Pace, power and pure excitement; we are not talking about Usain Bolt strolling to another 100m sprint victory, but the biggest cricket competition on the planet – the World Twenty20.
Hong Kong take on Zimbabwe on March 8 to begin four weeks of entertainment that sees the best of the best battle it out to see which nation will be crowned champion of the game’s shortest form.
Sri Lanka head to India as the reigning champions, but the hosts will hope to use home advantage as they look to cement their place at the top of the Twenty20 rankings.
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For just the second time, the tournament will see 16 teams competing, with the top eight sides automatically qualifying for the Super 10 stage, while the remaining nations, including Ireland and Scotland, fight it out in groups to progress.
England get their campaign underway against West Indies on March 14, both winners of the competition in the last six years, in the second round that will see the top two from each group of five reach the semi-finals.
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While some nations have a better history in this competition than others, the players on show will be the ones that will dazzle the crowds and produce the kind of entertainment that has made Twenty20 so popular.
Here are five of the most exciting batsmen to look out for:
5. Shahid Afridi (Pakistan)
The Pakistan all-rounder has been around the cricket scene for some time, but is never too far from the Twenty20 arena.
The 35-year-old veteran, who will return to Hampshire Royals for the T20 Blast in the summer, will captain his country as he bids to become the first to reach 100 wickets in the short form of the game.
While the spinner is skilled with a ball in hand, he is also the man Pakistan will turn to when batting, as the Twenty20 specialist excels at getting runs quickly.
4. Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh)
The only player on this list that will have to guide his team to victory the hard way, but you would not put it past Bangladesh’s star performer.
The Tigers will need to top a group that includes Netherlands, Ireland and Oman to reach the Super 10 stage, and although they will be overwhelming favourites to do so, the 28-year-old will be key if they have hopes of reaching the semi-finals.
The 28-year-old is closing in on 1000 runs in Twenty20 cricket, having recently passed 50 wickets.
Al Hasan is rated as the second-best all-rounder in the shortest format, and will give 110% when the tournament begins.
3. Rohit Sharma (India)
When India need a big score, there is only one man they need to turn to, Rohit Sharma.
The 28-year-old, who will play for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League following the World Twenty20, currently holds the record for most runs in an ODI innings, hitting 264 from 173 balls against Sri Lanka in 2014.
He has also hit 10 fifties in 51 Twenty20 internationals so expect fireworks when Sharma gets into his zone.
2. Jos Buttler (England)
Jos Buttler may be struggling to become England’s number one Test wicketkeeper, but there is no doubting his position in the shorter formats.
The Mumbai Indians new signing tends to be used down the order, stopping him from unleashing his full potential, but when given the opportunity, Buttler can be as explosive as they get.
In his last outing, England were in trouble at 61-3 but the Somerset man restored some dignity with a knock of 54 off of 28 balls, while he has also hit four centuries in the 50-over version.
The World Twenty20 competition will be a big test for Buttler if he hopes to turn his undeniable potential and show he can hang with the best.
1. Steven Smith (Australia)
Australia’s man of the moment in Twenty20 cricket may be Aaron Finch, who currently holds the record for most runs in a single innings in the format, but it will be his captain that will be in the spotlight in India.
At the age of 26, Steven Smith is the second youngest captain at the tournament, behind New Zealand’s Kane Williamson, but the all-rounder will need to replicate his success in Test cricket in the shorter formats.
Smith recently guided his country to the top of the Test rankings, following a 2-0 series win over the Black Caps, whilst they are also rated as the best ODI side.
Yet, they currently sit eighth in the Twenty20 table, and Smith will need to draw confidence from recent successes if Australia are to truly become the best team in the world.
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