struggled to limit the runs and was considered a risky selection. The 31-year-old Shamsi has made major improvements in that department, although his strength will always be as an attacking spinner. He wanted to be a magician before his cricket career took off and is still keenly interested in the art. And that’s fitting for a bowler renowned for having a good selection of tricks up his sleeve.