Players who might surprise
The ICC Men's T20 World Cup has already begun with a flourish. As we move forward to the Super 12, all eyes will be on the superstars. But a few relatively new names and young guns might just slip under the radar and become game changers for their sides. Here are some names that I'll be following closely.
Naveen Ul Haq (Afghanistan)
After a somewhat bleak start to his ODI career, Naveen stormed into the T20 format in 2019, making his first appearance against Bangladesh. Since then he has taken 13 wickets in 8 matches at an admirable economy rate of 6.96, averaging just 15. Naveen has a knack of picking up wickets regularly, which he exhibited to his best in the Vitality Blast 2021, picking up 26 wickets in 14 matches, making him the highest wicket taker in the tournament.
Josh Inglis (Australia)
Abysmal form of the squad's other wicket-keeper batsman Mathew Wade might just earn Inglis a debut on the biggest stage. The Leeds-born-Aussie has been putting in mammoth run tallies in franchise tournaments. In the 2020-21 Big Bash, he amassed 413 runs in 16 matches at a strike rate of 140, with 13 dismissals to his name as well. Trailblazing his way to the 2021 Vitality Blast top scorer, he scored 531 runs, including 2 centuries, that too at a strike rate of over 175.
Afif Hossain Dhrubo (Bangladesh)
In atrociously sluggish pitches against Australia, Afif had a strike rate of 122.47, scoring 109 runs. His 33-ball 49 in a losing cause against New Zealand was a proper exhibition of his potential. He played two rapid innings against Scotland and PNG, hinting at what he could do, given time. It's about time he lived up to his name on the big stage, like he did back in the 2018 Under-19 Cricket World Cup.
Liam Livingstone (England)
Liam Livingstone has burgeoned his way to being a T20 stalwart, not so long after his England debut. It took him only 8 T20 internationals to become the fastest England T20 centurion (42 balls, against Pakistan). After scoring 426 runs in the 2020-21 Big bash at a strike rate of just under 134, he reached new heights in the 2021 Vitality Blast, where he scored 279 runs in just 6 matches at a staggering strike rate of 147.61. Despite a relatively bleak IPL, England will count on him for the fireworks down the order.
Varun Chakaravarthy (India)
International cricket caught a glimpse of him as India sported a completely different white ball side while touring Sri Lanka. He took only 2 wickets in 3 matches, but had an economy rate of under 6. For the second consecutive season, he became the highest wicket taker for Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL. What's more impressive is his record in the UAE: 23 matches, 28 wickets at an economy of just 6.35. Touted as a mystery spinner, Varun might just be the x-factor for India.
Gerhard Erasmus (Namibia)
The Namibia skipper was the 2nd highest scorer in the 2019 T20 world cup qualifier, amassing 268 runs at an impressive strike rate of 138. He lived up to his name scoring 105 runs so far, with a crucial 53* in the win against Scotland. The 26-year old must have a few more tricks up his sleeve, ready to unravel at the Super 12.
Glenn Phillips (New Zealand)
The 24-year old Kiwi blasted 500 runs in 12 matches in the Vitality Blast 2021, at an astonishing strike rate of 163.39. He had a successful CPL 2021 as well, where he scored 254 runs, averaging 31.75. With a century to his name in 25 T20Is, he has a massive 149.70 strike rate for the Blackcaps. He wasn't among the runs in the second chapter of IPL 2021 but the blackcaps will be looking for him to continue his hot streak on the big stage.
Shaheen Shah Afridi (Pakistan)
The 21-year old left arm seamer will be the pick of a tried and tested Pakistan side, with a myriad of T20 experiences. One game can be mentioned to justify Shaheen Afridi's (who already has gained stardom) place in this list – the Nottingham T20I against England, where bowlers were torn to shreds and Livingstone hit all of them out of the park for fun, except Afridi who had an impressive figure of 3/30! Afridi is no stranger on the world stage, and after a stellar start against India, he'll look to impress again and again, in the shorter format of the game.
George Munsey (Scotland)
The explosive left handed opener just couldn't fire in the group stage. But he was the highest scorer for Scotland in the 2019 qualifiers, scoring 234 runs at a strike rate of 141.81. He has proved himself in these dry conditions and he'll look forward to replicating that performance in the Super 12.
Anrich Nortje (South Africa)
The Protea pacer notched up 22 wickets in 16 matches at the 2020 IPL edition, which took place in UAE. He found a slot in the DC side in the second chapter of 2021 IPL and racked up 12 wickets in 8 matches at an impressive economy of 6.16. His T20I numbers aren't nearly as impressive as what he showed in the IPL but South Africa will rely on him to breathe fire in the Super 12.
Pathum Nissanka (Sri Lanka)
Nissanka impressed in the 2020-21 SLC Invitational League, scoring 167 in 6 matches at a strike rate of 138, which earned him a last minute call in the final squad. From 8/3 against Ireland, he played an impressive knock of 61, proving his worth. After showing good signs against Bangladesh, he'll look to be among the runs in the Super 12.
Hayden Walsh Jr. (West Indies)
In a star studded lineup of the Carribeans, this leg spinner, who previously sported the USA jersey, could be the game changer. He proved to be a handful for the Aussies this year, picking up 12 wickets in 5 matches, bringing him the accolade of man of the series. His international career numbers are relatively average due to his poor start but he is back on his feet, and will look to re-enact the "Samuel Badree" role for his side.
Alavi Ashraf Eram likes to blabber about his favourite movies, songs and sports. Drop him your movie critiques at fb.com/alaviashraf.eram