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The Game Changers, 2016


ICC_T20_World_Cup_2016_India_WorldT20The sixth edition of the ICC T20 World Cup is here to exhilarate and inspire fans, critics and players alike. T20 cricket can be rocky, unpredictable terrain, where one day the bat has all the fun and on another day the ball wreaks havoc.

We have amidst us some of the finest strikers of the cricket ball, who may perhaps be playing their last edition of the tournament. Master belter Chris Gayle, Captain Cool MS Dhoni, the in and out of form Shane Watson, injury plagued seam ace Dale Steyn, and everyone's favourite Boom Boom Afridi will want to make the most of this tournament of surprises.

In all of this, the triumvirate of the best batsmen in the world, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Kane Williamson, will be fighting it out to dominate the proceedings for their respective sides. But at the same time, here are 10 people who could be "impact players" in the T20 World Cup:

1. Corey Anderson – New Zealand

Tall, agile and muscular; powerful strikes to all corners of the ground; and in addition to his power-hitting Anderson can bowl with a consistency that makes him a quality all-rounder. While he doesn't have a lot of experience under his name, he has got the flair and the fire-power to dominate proceedings and turn the tide for the Black Caps.

In 2014, he made headlines for a quick-fire record-breaking innings of 131 off just 47 deliveries against the hapless Windies. This was followed by some clean hitting in the T20 games (including the IPL) that followed.

With the tendency to take wickets when they matter the most, Anderson's left handed brilliance with both bat and ball complement his fielding, which increases the threat of an important department of the Kiwis: fielding. He will be raring to make it count in the ICC T20 World Cup, and that strike rate of 144 will add to his confidence.

2. Jasprit Bumrah - India

If there's one thing that puts MS Dhoni at ease at the moment, it's knowing that 22 year old Jasprit Bumrah is in the team. Often recognized as the Mumbai Indians' go to man for the death overs, Dhoni will be relying on Bumrah's nagging pace and bounce, and his ability to deliver the ball past the batsman's willow during the end of an innings.

Athletic and eager, agile and confident, the first ever appearance of young Jasprit in a major tournament will give confidence to India's pace attack, which looks to offer an exciting challenge thanks to the last minute inclusion of the experienced Shami.

3. Faf du Plessis - South Africa

South Africa's captain in the format where unexpectedness reigns is among the finest batsmen around. Extremely fit, committed and gifted with an intelligent mind, Faf is a dangerous wielder of the willow who can easily rotate strike, hit decisive blows and change the nature of the game.

The strong top order batter, who has already struck a ton (119) in this format, together with de Villiers, de Kock and Amla, will want to correct the 'ill luck' associated with his side’s lack of success in the shortest format. The conditions in India won't come as a big surprise for the gifted right hander who has represented CSK with great aplomb.

4. R. Ashwin - India

Dhoni and men would love to suggest that their opponents look again at the offie's name: he isn't your Ashwin, he isn't my Ashwin, he's R.Ashwin. This could be Mahi's mantra signaling to teams that they are running into the best off spinner around, alongside Nathan Lyon.

At 29, having picked over 300 wickets in Tests and ODIs combined, Ashwin's figures in T20 cricket don't disappoint. With 46 wickets from 38 innings in a format where mishits fly over the fence, the 'ball of the century' from the perspective of T20 cricket belongs to the fantastic off spinner.

He will, for sure, be looking at his best bowling figures of 4 for 8, and motivating himself to do even better.

5. Mohammad Amir - Pakistan

Born in a region with a rich history of pace bowling, there's a lot that Amir has to live up to. Ever since controversy surrounded the young Pakistani seamer who bowled with the heart of a prowling tiger, Amir's image became the monster he had to defeat in order to resuscitate a promising, fledgling cricketing career.

Aggressive, focused and now back to business, Amir is back to doing what he does best: hunting for the wickets of the best batsmen.   

He's already made headlines thanks to the fiery spell he displayed a few weeks back when he was up against the best T20 batsman in the world: Virat Kohli. Let it be said, he did leave Kohli with something to think about. The best thing about the lad? He's barely 23 and has a decade of cricket left in him. Good luck to the batsmen facing him!

6. Imran Tahir - South Africa

Born in Pakistan, playing for South Africa, Tahir is international cricket's success story. There are few bowlers out there who celebrate in better style than South Africa's unpredictable leg spinner.

While there may not be too much time for the 36 year old Tahir in international cricket, there is certainly no shortage of commitment and unbending passion.

Armed with the gift of confusing the batsman with flight and, on more occasions than most would like, with some unexpected turn off the pitch, Tahir is a strike bowler who can change the tempo of the game with a couple of quick wickets. With an impeccable bowling average of 15 and best bowling figures of 4/21 in a format dominated by the willow, Tahir is a reflection of the triumph of the ball over the bat.

7. Eoin Morgan - England

England's captain is a man who can cleanly strike the ball over the ropes when needed the most, and when the bowler least expects it. The only problem is that consistency doesn't seem to be Morgan's greatest strength. At 29 and the peak of his powers with the bat, Morgan will be hoping to turn things in England's direction.

With over 1300 runs from just 55 innings, Morgan's strike rate of over 130 will add firepower to the batting order that boasts Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Alex Hales.

8. Mitchell Marsh - Australia

Mitchell, a dedicated Aussie, is an exceptional all round talent who subtly makes his impression on the game when the Aussies need it most. Many rate him over his brother Shaun.

Marsh's batting, especially in the death overs, offers a range of strokes including slogs over mid-wicket and long on, often leaving fielders stranded at full stretch.

A simple and sorted lad, Mitch is a handy medium pacer and a clean striking batsman who lends useful support to a line-up that boasts big names including captain Steven Smith, Shane Watson, Aaron Finch and the entertaining Glenn Maxwell.

9. Trent Boult - New Zealand

Boult is young, athletic and, at his best, a lethal concoction of accuracy and nagging pace.

A popular cricketer, he has the ability to bounce back even when he occasionally leaks a few runs in an over. The left arm pacer, who can deliver slower bouncers and yorkers at will, should present a significant challenge to the likes of Kohli, Gayle and de Villiers.

10. Darren Sammy - West Indies

A genuinely good leader, Windies captain Darren Sammy is among the best players to be around. He's the inspiring skipper who championed the Windies to an unexpected triumph in 2012 when his teammates Marlon Samuels and Samuel Badree fashioned an unlikely victory over the Lankan lions in their own den.

But things didn't fade for the St. Lucian, whose side returned to playing some good cricket in the next edition of the World T20 in 2014. Even though Sammy and Chris Gayle pillaged the Aussies with their batting heroics before they were knocked out by Lankans, the skipper's good form peaked during the epic clash with Pakistan. Together with right handed all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, Sammy blasted Saeed Ajmal and Umar Gul, leading the Windies to a glorious triumph.

The West Indies now will be hoping to weave a little Calypso magic under the auspices of their able leader.


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