T20 World Cup - Game Changers Ready To Strike
THE WEEK|October 31, 2021
THE WEEK takes a look at the men who could be game changers for their teams in the T20 World Cup
Neeru Bhatia And Anirudh Madhavan

Carlos Brathwaite, remember the name!”

This declaration from Ian Bishop during commentary was perhaps the most unforgettable line from the 2016 ICC T20 World Cup. Chasing 156 against England in the final, the West Indies needed 19 runs off the last over. Brathwaite smashed four consecutive sixes off Ben Stokes’s bowling to lead his team to its second title; it is the only team to have done so.

Five years after that iconic moment at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, much has changed in T20s. Brathwaite is not part of the West Indies side that will compete at the ongoing World Cup in the UAE. Neither is an injured Ben Stokes. As far as their teams are concerned, the latter will be missed more.

The format itself has evolved in the past five years. Batsmen have become ‘batters’ and the shot-making is now different: the paddle sweep, reverse sweep and the scoop are old; Rishabh Pant’s reverse flick off a pacer or the ramp shot against the seamer’s bouncer are some of the newer, more daring shots. As for bowlers, slower balls at the death or the carrom ball for a spinner are passé; the mystery spinner, instead, is a plus to any team. While wrist spin is still in, the finger spinners, too, have made a comeback this World Cup—the prime example being Ravichandran Ashwin, who will play T20Is for India after four years.

The game changers are not only the good-old finishers at number six or the established top-order batsmen or the biggest six hitters. The past few years has seen the rise of the super specialist. Roston Chase of the West Indies, Aussie Marcus Stoinis, England’s Dawid Malan and South Africa’s Tabraiz Shamsi are some of the specialists who have honed their skills in various T20 leagues around the world.

Josh Inglis, the 26-year-old wicket-keeper batter from Australia, has been a surprise pick. He is yet to make his international debut for Australia in any format, but got the call after a prolific season in the Vitality Blast for Leicestershire; he already had the reputation of being a busy player in the Big Bash League. England’s Liam Livingstone also comes in with the reputation of being an impact player. A fine run of form in 2021 led to his return to the national T20 setup after four years. He then scored England’s fastest T20I hundred, against Pakistan this year.

As the tournament begins, THE WEEK takes a look at some of the players who can anchor an innings, strike the ball hard, innovate both with bat and ball, and, most importantly, win matches for their team.

K.L. Rahul

India

Batting average (T20Is) 39.92

7th best of all time (minimum 20 innings)

2018-2020 (T20Is)Batting average 41.69

Batting strike rate 145.11

“King Legend” Rahul—as some fans on Twitter have dubbed him—has been in sublime form of late. Though he lost the Orange Cap in the IPL in the last match, he made his runs (626) in fewer games, and at a better average than the eventual winner—Ruturaj Gaikwad (635). And that was when he had the task of carrying his franchise’s batting effort in several games. There are many who feel that the added responsibility of being Punjab Kings’ captain smothered his attacking game, and that he would be free to unleash in the company of Rohit Sharma while opening for India. He did that in the warm-up match against England on October 18. Opening with Ishan Kishan, the 29-year-old scored 51 off just 24 balls, setting up a confidence-boosting win for his team.

“I think K.L. Rahul, coming off a great IPL, is the pillar that the guys can build around,” former Australian quick Brett Lee told Fox Sports recently. “It takes the pressure off [Virat] Kohli if Rahul is scoring runs.”

The elegant right hander can score in all areas, is innovative, and has one of the most beautiful lofted drives in the game. What makes him extra useful is that he can bat in several positions and can also keep wickets (he does that for the Kings). If the team management allows him to cut loose from ball one, expect fireworks.

Glenn Maxwell

Australia

Batting strike rate (T20Is) 158.92

All-time best (among players of full members; minimum 250 balls faced)

One of two players, with Chris Gayle, to score two 100s in 50 balls or fewer

The explosive batter goes into the World Cup in superb form. He scored 513 runs in 15 matches, including six half centuries, for Royal Challengers Bangalore in this year’s IPL. More importantly, he was better in the second leg of the tournament, scoring at an average of 41.43. The World Cup preparation could not have been better.

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