T20 World Cup top bowler predictions: Spin is king and Ish Sodhi can rule

Spinners have topped the wicket-takers' list in the last three T20 World Cups and Andy Schooler sees no reason for that to change on the slow pitches of the Middle East.

A spinner has finished as top wicket-taker at the last three T20 World Cup tournaments and our Andy Schooler is banking on that sequence continuing in the Middle East.

And the man he believes will add his name to the list is New Zealand leg-spinner Ish Sodhi at 25/1.

When and where is the T20 World cup taking place and who is in it?

Dates: October 17 to November 12, 2021

Hosts: UAE (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah) and Oman (Muscat)

Format: 16 teams. Round one: two groups of four, top two in each progress to Super 12s. Super 12s: two groups of six, top two in each progress to semi-finals.

Super 12s

Group 1: England, Australia, South Africa, West Indies, Winner Group A (Sri Lanka or Ireland), Bangladesh

Group 2: India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Afghanistan, Runner-up Group A (Sri Lanka, Ireland or Namibia), Scotland

Best bets

Ish Sodhi to be top tournament wicket-taker at 25/1

Hasan Ali to be top tournament wicket-taker at 20/1

Andre Russell each way (1/4, 1-4) to be top tournament wicket-taker at 66/1

Sodhi can improve strike rate on slow UAE pitches

Ish Sodhi New Zealand 2019

Only four players at this tournament have taken more career wickets in Twenty20 internationals than New Zealand leg-spinner Ish Sodhi, who has claimed those scalps at a decent strike rate of one every 16.1 balls.

Yes, he'll need to improve on that to triumph in this market - history shows you are looking for around two wickets per game to emerge as the winner - but the slow UAE pitches should suit.

Sodhi took 10 wickets in five matches at the last T20 World Cup, held in India, effectively winning this market.

The two Afghans who finished above him took wickets in the first round but Planet Sport Bet's market for this year's event is only taking into account the Super 12 stage and beyond - performances in the first-round stage, featuring the minnows, are excluded.

Sodhi's recent T20I is also strong.

Across 2020 and 2021, he's taken 26 wickets in 17 matches. Of players who have taken at least 20 wickets in that period, his strike rate is the fourth best. For those interested, Bangladesh's Mustafizur Rahman leads the way.

Filter down simply to 2021 and Sodhi's strike rate is an astounding 9.1 - the best of any player to have bowled at least 20 overs in T20Is.

Admittedly, he hasn't played in the recent Indian Premier League in the UAE but he's still been involved - his presence as 'liaison officer' for the Rajasthan Royals will have been beneficial ahead of this tournament.

One final key point in the Sodhi argument is that he's playing for a team fancied - both by the bookies and myself - to reach the knockout stages.

That's been crucial in previous T20 World Cups - five of the six top wicket-takers have reached at least the semis and I've basically already explained why the one in 2016 - Mohammad Nabi - didn't.

All things considered, 25/1 about his chances of finishing as top wicket-taker looks decent.

Hasan Ali can benefit from cheap wickets at the death

Hasan Ali Pakistan vs England Jul21

I'm not going to throw all my eggs in the spin basket, though.

Death bowlers are key in T20 cricket and also get that opportunity to pick up some cheap wickets as the opposing batsmen often go hell for leather to either post a strong total or get their team over the line.

The top wicket-taker here probably won't be the best bowler.

I did consider Trent Boult in this category.

He's got plenty of potential to play the full seven games given he's in a strong New Zealand side.

But that's also reflected in his 14/1 price, while we've already backed his team-mate and there's only so many wickets to go around.

Instead I'm going to side with Pakistan's Hasan Ali at 20/1.

Yes, his Pakistan team are longer odds and therefore less likely to qualify for the semis but they've long been a hit-and-miss side, who have been able to put tournament runs together in the past.

Their bowling attack is their strong point and Hasan will be a key man in that.

He's been excellent for Pakistan since recovering from a long-term injury and his figures in 2021 have been eye-catching.

His 17 wickets in 11 T20Is this year have produced a strike rate of a wicket every 11.5 balls. Again using that 20-over minimum filter, only two players at this tournament (Sodhi and Ireland's Mark Adair) have a better rate than that.

He's also taken seven wickets in four one-day internationals in 2021.

The man himself certainly feels confident heading to the Middle East where Pakistanis have played regularly in recent years.

"We have played a lot of cricket in the UAE and understand the conditions there," he said. "The pitches there are on the slower side and I hardly see a team scoring 200 there. The key will be to bowl according to the situation and bring in variations."

Handily, Hasan is well known for his variety and possesses a great slower ball. If his assessment is right, he's got a good chance in this market.

Russell can reward each-way backers - if he gets the overs

Andre Russell West Indies May19

Finally I'm going to take a long shot by backing West Indies' Andre Russell at 66/1.

This is largely based on his decent displays in the IPL in the UAE over the past two years.

This season, half of which has been played in the Middle East, he's topped the strike-rate standings with a figure of 10.76 for Kolkata Knight Riders.

Last season, when the whole tournament was heled in the UAE, he finished in the top 15 of the same table.

The problem is the wicket tallies have not been so impressive - and, of course, they will the deciding factor in this market.

Clearly that's down to Russell not bowling enough overs and that may undermine the bet.

However, Russell has bowled at least three overs in 13 of his last 16 T20Is, while he did weigh in with six wickets in four games during July's series against Australia.

The Windies are the holders and with a big-hitting batting line-up have a good chance of reaching the semis again here.

Russell will need captain Kieron Pollard to give him the overs but if he does then the all-rounder's experience at these grounds suggests he's capable of rewarding his each-way backers.

Previous top tournament wicket-takers

2016 - Mohammad Nabi (AFG), 12 wickets in 7 matches (group stage)

2014 - Imran Tahir (SA), 12 wickets in 5 matches (semi-finals) & Ahsan Mailk (NED), 12 wickets in 7 matches (group stage)

2012 - Ajantha Mendis (SL), 15 wickets in 6 matches (runners-up)

2010 - Dirk Nannes (AUS), 14 wickets in 7 matches (runners-up)

2009 - Umar Gul (PAK), 13 wickets in 7 matches (winners)

2007 - Umar Gul (PAK), 13 wickets in 7 matches (runners-up)

READ MORE: T20 World Cup preview: New Zealand look a good bet at tempting odds to add to Test crown