Classy Babar, in-form Kohli: Five to watch out for in T20 World Cup
The newest edition of the ICC Twenty20 World Cup began this Sunday in Australia with the game's biggest names primed to set the showpiece alight. AFP Sport looks at five players to watch at the World Cup:
David Warner (Australia)
Big-hitting batsman Warner will be key to Australia's attempt to secure back-to-back titles after they claimed their maiden T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates last year.
The explosive opener made 289 runs including three half-centuries at the 2021 World Cup, helping to defy pundits who had all but written off the team.
The 35-year-old Warner has had a patchy run since, but his recent knocks of 75 and 73 against the West Indies and England were proof of his enduring quality -- and more evidence that you write him off at your peril.
Virat Kohli (India)
Indian social media erupted in hailing the return of "King" Kohli after the former captain hammered his first international century in 1,020 days during the recent Asia Cup.
Kohli hit an unbeaten 122 against Afghanistan to record his 71st century for India across all formats and shake off his extended dry run with the bat.
Suryakumar Yadav, skipper Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul will share the burden at the crease with Kohli in Australia.
But Indian pundits and fans are licking their lips at the prospect of star batsman Kohli, 33, playing a leading role in their country's bid to end a nine-year global title drought.
Babar Azam (Pakistan)
The classy Pakistan captain remains the talisman of his team's batting line-up despite his inconsistent T20 form since the Asia Cup.
Fellow opener Mohammad Rizwan last month overtook him as the number one T20 batsman in the world, but Babar, 27, could well hit top gear in the T20 showpiece event.
Last month Babar hit a match-winning 110 not out against England at home and has earned praise from some of the game's greats.
"Babar is a complete player with his flowing drives and all-round shot range," former Australian captain Ian Chappell wrote on ESPNcricinfo.
Jos Buttler (England)
Buttler has risen to the challenge of balancing his batting, captaincy and wicketkeeping duties after his appointment as England's white-ball skipper in June.
The opener hit four sixes in his 32-ball 68 during England's win over Australia in a warm-up match on Sunday, a welcome portent of England's chances against the World Cup holders and hosts in the tournament proper.
Along with Australia and India, England are among the favourites to win the trophy for a second time after their 2010 triumph and in the 32-year-old Buttler they have a batsman of the highest quality.
Appears to be over the calf injury which kept him on the sidelines of the recent 4-3 series win in Pakistan.
Trent Boult (New Zealand)
Veteran left-arm quick bowler Boult has kept up his form since last year's T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates where he played a key part in his team's run to the final.
Able to swing the ball both ways at high speed, the 33-year-old Boult can destroy any top order with the new ball.
A year ago he took 13 wickets, more than any other fast bowler at the World Cup, and he is an experienced performer in Australian conditions.
Boult leads a potent New Zealand opening attack alongside Tim Southee as the Black Caps attempt to win a maiden global title in Australia, having also been runners-up in the last two editions of the 50-over World Cup.