Thursday, 19 December 2013

The T20 long shots

T20 cricket has taken a back seat as attention has switched to losing the Ashes and an otherwise welcome diet of test cricket which will take us through the festive period. After that, it’s back to hit and giggle with a surfeit of the shortest form of the game, starting with the Australians who will be Big Bashing through January.

Chris Gayle...a star of T20
The next instalment of the T20 World Cup takes place in March and immediately after that, the biggest circus of all returns with IPL 7. As always there will be a shake up in the rules and the biggest blow for many of us is that there will be no cheerleaders as a welcome diversion when the matches get predictable.

But before all that it’s the auction which takes place in February and after an interesting twelve months for T20 cricket, here are eight outsiders who we think are worthy of a punt – even if it’s for the dismal Kings XI.

1. Kevin O'Brien

Will we see an Irishman compete at IPL 6? Well Eoin Morgan has been with KKR for several years but let’s not go down that route for now. The younger of the O’Brien brothers is a regular fixture in T20 teams across England, West Indies and Bangladesh but has yet to attract any interest from India.

You feel that if nobody was interested in the all rounder after his match winning ton against England in the 2011 World Cup, no-one would take him in 2014 but the 29 year old now has a T20 century to his name and after several impressive performances in the qualifying stages ahead of Bangladesh 2014. Someone should seriously have a rethink.

2. Alex Hales

Nottinghamshire’s Hales should feature at IPL 7 after his county agreed a new deal that will allow the opener to play in the event ahead of the county season. As a regular in the international T20 side, Hales should surely get his chance with one of the bigger franchises but English performers are rare at the IPL even when they do put themselves into the auction.

If there is any doubt, teams should be reminded of his 89 off 52 balls on a Big Bash debut for the Renegades last season. That effort alone should give Alex Hales an IPL berth.

Hales...big impact in T20 cricket

3. Martin Guptill

Guptill remained unsold at the 2013 auction despite a relatively modest base price of $100,000. That was a little surprising considering the Kiwi had enjoyed a prolific 12 months, particularly against the potent bowling attack of South Africa.

Since that snub, the 27 year old had a brilliant ODI series against England with back to back, unbeaten tons that included New Zealand’s highest effort in the one day game – 189. His stats are impressive and already show two T20 centuries. OK so he does spend most of his time on the treatment table these days but if he stays fit, Guppy is surely worth a punt.

4. Sohag Gazi

Bangladeshi internationals have featured fleetingly at the IPL and the highlight so far has been Shakib Al-Hasan’s winning contribution for KKR in the 2012 final. Sohag Gazi would be a true left-field selection but recent international performancesuggest he could be the country’s next great all-rounder.

Gazi’s claim to fame came earlier this year when he became the first player in history to score a century and take a hat trick in the same test match. That display boosted his averages but his T20 record is modest in comparison. However, at 22 he’s worth an investment even if it’s to sit in the dugout and for IPL money, anyone would be happy enough to carry the drinks.

Corey Anderson...bright future

5. Corey Anderson

New Zealand’s Corey Anderson is another all-rounder who will doubtless have caught the attention of IPL sides in the second half of 2013. We were sold the theory that he was a limited overs specialist but like Gazi, Anderson’s biggest performance has been delivered in test cricket – 116 against Bangladesh in Dhaka back in October.

The 23 year old also has a four-for in ODI’s and while he isn’t a definite for IPL 7, his early displays are reminiscent of James Franklin – a Kiwi who has travelled to India regularly with little effect.

6. Ravi Bopara

Poor Ravi – unsold in 2013 despite a bargain base price of $100,000, he had even underwhelmed Kings XI Punjab who condemned him to an early season in freezing Chelmsford. It’s been a while since Indian domestic crowds were treated to any Bopara brilliance so why should anyone invest in him now?

Ravi could be considered as cricket’s Bart Simpson – underachiever and proud of it – but if he can return some big scores against Australia this winter then he could be back. After all, franchises seem happy enough to take Bopara's county colleague – the ageing and infirm Owais Shah - along for the ride 

Top dollar...Stirling is worth a few rupees surely?

7. Paul Stirling

If there are no takers for Ireland’s Kevin O’Brien then how about Paul Stirling – a man who made 76 from just 43 balls in the World T20 qualifying final? At 23, Stirling is the veteran of 45 ODIs and has five centuries with a best of 177 next to his name.

We like to avoid cricketing clich√©s like the plague but Stirling is a no-nonsense hitter who is set to develop into an even better all-rounder than his compatriot O’Brien. Plus, it would be great to see some Irish fans at the IPL – come on franchises it would be much more fun.

8. Ben Stokes

Anyone looking for a knee-jerk selection would have noticed Stokes’ brilliant counter attacking ton against the Aussies at Perth. The Durham man will now become a regular fixture in all England’s sides and one bonus for the IPL franchises outside of Mumbai is that he won’t take any crap from Mitchell Johnson.

Like many of the names on this list, there is no guarantee that Ben Stokes will be available for IPL 7 but it would be worth taking a gamble on any of these players when the auction starts in 2014.

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