World Twenty20 players to watch - 1 August 18, 2012

What's their story?

Daniel Brettig, Brydon Coverdale and David Hopps
With the World Twenty20 a month away, here's part one of our series on players who intrigue us with their potential and past performances

Kamran Akmal

A fearless, aggressive batsman, Akmal's career fluctuations have had largely more to do with the inconsistent nature of his wicketkeeping, which has oscillated between the competent and the contemptible. Only 22 when he took over the Pakistan keeping gloves from those longtime rivals Rashid Latif and Moin Khan in 2004, Akmal initially showed as much promise with the gloves as with the bat, but as time has gone on, his keeping has deteriorated, while questions have also been raised about his integrity. He kept himself in the frame with regular bursts of batting brilliance, and it is for those that the Pakistan selectors have called on him again for the World Twenty20.

What's he about?
Akmal has been cast in the Adam Gilchrist mould, though without his inspiration's sustained neatness behind the stumps. As the possessor of six Test centuries and five of the ODI variety, Akmal can turn matches, and a domestic T20 average of 26.84 and strike rate of 133.10 are nothing to be sniffed at. At the age of 30, Akmal's strengths and weaknesses are well known, and the selectors are gambling that he will play more to the former than the latter this time around. They were also encouraged by the clearing of his name by the PCB's Integrity Committee last month.

What the team needs
Explosive batting always helps, but a steady wicketkeeper's hand would help Pakistan's cause immeasurably, particularly up to the stumps in support of what is sure to be a vast array of spinners. Whether or not Akmal can provide this is open to question, but he will be keen to produce displays more in tune with his startling innings against India in Karachi in 2006 than the fit of fumbles that helped lose Pakistan the 2010 Sydney Test to Australia.

Big day out
113 (off 148) v India, third Test, Karachi, 2006
Coming in at 39 for 6 in the wake of Irfan Pathan's hat-trick in the first over of the match, Akmal blazed a century from No. 8 that granted Pakistan a defendable total and set them on the path to a memorable, series-clinching victory.

Trivia and stats

  • Akmal last played for Pakistan in the 2011 World Cup semi-final against India in Mohali, notching two stumpings, one catch and making 19 as his side fell short by 29 runs
  • His younger brother Adnan has held the Test and ODI gloves for much of the time since

    "Everyone makes mistakes but the important thing is learning from them. I vow not to make them again. No wicketkeeper loves to drop catches."

    George Bailey

    Bailey enters the World Twenty20 as a captain on trial. A sturdy campaigner for Tasmania since his 2004 debut, his stocks truly began to rise in 2009, when he was chosen to take over from Dan Marsh as captain of the state. Well-known already as an articulate man and a strong communicator, Bailey allied these attributes with his batting to build on Marsh's captaincy, which had fetched the Tigers their first Sheffield Shield in 2007. They would add a second under Bailey in 2011, while also ushering a handful of players into the national team. There was some surprise when Bailey was chosen as Australia's T20 captain at the start of 2012, but few questions among the players about his abilities as a leader.

    What's he about?
    Bailey has made runs in difficult circumstances for Tasmania on many occasions, but has not quite shed the battling tag he was handed by observers early on. His ODI and T20 displays for Australia have shown an appetite for the struggle, if an occasionally limited array of shots. In some ways he so far resembles the national selector John Inverarity - a useful and highly thoughtful cricketer who never quite proved himself as an international combatant.

    What the team needs
    Level-headed and astute captaincy will be critical to Bailey's success, but so too will runs. It is vital that his arrival at the crease does not coincide with a drop-off in Australia's scoring rate, after the early aggression offered by the likes of David Warner and Shane Watson.

    Big day out
    21 not out (17) v West Indies, first T20I, Gros Islet, 2012
    In his first overseas match as captain, Bailey marshalled his bowlers cleverly to restrict West Indies to 150 for 7, then was at the crease with Michael Hussey to ensure the winning runs were knocked off with 11 balls to spare.

    Trivia and stats

  • When he captained in his debut match, against India this January, Bailey became the first Australian to do so since Dave Gregory in the first Test match of all.
  • Bailey's 321 runs at 40.13 made him Australia's leading runscorer across their two ODI series in the West Indies and England. Shane Watson was next best with 256 at 32.

    "You are captain but first and foremost you're in there to perform. That dictates a hell of a lot of the respect that you have. Part of my performance will be my captaincy but the majority of it will be with the bat. I have to perform."

    James Franklin

    New Zealand
    An allrounder who first played for New Zealand more than 11 years ago, Franklin is far from a newcomer to the world stage. Initially a left-arm seamer who batted close to the tail, Franklin has struggled to hold down a place in the national side over the past few years. Perhaps a victim of unrealistically high expectations, he has met with the selectors' axe more often than many of his team-mates, and was not considered good enough to be part of the World Twenty20 squad in 2010. But over the past few years he has reinvented himself as a skilled domestic T20 batsman, often opening or batting near the top of the order, while his bowling has become secondary. He will enter this tournament fourth amongst New Zealanders on the all-time T20 run list.

    What's he about?
    For many years Franklin was viewed as a batsman whose talents lay more in occupying the crease than in playing lavish strokes. At times he can still be a slow starter but he has expanded his repertoire to fit the T20 top-order role and is happy to go over the top, although typically with textbook shots rather than slogs. His T20 bowling is useful rather than incisive, but he has proven a versatile enough player in the short format to earn contracts with the Mumbai Indians, Essex, Glamorgan, Gloucestershire and the Adelaide Strikers, as well as his home side, Wellington.

    What the team needs
    Franklin's importance to New Zealand's T20 side was evident when the selectors chose not to play him in the two matches against West Indies in Florida, preferring to allow him a long stint specialising in the short format with Essex. "With the ICC World Twenty20 coming up, we felt the best preparation for James would be to play a large number of T20 matches in that competition rather than two matches in this tour," the national selection manager, Kim Littlejohn, said at the time. The most likely scenario is that Franklin will bat at No. 5 or 6, and his challenge will be to ensure he scores quickly from his first ball. His bowling will become more important if New Zealand's strike bowlers struggle.

    Big day out
    90 (50), Gloucestershire v Sussex, Hove, 2010
    As if to prove a point to the national selectors, one month after the end of the 2010 World Twenty20 - a tournament he wasn't picked for - Franklin blasted a career-best 90 from 50 balls for Gloucestershire against Sussex in Hove. He was the aggressor in a strong opening stand with Hamish Marshall; one of his sixes landed on a car bonnet and another was struck with such force that it broke his bat.

    Trivia and stats

  • Among New Zealanders, only Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor and Scott Styris have scored more T20 runs than Franklin, who has 2488 at 31.49.
  • In 2010, he was seventh on the county T20 run tally, with 470 for Gloucestershire

    "It certainly gives the over-thirties a little bit of longevity in their career if they do well in this format. I still want to stick my hand up and play in all three forms. It just so happens at the moment I'm getting my opportunity in the New Zealand side with the T20s, so I've got to make the most of it."

    Jonny Bairstow

    Bairstow burst into England's one-day side in spectacular style on a rainy night in Cardiff in September 2011, when he struck 41 in 21 balls on his ODI debut to become the instant darling of the English media. That his reputation had grown slightly ahead of his ability - undoubted though it is - was emphasised when he made his Test debut against West Indies in 2012. In three Tests he made only 38 runs and the ability of the West Indies fast bowler Kemar Roach to rough him up with short-pitched bowling gained much attention. Bairstow's ability to learn quickly was to be proven in subsequent weeks; a century against Australia A then a critical innings against South Africa at Lord's to vindicate his high rating.

    What's he about?
    Bairstow's cricket is characterised by ebullience and adventure. His attitude to a high-pressure situation is to meet it aggressively and, although the need to suppress such inclinations, and to find a more measured tempo, might have contributed to his uncertainty at the start of his Test career, the liberating atmosphere of the World Twenty20 might have come along at a perfect time. His ability to understudy Craig Kieswetter as deputy wicketkeeper is another bonus.

    What the team needs
    After his troubled introduction to Test cricket, Bairstow returned to Yorkshire and suffered a prolonged loss of form as if the game had suddenly become much more complicated for him. A century for England Lions, quickly followed by his Lord's adventure, revealed that his spirit is not easily suppressed. England need him to maintain that self-belief and play with unfettered ambition in the middle order.

    Big day out
    41* (21) v India, fifth ODI, Cardiff, 2011
    This is the debut innings from which Bairstow needs to progress. His first England appearance was a brilliant display of clean hitting after Virat Kohli's century had swept India beyond 300 and left them well placed for victory. In a rain-reduced chase, England had been set a stiff 241 from 34 overs and still needed 75 at almost nine an over when Bairstow emerged in the 25th. But he struck his fifth ball over midwicket for six and along with Ravi Bopara secured the win with ten balls to spare.

    Trivia and stats

  • Bairstow is a former Leeds United schoolboy footballer and was also a decent rugby player at St Peter's School in York.
  • His father, David "Bluey" Bairstow, was a former Yorkshire captain and wicketkeeper and was regarded as one of the most popular cricketers in Yorkshire's history

    "I've never seen such an entrance into internationals like it - to go out without fear and play with such skill. We might have found one. Jonny has made a name for himself"
    - Alastair Cook after Bairstow's Cardiff debut

    Andre Russell

    West Indies
    A powerful striker of the ball and a fast bowler capable of running through batting line-ups, Russell has shown glimpses of his potential at international level, though more in the 50-over format than in T20. There have been a few standout performances since he made his international debut in late 2010 at the age of 22, and his work against New Zealand in the recent one-day series was impressive, and timely, ahead of the World Twenty20. Russell proved during the 2011 World Cup that the biggest stage does not frighten him, with an outstanding all-round display against England, and his performances have earned him contracts in the IPL and the Bangladesh Premier League.

    What's he about?
    Russell is generally included in the West Indies side more for his bowling than his batting, sometimes taking the new ball in the limited-overs games. But though he generally bats at No. 8 or 9 in the ODI side, his striking is more that of a No. 6 or 7. Perhaps he suffers from being too similar to the captain, Darren Sammy, whose place in the side is guaranteed, but if Russell wins opportunities during this tournament, expect plenty of fireworks with the bat.

    What the team needs
    Sammy will remain the primary lower-order allrounder in the West Indies side, but Russell could provide some very useful runs if he is given a chance. All the same, what the team will really need from him is economical bowling. He can be the type of bowler who can leak a few too many runs, but his all-round package makes him an appealing option.

    Big day out
    92* (64) v India, third ODI, Antigua, 2011
    With some remarkable striking, including eight fours and five sixes, Russell powered West Indies from 96 for 7 when he came to the crease to a competitive 225 for 8. It wasn't enough to set up a win, but it must certainly have contributed to Russell earning an IPL deal the next year.

    Trivia and stats

  • Russell nearly beat England single-handedly at the 2011 World Cup, when he collected 4 for 49 and then struck 49 in a chase that proved just out of reach.
  • Like some of his fellow Jamaicans, Russell is pretty quick over 100 metres: he ran it in 10.45 seconds in high school

    "I always go in with a positive frame of my mind. I believe in myself and I know I can hit the ball."

    Bailey and Akmal by Daniel Brettig, Franklin and Russell by Brydon Coverdale, Jonny Bairstow by David Hopps

  • Comments have now been closed for this article

    • Aswin on August 20, 2012, 2:00 GMT


    • Aswin on August 20, 2012, 1:50 GMT

      BEST T20 xi:


      big FULL STOP

    • Dummy4 on August 18, 2012, 21:01 GMT

      Levi is very badly exposed in IPL when the pitch is helping spinners and there will not be any diffrence in SL All team will open with a spinner If the spinner is Left arm orthodox you will get him in the first over itself

    • Dummy4 on August 18, 2012, 20:56 GMT

      The big man to watch out is none other than Yuvraj Singh All focus will be on him All the best Champion!

    • Hira on August 18, 2012, 19:13 GMT

      There is no charm if KP is not included in this T20 world cup...what are the basis for this list? franklin, Bairstow, Andrew we know them??

    • Dummy4 on August 18, 2012, 17:33 GMT

      Russel's problem is that the selectors have to find a way to justify that Sammy is more worthy of a spot than him, such as batting a debutant bowling allrounder Carlos Brathwaite ahead of him shortly after he made that 94. In fact there are differences rather than similarities between him and Sammy, as a bowler he can be an opening strike bowler that can set a batting line up on the backfoot with early loss of wickets; Sammy can't. As a batsman, he can dig the team out of a hole with sensible batting and proper cricket shots, questionable if Sammy can do much morre than voop.

    • Akshay on August 18, 2012, 16:34 GMT

      Other than for Bailey and Franklin all others have had their big day out against the Indians!!!!

    • Stark on August 18, 2012, 15:12 GMT

      @ Harnish This article is about players who have interesting stories regarding their selection (maybe with the exception of Russell).

      If it was based on key players to watch out for during the tournament, then I'm sure you would have seen names like: Afridi, Gayle, Dhoni, Watson etc.

      Anyway, I think Yuvraj would have been a worthy inclusion into this article.

    • Avais on August 18, 2012, 15:03 GMT

      Kamran's batting is not only effective but extremely attractive to watch. Unlike batting his keeping was ugly at times. I'm hoping he will continue with his attractive and explosive batting and his keeping will be OK at least. I'm sure he had learnt something while away from national duties, only time will tell.

    • rehan on August 18, 2012, 14:57 GMT

      @ Hanish Kumar , @Chad S Botha , @CricketPissek: this is part 1 of the list. Please read the title carefully which says.... "World Twenty20 players to watch - 1" right at the top.

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