The first knockings of the eighth edition of the men’s T20 World Cup will get under way in Australia on Sunday, with eight teams duking it out for four spots in the Super 12.
After crunching the numbers, cranking the algorithms, tapping up the experts and relying a bit too much on “gut feel”, here are the Spin’s players to watch over the next month of white ball action.
Tim David (Australia)
Don’t be fooled by the humdrum nomenclature. David might have the name of a backbench MP, but his long-levered biffings over the past year or so have been truly box office. They’ve seen him blow up from something of a hipster’s choice for those in the know to being touted by the likes of Ricky Ponting as potential star of the tournament.
Born in Singapore but raised in Australia, David had a spluttering start to his career – a so-so stint with Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash and a handful of games for his birth country didn’t mark him out as anything special. All that changed in 2020-21 when he signed for Hobart Hurricanes and in modern cricketing parlance “started pulling up trees”.
Towering sixes and a phenomenal strike-rate, married with more than handy off-spin, saw his stock rise. David was suddenly a man in demand and impressed further with stints for Lahore, Surrey and Southern Brave. This past year has seen him dominate in the PSL for Multan Sultans and get snapped up by Mumbai Indians in the IPL. At 6ft 5in with strapping shoulders, an uncomplicated technique and a penchant for clearing the ropes – his hold-the-pose bazooka of a straight drive is something to behold – David could easily become a World Cup winner despite never having played a game of first-class cricket.
Yannic Cariah (West Indies)
West Indies have made news pre-tournament due to Shimron Hetmyer’s less-than-speedy boarding and Kyle Mayer’s mind-boggling, handbook-burning strokeplay in the recent tune-up matches against Australia. The 2016 tournament winners have also added intrigue with the selection of 30-year-old Cariah, a leg-spinning wildcard who had played only four T20 matches in his life (the latest of which was in 2016) before making his debut against Australia last week, pocketing Glenn Maxwell in his first over. Windies selector and no less a judge than Desmond Haynes has been purring over the late bloomer.
Ruben Trumpelmann (Namibia)
“Is he really one to watch or does he just have an entertaining name?” was the response to the potential inclusion in this list of Namibia’s stocky southpaw strike bowler by one of the Spin’s consultant selectors. Well, if there isn’t room in this list for a lantern-jawed pace bowler with, yes, an entertaining name, but also more than a whiff of Ivan Drago, Dolph Lundgren’s blond-bonced boxing Soviet in Rocky IV, then frankly what sort of a list is this at all? Trumpelmann also gets his spot due to a strong showing in last year’s tournament in the UAE, memorably KOing Scotland’s top order with three wickets in four balls from the first over of Namibia’s eventual four-wicket win in Abu Dhabi. The bouncier, pacier pitches on offer in Australia will suit him as will the chance to spar with some of the game’s heavier-weights such as Sri Lanka – fellow members of Group A. Remember the name!
Wanindu Hasaranga (Sri Lanka)
I know what you are thinking. Can the leading wicket-taker in the tournament last time around, the man with tournament bowling figures of 16 wickets in eight matches at an average of 9.75 and overall economy rate of 5.20 – including a hat-trick against South Africa – a sassy leg-spinner with the best googly in the business, a spitting cobra of a delivery that leaves batters looking daft as they grope at thin air, a star of the IPL and recent Asia Cup … can he make this list? Yes. Yes he can.
Arshdeep Singh (India)
India were dealt a hammer blow with the news that Jasprit Bumrah’s back injury would keep him out of the tournament, but they have pace-bowling stocks in reserve to step into the beleaguered smiling assassin’s shoes. Not least in Singh, a left-arm quick who can genuinely swing the ball both ways and has shown his chops at the death for both Punjab Kings in the IPL and in his 13 T20Is. Batters will have to keep a beady one out for his consistently excellent toe-bothering yorker.
Youth springs eternal for Ireland. The 22-year-old left-arm quick Josh Little will spearhead their attack fresh from chalking up the best bowling figures (five for 13 for Manchester Originals v Oval Invincibles) in the Men’s Hundred. The delightfully Le Carré-monikered Harry Tector could turn heads with the bat, an eye-catching maiden ODI century against New Zealand in the summer a potential bellwether innings.
Shadab Khan is likely to be bumped up the batting order by Pakistan, which could prove a masterstroke. The leg-spinning all-rounder is in fine form after a blistering PSL and has a score to settle after his side crashed out in the semis to Australia last year, despite his four for 26 giving them more than a sniff of the final.
Sikandar Raza, the 36-year-old Zimbabwean, is the ultimate cricketing journeyman, seemingly having played for every side in the world. Raza must be in a constant state of safari-related-flux, unsure whether he is an Eagle, a Tusker, a Rhino or a Panther (not to mention a Spartan, Viking or Knight …). Nevertheless, the all-rounder is having a purple patch in his blue-rinse years – 2022 has seen him chalk up the most international runs on one ground in a calendar year by a single batter … ever. Raza has racked up 753 at the Harare Sports Club. In decent nick, then.
Finally, Scotland’s Mark Watt gets a mention. His ruddy features give him the air of a cheeky village butcher as he sends down his left-arm darts and the chirpy twirler has also been known to deliver the ball from well behind the crease, surprising the batter from 25 yards. A trifling matter such as the World Cup isn’t going to stop his cunning ways. The Spin approves of such behaviour.
Let the games begin!