The ICC World Cup 2019 is hardly three months away. The 10 participating teams are on their last leg of preparation. The World Cup would witness a total of almost 150 players from 10 countries embarking to impress upon the global audience.
Amongst these players, some of them are so special that their team’s fortunes would either swim or sink with their performances. In a T20I, it is very tricky to spot a match-winner in a team as every single cricketer could emerge as a match-winner on his day.
Compared to that, in a 50 over ODI, there will always be 3 or 4 match-winners who would be ably supported by the rest of the players in the team. In this article, let us have a look at two players from each team who can play a defining role in their team's performance in the upcoming edition of ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
Mohammad Shahzad is the wicket-keeper batsman of Afghanistan. He is their opening batsman who could take any attack apart in the powerplay. He had shown his attacking instincts in the tied match against India in the Asia Cup last year.
In that match, Shahzad made a brilliant hundred off 88 balls in his team’s then total of 131. His innings included 11 fours and 7 sixes. In that tournament, he had scored 268 runs in 5 innings.
Apart from being a power hitter in front of the wicket at the top of the order for Afghanistan, Shahzad is safe behind the wickets. He has exhibited tremendous fighting spirits in competing against superior opponents. He will be a key member for his team in World Cup 2019.
Rashid Khan is the hero of the Afghan's emergence as a cricket playing nation. He is the inspiration behind Afghanistan’s recent achievements in International cricket.
In ODIs, the leg spinner has taken 119 wickets in 53 matches at an average of 2.25 wickets per match. His economy rate is as low as 3.88. Interestingly, he is currently ranked the No. 1 ODI all-rounder in ICC rankings. In bowling, he is ranked No. 2 in ODIs.
After having played against him in so many franchise tournaments, batsmen all around the world still find it complicated to pick up his faster googlies. His best efforts in ODIs came against the West Indies when he picked up 7 for 18 in 2017.
Of late, Rashid has become a useful lower order batsman. He is also a terrific fielder. He is crucial for Afghanistan if they have to continue with their giant-killing act in World Cup 2019.
Tamim Iqbal is the flamboyant left-hand opener from Bangladesh. He has been playing ODIs since 2007. He has been their match-winner for quite some time now. His team always relies upon him to give them a flying start. The opponents consider his wicket upfront crucial for their fortune.
The southpaw has played many match-winning knocks for his team. One such knock in the preliminary rounds of World Cup 2007 knocked India out of that tournament. Though he had a poor ODI tour of New Zealand, Iqbal came back to form in the first Test at Hamilton with scores of 126 & 74.
Tamim Iqbal is a big match player who is expected to perform on a big stage like the World Cup.
Shakib Al Hasan
Shakib Al Hasan is the No. 2 ranked ODI all-rounder in ICC rankings. He has scored more than 5000 runs in ODIs and has taken more than 200 wickets. He is only the fifth player to do so. He is also the fastest to achieve that landmark in his 178th match.
Shakib can change the course of a match either with the bat or the ball. With his accurate left-arm spin, he is very difficult to get away. In batting, he is a quality player to bat at the top of the order. He is a key member of the Bangladesh team in the upcoming World Cup.
Babar Azam is the most consistent Pakistan batsman on current form. He is also the most dependable batsman for Pakistan in the middle-order. He has an average of over 50 in 59 ODI matches. He had his best year in 2017 when he scored 872 runs at an average of 67 with 4 centuries.
Before that in 2016, he was at the verge of equalling Sangakkara’s ODI records of 4 consecutive hundreds when he scored 3 consecutive hundreds against the West Indies. Even in the current year, he had a successful tour of South Africa with an average of 48.
Pakistan would be looking forward to Babar Azam to be at his consistent best in the World up 2019.
Hasan Ali is the temperamental fast bowler from Pakistan. He was adjudged by the Pakistan Cricket Board as the best ODI cricketer of the year 2018. He has taken 77 ODI wickets in 47 matches at an economy of 5.26. He was the most successful bowler for Pakistan in the Champions Trophy 2017 in England.
Ali took 3 wickets each in the Champions trophy in 4 consecutive matches against tougher teams in South Africa, Sri Lanka, England and India. In the semi-final against England, he derailed England with the crucial wickets of Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes, and Jonny Bairstow. In the finals against India, Hasan Ali got rid of MS Dhoni cheaply.
Of late, Hasan Ali has developed into a good death over bowler. The conditions in England should suit his style of bowling.
# 7 West Indies
Chris Gayle has been in tremendous form in 2019. This year he has scores of 135, 50, 162 & 77. Gayle has suddenly become a patient batsman who can bid his time before going on the rampage. In his new avatar, the southpaw has started valuing his wicket more which could be deadly dangerous for the bowlers.
During his innings of 162 off 97 balls against England at St Georges, Gayle once again proved that he is the most feared batsman in the world. He hit 14 sixes in that innings. The West Indies were in with a chance of chasing down 419 as long as Gayle was at the wicket. In the process, he completed 10,000 ODI runs.
His innings of 77 in the last ODI of the recently concluded ODI series against England came off a meagre 27 balls with 5 fours and 9 sixes and just 3 singles.
Gayle is in such good form that he is now seriously reconsidering his retirement announcement after the World Cup. If Gayle’s good form continues into the World Cup, West Indies would certainly make the last four.
Jason Holder is the all-rounder and the Captain of the West Indies team. Holder has been playing a huge part in the revival of West Indies Cricket in times of turmoil. He along with Darren Sammy chose to play for the nation first which allowed the West Indies Board to form a team with youngsters around them.
Holder is rated by ICC as one of the top 10 ODI all-rounders. In fact, he is the No.1 all-rounder in Test matches. Holder is more of a batting all-rounder who could become an effective fast bowler on English conditions. He should be on top of his game in the World Cup to make any difference to the fortunes of the West Indies team.
#6 New Zealand
Kane Williamson is one of the top three batsmen in the World in all formats of the game. He has scored more than 5000 runs in both Test matches and ODIs. He is at the brink of displacing Virat Kohli as the No. 1 Test batsman if he manages to score heavily in the remaining 2 Test matches against Bangladesh.
In ODIs, Williamson anchors the New Zealand innings with stroke makers like Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor batting around him. Apart from being a world class batsman, Williamson is a matured leader who could challenge MS Dhoni with his level headed approach.
The right-handed batsman has been in tremendous form in the ongoing home series against Bangladesh. New Zealand would be looking forward to him to continue with the good form in the World Cup.
Trent Boult is ranked the No. 3 ODI bowler in ICC rankings. He has taken 147 wickets in 79 matches at the rate of nearly 2 wickets per match. On helpful wickets, he is a deadly dangerous bowler with his swing and angle. He proved that in the match against India at Hamilton in January 2019.
At Hamilton, Boult bowled unchanged for 10 overs and finished with figures of 5 for 21. India was bowled out for 92. That led to India’s worst defeat in relation to the number of balls remaining. Boult has been a consistent performer for New Zealand for the last 5 years with 137 wickets in that period.
In the current year, the left arm pacer is the leading wicket-taker in ODIs having taken 21 wickets in 10 matches. In the World Cup, Boult along with Tim Southee should make a potent opening bowling combination on English conditions.
#5 Sri Lanka
Kusal Perera is the latest version of Sanath Jayasuriya as he resembles the former Sri Lankan legend in his batting style. He is fresh from his Test innings of 153 against South Africa at Durban which is considered by many as the best innings ever played in fourth innings of a Test match.
In ODIs, Perera showed his best form with an innings of 102 off 86 balls against New Zealand. Perera’s biggest plus is his attacking instincts irrespective of the match situation.
Like Jayasuriya, he keeps on going for his shots and is unstoppable when in the mood. Perera would be an important player for Sri Lanka in the World Cup.
Lasith Malinga has not been in the best of the form of late. But he is always a big match player who relishes the challenge of appearing in a World Cup for the fourth time. He is still a dangerous bowler if he gets his toe-crushing yorkers right. Once he gets into his rhythm, he is capable of taking a bagful of wickets.
Like Chris Gayle, Malinga is a veteran who can’t be ignored. He can explode at any time. The additional responsibility of being the Captain of the team would only make him a better performer.
#4 South Africa
Quinton de Kock
Quinton de Kock is South Africa’s wicket-keeper cum opening batsman in the mould of Australia’s Adam Gilchrist. In the current year, he has scored 3 fifties in 5 innings at an average of 58 and strike rate of 120. He had scores of 83 off 58 balls and 94 off 70 balls.
de Kock is a proven match-winner for his team. As a wicket-keeper batsman, he has scored 13 hundred in ODIs which is the most amongst the current wicketkeepers. In fact, only 4 wicket-keepers have scored 10 or more hundreds in ODIs and de Kock is one among them. The others being Kumar Sangakkara(23), Adam Gilchrist(16) and MS Dhoni(10).
South Africa needs Quinton de Kock the batsman more in the World Cup 2019.
Kagiso Rabada is ranked 7th in ICC ODI rankings. He has been a consistent wicket-taker for South Africa since his debut in 2015. In the last 4 years, Rabada has taken 20 or more wickets in every calendar year.
Rabada’s best ODI bowling figures came in his debut match against Bangladesh when he took 6 for 16 in 8 overs. From there, he went from strength to strength and he is now an integral part of the South African team. He has the ability to unsettle any top order batsmen with his pace and is an asset on even docile conditions.
Rabada could play the role of the main strike bowler for South Africa in World Cup 2019.
Glenn Maxwell is the real match-winner for Australia in white ball cricket. But he hasn’t got as many opportunities in the past. A big hitter like a Maxwell can’t be expected to be consistent in his batting. His inclusion to the World Cup squad was in doubt before Australia’s tour of India.
In the second T20I against India at Bengaluru, the right-handed batsman played one of the best innings ever played in a T20I, smashing 113 off 55 balls with 7 fours and 9 sixes. After that Bengaluru innings, Maxwell has looked a different player in every outing.
Now that his place in the World Cup squad is almost sealed, one would find his batting in a different league with the more frequent match winning knocks on the cards. He is crucial for Australia's chances of retaining the World Cup in England.
Mitchell Starc was Australia’s bowling hero in World Cup 2015. He was the leading wicket-taker of the tournament with 22 wickets in 8 matches at an average of 10.18 and economy of 3.50. Starc’s form and fitness dipped after World Cup 2015. But with his pace and consistent swing, he is still considered the best in the business.
In the last 3 years, Starc has taken 55 wickets ODI wickets. He is yet to play an ODI match in the current year due to fitness issues. But, if fit, he will be a certainty in Australia’s squad for the World Cup.
Australia should be looking forward to Mitchell Starc’s form and fitness in their quest to retain the World Cup in England.
Jos Buttler would be the most destructive middle-order batsman in this World Cup. In 127 ODIs, Buttler averages just over 40 with a strike rate of 118.
Buttler has taken the game away from the opposition many a times in the past. Suddenly an expected score of 275 would become 350 due to Buttler’s massacre at the death. In one of his recent innings against West Indies at St George’s, he made 150 off 77 balls with 13 fours and 12 sixes. The attacking batsman added 204 runs with Eoin Morgan in 20 overs.
In another match against Pakistan at Dubai in 2015, he made 116 off 52 balls. He is a 360 degrees player who can play his shots in every direction of the ground. He is a very difficult player to set a field and to contain once he gets going.
Jos Buttler is England’s X factor in their World Cup campaign at home.
Ben Stokes is England’s flamboyant all-rounder in all formats of the game. Surprisingly, he doesn’t find a place in the top 10 ICC ODI rankings for all-rounders. That is mainly because of the fact that of late he has become more of a batting all-rounder. In the last 3 years, he has scored a total of 1419 runs in ODIs while he has taken only 26 wickets in that period.
However, he is improving as an all-rounder with every match. He is quite capable of giving his best at crunch situations, both with the bat and ball. He would certainly play a crucial role in England’s fortune in the World Cup at home.
Virat Kohli is the undisputed No. 1 batsman in the World in all formats of the game. He still maintains a batting average of 60 even after scoring 10,000 runs in ODIs. He has been in prolific form in the last two years scoring 1460 and 1202 runs in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
In the current year, he has already scored 584 runs in 9 innings at an average of 65. He is the leading run scorer in the ongoing India-Australia ODI series with 2 hundreds.
Kohli is the chase master having scored 25 of his 41 centuries while chasing. India has lost only 4 of those 25 matches. The last 2 of those 4 came in the last 2 years to coincide with MS Dhoni’s waning finishing skills. The Indian skipper has a better average of 69 while chasing against his average of 50 while batting first.
India’s fortune in World Cup 2019 would revolve around its Captain King Kohli’s exploits with the bat.
Jasprit Bumrah is the No. 1 ranked ODI bowler in ICC rankings. Bumrah has taken 82 wickets in 47 matches at an unbelievable economy of 4.47. Surprisingly all his five 4 wicket hauls have come while bowling first.
The right arm pacer has won many a match for India with the ball from hopeless positions. He is deadly accurate with his yorkers at the death and a potent strike bowler with the new ball.
Bumrah’s rise in International cricket is phenomenal since his debut in 2016. In just 3 years, he has become India’s best bowler in all formats of the game. He is now the go-to- bowler for Virat Kohli in every given situation.
Bumrah has become as crucial in the bowling department as Kohli is in batting for India. Let us hope the world’s best batsman and best bowler perform to their full potential and help India bring back the coveted trophy.