The World T20 has established itself as one of the most enjoyable events in the international cricket calendar, with a cross-section of the talent from around the world that not even the Indian Premier League or Big Bash League can match.
Here we take look at the players to watch at this year’s tournament.
1. Virat Kohli (India)
India’s latest batting genius is set to be the face of the tournament in his home country as they look to become the first nation to win the World T20 twice. Kohli will be central to their hopes with his brash attitude and dismissive strokeplay the perfect fit for the Twenty20 game. He was player of the tournament when India reached the final two years ago and the fact he need not bother about the captaincy – MS Dhoni still pulls those reins – ensures he can focus on what he does best: Smacking bowlers to all parts.
2. AB de Villiers (South Africa)
De Villiers is hungry to correct one of the more unlikely stats in world cricket and help South Africa win their first global tournament title. The 32-year-old has even written a song for his team-mates to sing if they win it! His pained look when the Proteas crashed out of the World Cup in a semi-final nail-biter against New Zealand last year told how much he longs to rectify his nation’s duck and if he gets going it’s hard to think who can stop him.
3. Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka)
Malinga is likely to be the barometer of Sri Lanka’s fortunes as they aim to defend the title they won under him in Bangladesh. Malinga took charge midway through that tournament when Dinesh Chandimal decided to drop himself due to poor form. His sling-armed yorkers and variations of pace ensure that even at 32 he is a valuable T20 bowler, although this time round he will not be captain after handing over duties to Angelo Mathews on the eve of the tournament.
4. Jos Buttler (England)
After being snapped up for the first time in the Indian Premier League auction, all eyes will be on England’s wicketkeeper-batsman. Buttler was picked up by defending IPL champions Mumbai Indians for £385,000 and will be out to prove he is worth every penny with England’s opening two games in the city. Whether Buttler can deal with such pressure will be an interesting aside to England’s ambitions, but certainly a man who can boast the three quickest one-day international centuries for his country is capable of taking the tournament by storm.
5. Martin Guptill (New Zealand)
The absence of recently-retired Brendon McCullum from the Black Caps squad marks Guptill out as their most destructive batsman. The opener blasted a double century in New Zealand’s World Cup quarter-final against West Indies last year and last month he and captain Kane Williamson set the record for the highest partnership in T20 internationals when they crashed an unbeaten 171 against Pakistan to seal a series-clinching win by 10 wickets.
6. Mohammad Amir (Pakistan)
Perhaps the player under most pressure at the tournament will be Pakistan’s left-arm seamer Mohammad Amir, in his first major tournament since returning from his spot-fixing ban. Amir was regarded as one of the brightest pace talents in the world before he was banned for five years and sent to jail after being convicted of bowling no-balls to order during Pakistan’s 2010 tour of England. Just a year earlier he had helped Pakistan win the World T20 at Lord’s.
7. Glenn Maxwell (Australia)
Australia have never won the tournament in five attempts and if they are to have any chance in India they will need their mercurial talents such as Maxwell to fire. His unorthodox style is as prone to error as it is match-winning when the all-rounder is in full ambidextrous flow. Australia reaped the rewards of a Maxwell run of form en route to winning last year’s World Cup and he looms as a key figure with his occasional spin a handy option.
8. Mustafizur Rahman (Bangladesh)
Bangladesh coasted through the initial phase, despite the injury absence of their emerging young star seamer. The 20-year-old claimed back-to-back five-wicket hauls in his first two internationals as the Tigers claimed a history-making series win over India. While he has pace, regularly topping 140kph, it is his variations of pace that have made him so valuable in the shorter formats and with many teams still yet to see him in the flesh – after he also missed most of the Tigers’s run to the Asia Cup final – he will have a novelty factor.
9. Chris Gayle (West Indies)
Gayle’s inclusion in any of these sorts of list is a given. The self-titled “Universe Boss” is a crowd-puller wherever he goes and English fans were certainly entertained last summer when he hit 328 in just three innings for Somerset in the NatWest T20 Blast. At the age of 36 Gayle’s career might be winding down as he wanders the globe from one domestic T20 tournament to the next but it has arguably been the perfect fit for him. Certainly those who witnessed his 12-ball 50 for Melbourne Renegades in this year’s Big Bash League will not argue the point.
10. Mohammad Shahzad (Afghanistan)
Shahzad is a more obviously talented cricketer than Bermuda’s Dwayne Leverock, the rotund Bermudan whose one-handed diving catch lit up the 2007 World Cup, but he should inherit the mantle of neutral’s favourite in the next round. Unathletic of stature, Shahzad nevertheless possesses an enviable eye and unorthodox technique. Behind the stumps he has history of mocking batsmen by pausing before theatrically completing stumpings – he memorably did so to Michael Clarke in 2013.
11. Ravichandran Ashwin (India)
While the batsmen are, as ever, set to dominate in the shortest format perhaps the key to winning the tournament will fall to which spinners perform the best. India would appear to have an advantage in that department with Ashwin the stand-out in a group of slow bowlers that also includes Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh’s occasional spin. All four are in India’s top-six T20 wicket-takers of all-time with Ashwin easily the most prolific with 18 wickets more than his nearest challenger.