The World Cup provides the biggest platform for a player to shine. While some have the opportunity to bask under the media's spotlight, few tend to remain under the radar. Here is a list of five relatively underrated players who have the potential to make a difference to their team's title hopes.
1. Sarfraz Ahmed (Pakistan): Right hand bat and wicketkeeper
Sarfraz made his T20I debut in 2010 but failed in his first outing, scoring just 5 runs. He had to wait until late 2014 for another chance with the bat in a T20I, and this time he did not disappoint, grabbing the opportunity with both hands. The Karachi-born batsman played a 'Man of the match' knock of 76 not out against a formidable New Zealand side. Ever since, his stock has only grown, and he is now the vice-captain of the side. He finished the recently-concluded Asia Cup T20 with the highest runs among the Pakistan batsmen, with an average of over 60.
What sets him apart is his versatility and the wide array of shots he possesses. Sarfraz is also something which cannot be said about most of his teammates – dependable. He has proven that he can play in any position in the batting order, any given match situation as well as on any pitch conditions. He is the pillar of Pakistan’s batting, and with his supreme cricketing IQ he applies his talents perfectly in match conditions. Most Pakistani batsman either struggle to change gears or end up playing careless and rash cricket shots even when things look to be in control. But Sarfraz has, time and again, showed that he can keep the balance between accelerating with big shots and keeping the scoreboard ticking. Add to that the fact that he has solved Pakistan’s long standing wicket-keeper problem, and he will be one of the main reasons if Pakistan are to qualify from a tough group 2.
2. Andre Fletcher (West Indies): Right hand bat
At the last World Cup T20, Andre Fletcher flew in as a back up player and as expected played a grand total of zero games. This time the scenario is different as an unfortunate injury to Lendl Simmons just before the World T20, means Fletcher is all set to be a regular part of the West Indian eleven at the World Cup.
But can he stand up and make himself count? Recent performances say so. From the 2014 World T20 till now, Andre Fletcher has been a consistent performer racking up 196 runs at an average of 39.2 and a healthy strike rate of 140. He has won two 'Man of the match' awards and one 'Man of the series' award in this period. In the 2015 edition of the Caribbean Premier League, Fletcher finished as the second-highest scorer (second only to Chris Gayle) scoring 369 at a strike rate of 129.
What sets him apart in a Windies squad full of power hitters, is his ability to anchor the innings from one end, while continuing to add runs at a healthy rate. The best thing about Fletcher is his mental strength, showing patience that is often found missing among his teammates. Fletcher has played in the World T20 previously, hitting a quick-fire 50 vs Australia in 2009 before having a miserable campaign for the rest of the tournament. So he will definitely not be overawed on the big stage. Having a stable and dominating opening pair is one of the major keys to success in T20, and come World Cup time, Fletcher will be expected to give his team good starts.
3. Nathan Coulter Nile (Australia): Right arm fast and right hand bat
At the last World T20, Coulter Nile was part of an Australian team that failed embarrassingly given the richness of talent on show. While he didn’t wrap himself in glory, a bowling average of 13 and economy of 7 is nothing to be ashamed about either. He made his return to the XI only recently when the side toured South Africa and was Australia’s best bowler over the three-game series. The current Australian team looks stacked with match winners on paper but lacks a solid backbone, which has been their undoing in T20s as they sit at 8th in T20I rankings without a single World T20 to boast of.
Coulter Nile is also an all-rounder just like a host of other teammates like Faulkner, Mitchell Marsh, Watson, Maxwell, but what sets him apart when it comes to T20 is his impressive win record. From being an integral part of the most dominating franchise in BBL Perth Scorchers, where he has won the trophy twice to winning IPL 2013 and the succeeding CLT20 2013 with Mumbai Indians, Coulter Nile knows what it takes to cross that finishing line. With injury denying Mitchell Starc a place, Australia is desperately weak in death over bowling, and Coulter Nile can come handy with his yorkers. That combined with his power hitting makes NCN the X-factor for Australia which might finally see them break their World T20 jinx.
4. Adil Rashid (England): Right arm spin and right hand bat
Making his debut in 2009, Rashid didn't find it easy at the international arena and was subsequently dropped after a string of poor showings. Rashid then had to wait for almost six years to get his next chance, but when it came he didn’t disappoint. Rashid is an integral part of this "New England" team and has become a regular in both the ODI and T20s. He was a major hit in the latest season of BBL finishing as the second-highest wicket-taker snapping 16 victims at a miserly 6.5 economy. After comprehensive wins over New Zealand, Australia and Pakistan over the last year, both Rashid and England will be eyeing the big one now.
What sets him apart, if we look past his helpful heavy hitting abilities is the bowling. For a team as top heavy and with as much batting depth as the present England side, it is almost a necessity for a bowler to perform out of his skin in his four-over quota. With subcontinental conditions being in his favour, it won't be outlandish to say Rashid with his leg spin and wrong'uns will be the one England counts on when they take the field. A game-changing spinner is quickly becoming the norm for any successful team in T20 cricket, and rarely have England had the luxury of one. Look out for him bamboozling batsmen with his never-ending variations.
5. Milinda Siriwardana (Sri Lanka): Left hand bat and left arm orthodox
Making his debut in 2015, in next to no time Siriwardana has become a regular fixture in not one but all three forms of the game for his country. Due to his magnificent performances over such a short time, he has earned the nickname of the "Man with the Golden Arm" from his countrymen.
What sets him apart is that he is a very orthodox player, unlike most T20 all-rounders who are either power hitters or innovative shot-makers and spinners who rely on mystery balls to succeed. His batting relies on proper cricket shots, and his bowling heavily consists of flighting the ball and pitching it in the right areas. In March/April, Sri Lanka will look to become the first team to defend their T20 crown, and don't be surprised if Siriwardana is the focal point of their charge.
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