Ten players to keep an eye out for at the World Cup in India
The thwack of leather on willow will echo across India over the next two months, with England and New Zealand kicking off the tournament on 5 October in Ahmedabad.
The destiny of the Cricket World Cup title could be decided by moments of brilliance from key players. Here are 10 players who could turn a match – or the tournament – in their team’s favour.
Heinrich Klaasen – South Africa
When the 32-year-old shifts gears, Heinrich Klaasen has the potential to be a nightmare for even the best bowlers – because when he finds the right gear, his batting is as imposing as his 1.8m, broad-shouldered frame.
However, his lack of consistency means he has failed to nail down a permanent spot in the South African side over the years. Nevertheless, since his return to the white-ball set-up in mid-2022, he has been in immaculate form, notching up a few 50s and a century along the way.
The climax to this form came in the recently concluded one-day international (ODI) series between the Proteas and Australia, as he bludgeoned the visitors’ bowling attack every which way to record a career-best runs haul of 174, off just 83 balls in the fourth ODI.
Shakib Al Hasan – Bangladesh
Multidimensional. Majestic. Leader. These are just some words that describe Bangladesh skipper Shakib Al Hasan. Since making his debut in 2006, the left-handed all-rounder has left everything on the pitch.
During his stellar individual career, the 36-year-old has firmly cemented his legacy as his country’s all-time great on the cricket pitch. He will also be forever etched in history as one of the greatest all-rounders of all time, right up there with Ian Botham and Jacques Kallis.
It’s just a pity that, despite his 7,000-plus ODI runs, as well as more than 300 wickets, he has never helped the under-resourced Bangladesh to get beyond the quarterfinal stage of the World Cup.
Rashid Khan – Afghanistan
Rashid Khan’s rise has come in tandem with the rise of cricket in Afghanistan. Hence, the spinner is the poster boy for the game in the country. He backs it up on the pitch as well, as evidenced by his perennial presence in the upper echelons of bowling rankings since his ODI debut back in 2015.
The experienced 25-year-old – who is not useless with bat in hand either (boasting a high score of 60) – brings with him an array of variation with ball in hand, including a gaggle of googlies.
Harry Brook – England
English batter Harry Brook just made it into the World Cup, replacing Jason Roy as the veteran was not fully fit. The selectors have entrusted the impressive 24-year-old with playing a role in the team’s title defence, even though he has only featured in six ODIs to date.
He was a bright spark in the Ashes against Australia a few months ago, and is an exciting prospect for the future. The right-hander is flexible in terms of where to bat, equally able as an opener or further down the order.
Bas de Leede – the Netherlands
Bastiaan Franciscus Wilhelmus de Leede, or simply Bas de Leede, is expected to play a starring role for the Dutch, with both bat and ball.
Which is something he did with aplomb, as his country pipped Scotland in July 2023 to make it to India via the qualifiers. During that game, De Leede became only the fifth player in ODI history to make a century and take five wickets in a game.
The competition will be tougher at the World Cup. Nevertheless, the 23-year-old – whose father Tim de Leede is a former Dutch international – will be important for the Netherlands’ humble ambitions.
Shubman Gill – India
Shubman Gill has been in electric form in the ODI format this year. The mercurial opening batter has thumped five centuries, which includes a career-high 208 off 149 deliveries in January against New Zealand.
Gill is currently the No 2-ranked batter in the 50-over format and needs fewer than 700 runs to better the legendary batter Sachin Tendulkar’s world record of 1,894 runs in a calendar year. Despite having only 35 ODI caps to his name, the 24-year-old will be pivotal to India’s hopes of a successful tournament at home.
Matheesha Pathirana – Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka have a new sling-shot bowler in right-arm quick Matheesha Pathirana, whose bowling action is nearly identical to that of icon Sri Lankan Lasith Malinga, renowned for his distinctive round-arm action.
The talented 20-year-old is in good form, having topped the wicket-taking charts in the recently concluded Asia Cup with 11 scalps. He has some experience playing in India, having represented the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League, where he collected 19 wickets in 12 matches last season.
Trent Boult – New Zealand
Much of New Zealand’s success with the new white ball relies on the exploits of wily left-arm quick Trent Boult.
The dangerous swing bowler only recently joined the Black Cap fold after agreeing to being released from a central contract with New Zealand in order to play in various domestic leagues in August last year.
Since his return to the team in September this year, the opening bowler has picked up 10 wickets in the four ODI matches he has played, including returning figures of five for 51 against England on the 13th.
Babar Azam – Pakistan
Pakistan skipper Babar Azam carries the weight of his cricket-loving nation on his shoulders. He is currently the No 1-ranked batter in the format and has a ridiculous average of 58.16 – the highest for Pakistan in ODI cricket.
Azam is the cog the rest of the Pakistan order bats around as he quietly accumulates his runs, but he has the sublime ability to explode towards the end of an innings.
The 28-year-old middle-order batter was in the top five run scorers in the Asia Cup with 207 runs, although he struggled with consistency, with 151 of those runs coming in one innings.
David Warner – Australia
There are few players who divide opinion as much as Australian opening batter David Warner. He is outspoken and combative on the field but there is no doubting his willow-wielding talent.
The hard-hitting 36-year-old left-hander – who on occasion switches to batting right-handed – has had lean returns in Test cricket in recent times but continues to strike it sweetly in the 50-over format.
He has said he plans to retire from the format after the quadrennial showpiece in India in November. He already has a Cricket World Cup winners medal from 2015, but will want to finish his 14-year career with one more in his back pocket. DM
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.