Cut out for cut and thrust version

Kevin Pietersen(England):

He was one of the disasters in the Indian Premier League in South Africa.

 Bought for a record amount by the Royal Challengers Bangalore, the right-hander did little with the bat and as captain he was an unmitigated failure, winning just two matches in six. But the former England skipper, by some distance the best batsman of his side, will still be best bet for the hosts, who begin their campaign on Friday against the Netherlands.  Pietersen, who admitted he is yet to adapt to the shortest format of the game, showed he is learning the tricks of the trade with a fine knock in the warm-up game against on Wednesday.

Shahid Afridi (Pakistan) The volatile all-rounder is still the most bankable player for the embattled Pakistan, who came a cropper in the two warm-up matches. A destructive batsman that he is, Afridi can hold more than his own with his well-disguised leg-spinners. He was one of the success stories for Pakistan in their one-day series loss to Australia in the gulf and Younis Khan will be hoping his trump card comes to the party to reverse their dwindling fortunes.

Rohit Sharma (India)
If his form in the second edition of the Indian Premier League wasn’t proof enough of his batting prowess, the two warm-up matches -- against New Zealand and Pakistan -- have shown in good measure the right-hander’s destructive abilities. In the absence of Virender Sehwag through injury, the Mumbaikar -- opening the innings -- stood up to the challenge chalking up two quickfire innings, sending ominous signs to opponents.

A B de Villiers (South Africa): One of the most exciting talents in world cricket today, De Villiers will have a crucial role to play for South Africa. One of the bigger success stories in the IPL playing for Delhi Daredevils, his side will be looking for the youngster to come good again. A versatile batsman capable of quickly alternating between caution and aggression, the right-hander will be the one to watch out for in the tournament.

Ross Taylor
(New Zealand): One of the most explosive batsmen in the world today, Taylor can change the course of a game single-handedly as was evident in the Indian Premier League where he resuscitated Royal Challengers’ campaign with some brutal innings. The right-hander already has made his intentions clear, notching up a quick cameo against India in the warm-up match. Kiwis will be hoping the 25-year-old continues in the same vein.

Shane Watson (Australia): Capable of getting a place in the side only on his batting abilities, Watson provides multiple options for Australia with his fast-bowling. He was an unqualified success in the inaugural edition of the IPL, but injuries prevented him from playing in the second edition. But since his comeback to the Australian side, the all-rounder has shown more than glimpses of his brilliance. If Watson can stay free of injuries, he will prove to be a whammy for his opponents.

Chris Gayle (West Indies) The controversy surrounding his remarks on Test cricket and the continued lean patch notwithstanding, the left-hander will still be the most dependable batsman for the West Indies in this format. Capable of destroying any attack on his day, the skipper will carry the hopes of his side which will be keen to bounce back from their losses against England.

Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka): Coming back after a career threatening injury, the slinger was simply sensational playing for the Mumbai Indians in the IPL. Bowling consistently quick, the Sri Lankan harried the batsmen, though he somewhat fizzled out towards the end of their campaign. If he can control his waywardness, the paceman will be the trump card for Kumar Sangakkara. 

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