The 12th edition of ICC Cricket World Cup is just around the corner. This time the tournament will be played in a round-robin format, all the teams will face-off against one another before the knockout stage. All the 10 teams are looking prepared to make a claim for themselves and have declared their 15 members squad.
Playing the World Cup is the ultimate dream of any cricketer. Every cricketer wants to be part of a World Cup squad. Like every time, many players would be making their debut at the World Cup. As it cannot be a better stage than the World Cup to show their skills, all the debutants will look to seal the opportunity. Performances at the World Cup are remembered for a long time, hence, no one would like to miss the opportunity.
Let us have a look at one World Cup debutant from each country who can make a mark for himself at the biggest stage of the cricketing world.
1. India- Vijay Shankar
The cricketing fraternity had different opinions when Vijay Shankar found a place in the Indian squad ahead of the likes of Ambati Rayudu and Rishabh Pant. Shankar's inclusion made a great buzz when Indian chief selector MSK Prasad called him a three-dimensional player.
Some said that Rayudu, who had had the most number of chances at number 4 in the build-up to the tournament, should have been selected as a more experienced cricketer in comparison to just 9 matches old Vijay Shankar, while some called that Rishabh Pant should have been in the squad due to his game-changing abilities with the bat.
Now, Shankar has got the chance and is well set to take the number 4 position in the batting line up. The Tamil Nadu lad has been a regular feature of India A squad and has delivered good performances with both bat and ball. He is potent in both aspects: strike rotation and big hitting. List A average of 36.65 and strike rate of above 92 are great signs of him becoming an excellent number 4 batsman in 50 overs cricket. An agile fielder and a handy bowler make him a complete package. A player with many abilities, Vijay Shankar, can surprise his critics by performing well at the World Cup.
2. Pakistan- Imam-ul-Haq
Imam-ul-Haq, the nephew of Pakistani chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq, was criticized on being selected for the national team. It was said that he broke through to the national team on the basis of nepotism. But, the bespectacled left-hander has proved his critics wrong, playing some excellent innings so far in his ODI career. Since his debut in October 2017 when he has scored a century against Sri Lanka, and has been among the best batsmen in the world, and easily the best batsman for Pakistan in ODI cricket.
The stylish opener possesses a compact batting technique and excellent timing to make him a pleasure to watch. The 23-year old has been named in the Pakistani squad for World Cup and is all set to play his maiden ICC tournament. Going by how Imam has done so far, some memorable innings from his bat in the World Cup seem in reserves.
3. England- Jonny Bairstow
Jonny Bairstow's rise in ODI cricket has been a phenomenon. He has cemented his place in the playing eleven of his national side, after sitting as a reserved opener for some time when Jason Roy and Alex Hales were going great. If England has reached heights in ODI cricket, Bairstow is among the head contributors to the cause. Though Jonny Bairstow made his ODI debut in 2011, he could not make it to the World Cup squad in 2015. His real chances came in the year 2017 when England played a five-match ODI series against West Indies at home. Bairstow smashed two scintillating centuries in that series; both centuries had come in the successful run chases and at a brisk pace. Since then, Bairstow has not looked back.
In the last couple of years, Bairstow has been among the best openers in ODI cricket, and he will look to make a mark on his debut at the World Cup.
4. South Africa- Aiden Markram
Retirement of AB de Villiers and consistent bad form of Hashim Amla has left South Africa's batting struggling. If South Africa has to do well at the World Cup, Aiden Markram will have to form a batting trio with Quinton de Kock & Faf du Plessis. Markram, the flamboyant batsman, holds the key of future for South African cricket. Though Markram, who made his ODI debut in 2017, does not boast prolific statistics in international cricket, his talent cannot be underestimated.
His List A numbers are fairly impressive where he has scored over 2500 runs at an average close to 50 and strike rate above 100. He can bowl some off-spin too, that makes him a useful cricketer who can shine at the biggest stage of cricket. A county stint just ahead of the World cup, where he is playing for Hampshire, might prove to be useful for Markram and South Africa.
5. New Zealand- Tom Latham
Tom Latham has emerged as a pillar for the New Zealand cricket team. His presence in the middle order alongside Ross Taylor has been pivotal for New Zealand. Originally an opener, Tom Latham has adjusted according to the need of the team; as an opener, Latham has given his best performances. He is a good batsman of both pace and spin bowling. Possibly, Latham will bat at number 5 for New Zealand at the World Cup, a batting position that holds great importance in a line-up. The 27-year old left-handed batsman, who will play his first World Cup, is all capable to contribute big hands in New Zealand's run in the mega tournament.
In a time when leg-spin bowling has been creating problems for batsmen in the middle overs, availability of Ross Taylor and Tom Latham is surely a boost to New Zealand's chances in the multi-nation tournament.
6. Australia- Usman Khawaja
When David Warner and Steven Smith were banned for12 months following the ball-tampering scandal in March 2017, Usman Khawaja was one of the saviors for Australian cricket. In the mentioned duration, Khwaja played 13 ODI matches and scored 50 and above 8 times. Usman was the highest run scorer from both sides in the ODI series played between India and Australia in Feb-March this year. Usman led his team to a series victory with 383 runs in five matches; Khwaja scored two centuries and two half-centuries in the series.
On the back of a sterling performance, Khwaja was able to earn a place in Australian squad for the World Cup. On return of David Warner, in form Khwaja is expected to bat at number 3, a position that is the most important place in a batting lineup, and can bring great results for Australia at the World Cup.
7. West Indies- Shai Hope
If you think about the most emerging batsman from the last couple of years, it has to be Shai Hope. Making his debut against Zimbabwe in 2016, Hope had scored his maiden ODI century in his second match only. The West Indian opener has progressed leaps and bounds; in his last 20 ODI matches, Shai Hope averages in excess of 70. The mentioned period includes his heroics against India in India where he played some fabulous innings against a potent Indian bowling line up. An average of 53.87 in 10 matches against India is a sign of Hope's abilities.
Now, Shai Hope has been selected in Windies' 15 member squad for the World Cup and is expected to join the universe boss Chris Gayle at the opening. If everything goes right, this World Cup might prove to be a tournament to remember as he can play some wonderful knocks there and get the West Indies side into the final stages of the tournament.
8. Sri Lanka- Kusal Mendis
With loads of potential to his disposal, Kusal Mendis is one of the most ambitious talents in the cricketing world at the moment. On his day, Kusal Mendis can destroy any attack in the world. Despite some chinks in his armor, he knows to collect his runs and has done it many times. In recent times, Sri Lanka has struggled big time and so has Kusal Mendis.
The swashbuckling right-hander knows to rise to the occasion and loves to defy tough circumstances when it arrives. His scintillating 89 odd runs against India in Champions Trophy 2017 took his team to an improbable win. He has played some astonishing knocks in Test cricket, that is the testimony of his character. Now, in a time when Sri Lanka is struggling, he is the guy who can help their way to some good performances at the biggest stage.
9. Bangladesh- Liton Das
It was always the case that Liton Das was a good young prospect, but his superb hundred against India in the final of Asia Cup 2018 assured his promise. Against a full strength Indian attack, Liton played in a flawless manner, scoring 121 runs off 117 balls, that was more than 50% runs scored by the whole Bangladesh team. He was so fluent in that knock that it looked like he was going to register a massive score. Though Bangladesh went on to lose a thrilling final, Liton Das introduced himself among the most promising talents in world cricket.
With Tamim Iqbal is set to occupy one opening slot, Litton will be contesting with Soumya Sarkar for the other spot. It will be a great opportunity for the youngster to make a mark whenever and wherever he gets his chance. In a side where he will find experience campaigners like Tamim Iqbal, Shakib-al-Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, and Mahmudullah around, he can play his natural game.
10. Afghanistan- Rashid Khan
Rashid Khan is already a star in world cricket. With his penetrative leg-spin, he has troubled the best of batsmen in different T20 leagues around the world. World Cup 2019 will be Rashid's first ever ICC tournament. The fate of his team will largely depend on his performance with the ball. It will be interesting to see if Rashid can hold his nerves at a stage he has never played before. Experience of playing with international stars in those T20 leagues will surely help his way.
Going by numbers, Rashid Khan holds the best bowling average in ODI cricket history with a cut-off of 100 wickets. 123 ODI wickets in 54 innings, that have come at an astonishing average of 15 and an unbelievable strike rate of 23, is simply awesome stuff from Rashid Khan. Not to forget that he has been accurate in his bowling as well, with an economy rate of 3.90. Rashid, assisted by Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb-ur-Rahman will be crucial in the success of the Afghanistan team.