As the group stages of cricket’s World T20 begin this week, AFP takes a look at some of the players who are expected to light up the tournament. The following is a list of potential match-winners from the five teams competing in Group 1, which features the West Indies, South Africa, England, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan:
Chris Gayle (West Indies):
It’s been a while since Gayle played Test cricket but his appetite for T20s appears undimmed. While the biggest headlines from his recent stint in Australia’s Big Bash League revolved around his bid to chat up a TV reporter, he also bludgeoned a stunning 12-ball 50.
Gayle racked up the highest ever score in T20s while playing for the Bangalore Royal Challengers in the Indian Premier League three years ago, hitting an unbeaten 175 off 66 balls. And he lit up the first World T20 in 2007 by notching up the format’s first international century.
It could be the last chance for glory for a player, now aged 36, that captain Darren Sammy describes as “the most destructive” in T20 cricket.
Imran Tahir (South Africa):
With paceman Dale Steyn struggling with injury, the hopes of South Africa’s bowling attack will rest largely on the shoulders of leg-spinner Imran Tahir. The 36-year-old has been in the form of his life in 2016 and was the stand-out bowler in the recent T20 series against Australia and England.
Born in Pakistan, Tahir broke into the Proteas’ side at a relatively late age because of issues over his eligibility, but quickly became a fans’ favourite due to his ability to turn matches. The stylish spinner wears his heart on his sleeve and is a natural entertainer, famed for his often dramatic appeals for a wicket.
Joe Root (England):
He may have the appearance of a choirboy but the chirpy Yorkshireman is a steely competitor who gets up the noses of opponents. Widely seen as a captain-in-waiting, Root has excelled at all forms of the game and appears to relish the more aggressive style of cricket that England have pursued in the last year.
Still only 25, he has already scored more than 6,000 international runs since making his debut in India four years ago. Not only is he now the most prized English wicket, but he is also a handy offbreak bowler.
Angelo Mathews (Sri Lanka):
The batting all-rounder has been handed the unenviable task of ensuring the struggling islanders at least make a decent fist of trying to defend the World T20 title they won in 2014.
Sri Lanka have been on the decline since their triumph in Bangladesh, slumping to eighth in the world rankings, and come into this edition hot on the heels of a torturous Asia Cup campaign.
Mathews, 28, was appointed captain in place of the injured Lasith Malinga just hours before the squad were due to leave for India. Progressing to the semis is seen as a tall order, so if Sri Lanka succeed, then their new skipper will regard it as a job well done.
Mohammad Shahzad (Afghanistan):
A self-proclaimed fan of Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, wicket keeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad has not only copied his idol’s ‘helicopter shot’ but possesses a similar never-say-die attitude.
The portly opener has been in the form of his life and is the main reason Afghanistan made the Super 10 cut. With scores of 61, 41 and 40 in the qualifiers, Shahzad is sure to make any opposition bowler wary of his presence.
Apart from his range of colorful shots, the 31-year-old Shahzad is regarded as the team’s chief motivator thanks to his chirpy presence behind the stumps.