Shane Watson was recently asked to select five players of his liking for a World T20 lineup ahead of the marquee event in October, causing him to make some obvious picks as well as bold predictions. Perhaps his least surprising selection was Babar Azam at the top, given the Pakistani's record.
The ICC World T20 is now just two months away from commencement, with the tournament's group stages scheduled to begin on October 22 Down Under.
A batsmen the whole world will be watching keenly there will be Pakistan's talisman Babar Azam, the number one ranked batter in the format. Last year, the skipper of his national team had accumulated a record 939 runs, only bettered in the game's history by his teammate Mohammad Rizwan in the same year. Of late, Azam has been in phenomenal form, tallying 1,406 runs in 2022 across formats at a stupendous average of 78.11.
Thus, when Shane Watson was asked to pick five players for a World T20 XI, the former all-rounder had no hesitation in choosing the 27-year-old at the top of his list.
"First one I'd pick would be Babar Azam. He's the No. 1 T20I batter in the world, and he just knows how to dominate. It's like he's not even taking any risks, and he scores incredibly quickly against the best bowlers in the world," he said on The ICC Review according to NDTV.
"He's going to do very well in Australian conditions (during the T20 World Cup) as well, as his technique is very much built for Australian conditions."
Indian phenom Suryakumar Yadav was the next to be acknowledged by the Australian for his talent and form. Establishing himself as a permanent fixture in the T20I squad amidst unparalleled competition, the top-order batter has justified the selectors' faith with a ton and two half-centuries in the ongoing year. His career strike rate of 175.45 is simply unheard of, giving him the edge in the explosive format.
"He's batting incredibly well, and he would be my No.2 pick. But I wouldn't be surprised at all if KL Rahul explodes in the T20 World Cup in Australia, because he's got the game to dominate in these conditions in Australia."
The hosts and reigning champions will go into the tournament as firm favourites, thereby making David Warner an obvious pick. England's Jos Buttler was the penultimate name amongst the top five, given his ground-breaking performance in the Indian Premier League's latest edition.
To round off the list, Watson went with the currently injured Shaheen Afridi, who had made eyeballs roll in the last tournament with his fearsome bowling. A product as well as successor of the great pace-bowling heritage of his country, the youngster had destroyed India singlehandedly in 2021 by scalping the vicious trident of KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli.
"And the last one is Shaheen Afridi. His wicket-taking ability is something special. We saw in the last men's T20 World Cup his ability to be able to get the best batsmen out with that brand new ball. I'd be very surprised if he doesn't really dominate in Australian conditions, with the ball swinging around and fast, bouncy wickets."
"My only little concern with him is, if he doesn't take wickets to start with, then he can tail off a little bit. But I'm sure he's been working on that. I'd be surprised if he doesn't dominate here," Watson concluded