World Twenty20 players to watch - 3 September 1, 2012

Comebacks and newbies

Siddarth Ravindran, Daniel Brettig, Andrew Fernando, Mohammad Isam, David Hopps
In part three of our series on players who will capture your imagination in the World Twenty20, we look at two dramatic returns to international cricket

Yuvraj Singh

The story of Yuvraj Singh's recent career could make a typically dramatic Bollywood movie: form, injuries and controversies leading to the hero's fall from grace in 2010; the emphatic end to jokes about an expanding waistline and questions about his attitude in 2011 through a Man-of-the-Series performance in the biggest tournament in the game; the high disappearing as he is diagnosed with cancer; chemotherapy and treatment followed by a gradual re-introduction to cricket. That's how far the story has progressed. Will the hero recapture the heights of old, or will he be a shadow of the past? Coming to you this September.

What's he about?
T20 may have led to a preponderance of power-hitters, but few can combine ground-clearing skills with a penchant for the big occasion like Yuvraj does. Both of India's global titles over the past five years arrived after he reinvigorated flatlining campaigns: his six sixes in an over off Stuart Broad in a must-win encounter in the 2007 World Twenty20 is one of the most-watched cricket videos on Youtube, while India hardly looked world-champion material in the 2011 World Cup till he took charge of the chase against defending champions Australia. In recent years, he has added value to the side through his improved offspin.

What the team needs
India's vexing search for a limited-overs allrounder ended in the 2011 World Cup when Yuvraj showed he could be relied on to serve as a fifth bowler. His finishing skills and explosive batting remain important, but if he can again fill in the allrounder's slot, India can stick to their tried-and-tested policy of playing seven recognised batsmen.

Big day out
70 (off 30) v Australia, World Twenty20 semi-final, Durban, 2007

T20 merely a hit-and-giggle? You wouldn't think that if you'd watched this high-intensity, high-quality semi-final. Yuvraj was the headliner for an innings combining grace, power and placement that must have given the highlights editor a headache over which shots to select. The all-conquering Australia were for once overwhelmed in a knockout match.

Trivia and stats

  • Yuvraj is one of only five players to have a career strike-rate above 150 (min 10 innings).
  • Only one other player - Guyana offspinner Lennox Cush - has taken two Twenty20 hat-tricks. Yuvraj took two hat-tricks in the 2009 IPL.

"Cancer may be the best thing to have happened to me and maybe I will realise this in the future."

Brad Hogg

Floating around in the netherworld of post-retirement life in Perth, Hogg was given pause to reconsider the game when he took a call from then Perth Scorchers coach Mickey Arthur in mid-2011. Would he be interested in training up and presenting himself for a possible spot on the Scorchers' inaugural squad? "Why not?" came the reply. Since then Hogg has reminded all why his boundless energy and ripping left-arm wrist spin were such a valuable part of the Australian limited-overs team in the years immediately after Shane Warne's ODI exit in 2003. The time away from the game has not appeared to have reduced the spring in his step or the snap in his wrist, and after a succession of fine spells for Perth, Cape Cobras and the Rajasthan Royals, he is poised to be Australia's lead spinner at the World Twenty20.

What's he about?
Hogg is not considered one of the game's great geniuses, but with the benefit of 17 years developing the craft in and around first-class cricket, he is arguably the most accomplished slow bowler still available to Australia's selectors. Able to spin the ball sharply with either his stock ball or googly, Hogg also possesses a rapid-fire flipper that has fooled batsmen as eagle-eyed as Andy Flower and Sachin Tendulkar. Add to that his sharp fielding and a knack for pesky runs, Hogg is a highly useful T20 package, even at the age of 41.

What the team needs
On surfaces expected to take turn, Hogg's commission will be both attacking and defensive. He may be required to come on quite early in the innings if the new ball has failed to break through, charged with deceiving the batsmen into a fatal error or at least reduce their confidence in playing strokes. Critically, Hogg cannot allow his energy or direction to slacken as the tournament progresses - arguably the major challenge for a cricketer who has not experienced major tournament pressure since the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean.

Big day out
3 for 20 v Adelaide Strikers, Perth, 2012

A match in which Hogg showed he still had the capacity to spread panic through a batting order as only the best wrist spinners can. The Strikers were on course to reel in the Scorchers' tally before Hogg's introduction. He picked up three wickets and ran out Cameron Borgas as few batsmen showed any idea of how to read his variations.

Trivia and stats

  • Before his international T20 comeback against India in Sydney in February, Hogg last played for Australia in March 2008.
  • At 41, Hogg will be the oldest player participating in the tournament.

"I've got a lot of pride in myself and I want to make sure I do what I did three and a half years ago - and that was work hard and do my best out on the field."

Doug Bracewell
New Zealand

To borrow from David Mitchell and Robert Webb, Bracewell's got stumps in his blood. His father Brendon was a stalwart of New Zealand domestic cricket for 13 years, and would almost certainly have represented his country in more than six Tests had his injury-prone body allowed it; his uncle John was New Zealand's spin bowler through the 1980s, before he retired and went on to become coach of the national side for five years; two other uncles and a cousin have also made a living from the sport at first-class level. Bracewell may have been picked for national duty on that reputation, rather than on his domestic record, but since arriving at the top level, he has already made an indelible mark on his country's cricket. His match haul of 9 for 60 in Hobart last year was the defining performance in New Zealand's most celebrated Test win since Richard Hadlee's Australian exploits in 1985.

What's he about?
Broad-shouldered and muscle-bound, Bracewell combines hit-the-deck pace with seam movement as well as hooping reverse swing with the older ball. He has not yet lit the stage in Twenty20 cricket, perhaps because he has tended, as he does in Tests, to let the batsman make the mistake rather than taking the game to his opponent. His control, however, means he will rarely have a poor outing, even if outstanding performances are not forthcoming. He is a valuable lower-order hitter too and can defend well when required as he showed during a match-saving partnership with Kane Williamson against Dale Steyn and company in March.

What the team needs
The challenge for Bracewell in the shorter formats is to shelve the formula that has brought him Test success. His consistency in line and length can sometimes be a liability at the death, and it is there where he has leaked runs to repeatedly ruin what had promised to be good figures. Team-mate Tim Southee was once a specialist in finding the blockhole late in the innings, but has lost his touch of late, and if Bracewell can develop that skill further, he will help elevate New Zealand's attack from decent to menacing.

Big day out
6 for 40 v Australia, Hobart, 2011

On day four in Hobart, Australia needed only 82 to win with eight wickets in hand and a well-set David Warner partnering Ricky Ponting at the crease. In 9.4 overs either side of lunch, Bracewell unleashed a spell neither he nor most New Zealand fans will ever forget. First, he had Ponting caught at cover off an away-seamer, before gutting the Australian middle order in his next over by removing Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey off consecutive deliveries. Southee nabbed two for himself at the other end, before Bracewell returned to decimate the tail and seal New Zealand's first win over Australia since 1993.

Stats and trivia

  • Bracewell's Test average of 24.05 is considerably better than his first-class average of 33.25, but his Twenty20 international average of 37.57 is much worse than his domestic average of 24.81.
  • He is named after Australian allrounder Doug Walters, who is a friend of his father's.

"You look at him and think he should be wanting to be world-ranked. Not just a good player for New Zealand, but he should be a world-class player."
Former New Zealand coach John Wright on Bracewell.

Nasir Hossain

The ICC World Twenty20 will be Nasir Hossain's first major opportunity to prove to his doubters that he doesn't have stage-fright as he did in the Asia Cup final. Out of BKSP's assembly line of talented young cricketers, Nasir was quickly signed up by Abahani, one of Dhaka's most popular clubs, at the age of 17. In the first season he dealt with the high-pressure derby against Mohammedan, holding his own while opening the bowling against Sanath Jayasuriya. He quickly became a sought-after signing in Dhaka's club scene, giving him a good preparatory lesson to handle pressure at the international level. He made his debut in 2011 against Zimbabwe, starting off with a half-century.

What's he about?
Nasir's primary job is to see out Bangladesh's batting - the highest he has batted in T20Is has been at six. He has had to make the best out of limited opportunities, which often comes along after a mini-collapse. Similar to many finishers and innings-rebuilders, he does it ugly, and on a few occasions in his short international career, he has been successful, but his slow 28 against Pakistan in the Asia Cup final proved that he needs a strokeplayer at the other end during a chase. His fielding position depends on the position of the game, though he starts off at backward point. He also offers some darts as an offspinner, but hasn't been used much by Mushfiqur Rahim.

What the team needs
A batsman who can shore up the strokeplayers like Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan and skipper Mushfiqur, provide a flourish in the end or repair a collapse. His 54 in the win against India was hardly noticed and that is exactly what a team like Bangladesh needs: a few batsmen to work as the engine-room as Damien Martyn used to call the middle-order.

Big day out
50* (off 33) v Ireland, second T20I, Belfast, 2012

Having seen the top order throw away wickets cheaply, Nasir had less than ten overs to dig Bangladesh out of 61 for 4. But he kept the run-rate steady till he had his eye in and launched into the Ireland attack in the last four overs, having ensured that his team had a competitive score to defend.

Trivia and stats
His 63
at the Harare Sports Club in August last year was the highest score by a Bangladeshi on ODI debut.

"It hardly matters where or when I bat as long as I can make a contribution to the team. My job is to make the best out of a situation, that's what I try to do every time I walk out to bat. I'm really excited about playing the same role in the ICC World Twenty20s, my first tournament of the scale."

Alex Hales

Alex Hales' England career has been limited to five matches in the Twenty20 format, although he had hopes of further experience against South Africa ahead of World Twenty20. He began with a duck against India at Old Trafford, but his fifth appearance - 99 against West Indies on his home ground at Trent Bridge - was a bittersweet assertion of his talent. Hales first sprung to national attention in 2005 when, as a 16-year-old, he famously hit 55 off a single over (eight sixes and one four in an over containing three no-balls) at Lord's in a London County Cricket Club tournament. He represented Buckinghamshire before making a double-century in a trial match for Nottinghamshire in 2007 and quickly winning a full-time contract. It was one-day cricket where he first built his reputation, thrashing an unbeaten 150 against Worcestershire in Pro40 in 2009. England's interest was whetted from then on.

What's he about?
Hales is a tall, powerful front-footer with an extra-cover drive on the up that can make a crowd gasp. His authority is less obvious against short-pitched bowling, and it is in one-day cricket where England's interest is most pronounced. His disciplinary record is far from impeccable and to sleep in until lunchtime during a Nottinghamshire championship match against Middlesex at Lord's in 2012, having got out on the previous evening, was one good night out too many, especially as England's captain, Andrew Strauss, was in the opposition.

What the team needs
England need a cracking start from Hales and Craig Kieswetter at the top of the order - if they finally opt for that combination, that is. Hales' ability on South Asian pitches, or indeed in South Asian heat, is as yet unproven and he will need to show early signs of contentment in warm-up matches against Australia and Pakistan to retain his place in the final XI. If he does, he will not be pushing too many singles.

Big day out
99 (off 68) v West Indies, only T20, Trent Bridge, 2012

Hales' 99, in a record 159-run partnership with Ravi Bopara, took England to a convincing seven-wicket victory against West Indies - their highest successful T20 chase. He also overtook Eoin Morgan's unbeaten 85 against South Africa in Johannesburg as England's best in this format. He fell to the last ball of penultimate over, an excellent yorker by Ravi Rampaul which he was trying to work to leg.

Trivia and stats
Hales is also a mean tennis player - and he has the genes for it: his grandfather Dennis, a Middlesex bus driver, once forced Rod Laver to five sets in a qualifying tournament for Wimbledon.

Hales once wrote on Facebook that he was a terrible club batsman and he confirmed that to the Nottingham entertainments magazine Left Lion. "Without a shadow of a doubt! I'm one of the worst league batsmen in the country. I've got an appalling record. I don't know why that is but I recommend that any clubs in Nottingham don't get in touch with me."

His godfather, the South African-based journalist Neal Collins, once wrote: "He could hit a golf ball 50 yards when he was two. Kick a football through a window. Put a stone over the fence when other kids threw like pansies. At Denham First School, the dinner ladies decided the big kid was the one behind all the trouble in the playground. When he hurriedly moved to St Joseph's Primary in neighbouring Chalfont St Peter he was banned from the school bus in the first week."

Yuvraj by Siddarth Ravindran, Hogg by Daniel Brettig, Bracewell by Andrew Fernando, Hossain by Mohammad Isam, Hales by David Hopps