In a few weeks the flagship of white ball cricket – the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup – gets underway at Lords. This year England, along with the usual suspects like India, Australia, and South Africa, are favourites to claim the crown.
What makes this sort of tournament a bit of a lottery is any team can win the title as aside from form, the most lethal weapon in any side’s arsenal is the ‘unknown quantity’. By that, we mean World Cup debutants; exciting young players with the bat and ball who are still a mystery to opposing teams.
These young guns are a bit like the bonus features in online casino games – when they’re playing at their best, they have the potential to turn game results around in the blink of an eye!
Who are these enigmatic game changers who can confound the bookmakers and ingratiate themselves with the fans? Here are six young players to watch out for when the cricket circus comes to town.
Prithvi Shaw – India
Prithvi Shaw has been tipped as the next Sachin Tendulkar. He’s a swashbuckling opening batsman with an excellent scoring rate and solid technique.
At 19 years of age, the precociously talented cricketer is the youngest-ever Indian batsman to get a test century on debut. He’s also more than handy in the short form of the game.
Although it’s not yet certain he’ll make the trip to England, Shaw could well be the perfect foil to Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the order.
Sam Curran – England
Sam Curran’s bowling antics in only his second outing at the Indian Premier League are now firmly etched into the record books. As the death bowler for the Kings XI Punjab, he was simply astounding. Curran took four wickets in five balls, claiming a hat-trick in the process.
The gritty 20-year-old cricketer is not only a magician with the ball, but he’s also pretty solid with the bat. His overt aggression and ability to swing the ball into right-handers will undoubtedly prove to be invaluable for England, especially at the ‘business end’ of the competition.
Andile Phehlukwayo – South Africa
Andile Phehlukwayo is a fast-rising star in the South African ODI team. He was the leading wicket-taker in the recent ODI series against Australia – a series South African won 5-0 – and is renowned for his intelligent use of variation, especially at the death.
The 23-year-old has also impressed of late with his outstanding cameo performances with the bat. Throw in his solid out fielding and Phehlukwayo is growing in stature as an all-rounder who can take the game away from the opposition as a bowler and explosive lower order batsman.
Kusal Mendis – Sri Lanka
At just 24 years of age, Kusal Mendis is Sri Lanka’s first choice wicket-keeper batsman in all formats of the game. He’s the youngest Sir Lankan to score a test century against Australia and only the second cricketer, after Virat Kohli, to reach 1000 test runs in a calendar year.
The free-flowing right-handed batsman has scored more than 1600 ODI runs at an average of 28.03. He’s also excellent behind the stumps. Mendis is a skilled and aggressive cricketer who does not surrender his wicket easily. When in form, he has the ability to strike fear in any bowler’s heart.
Babar Azam – Pakistan
Babar Azam is a run making machine in tests and ODIs. The fabulously talented top-order batsman for Pakistan has scored eight limited overs centuries and 10 half centuries at an average of 51.29. Azam accumulates runs as quickly and effortlessly and he accumulates ICC world records.
Among his most notable achievements with the bat is the record for the highest number of runs in a three-match ODI series and joint fastest batsman to 1000 ODI runs, a record he shares with Kevin Pietersen and Sir Viv Richards. He is also the only player in history to score three ODI centuries back-to-back!
The 24-year-old is expected to anchor the innings for Pakistan. If Babar Azam finds his sweet-spot in England, he can single-handedly wrestle the title away from all the other teams.
Aiden Markham – South Africa
Aiden Markham has the makings of a superstar. He’s the kind of opening batsman every team wants at the top of the order as apart from his maturity and composure at the crease, he can change gears at any time and turn games on their head.
The 24-year old hasn’t quite reached his full potential on the international stage but his recent performances for his provincial outfit, the Titans have been quite outstanding.
Aiden Markham is the full package. He’s an elegant and aggressive batsman who has the ability to score quickly and freely and he’s excellent in the field. However, it’s his occasional off-breakers that may just be the surprise element the Proteas need to stay in the hunt for a title that’s eluded them over the years.
Markham has been tipped as a possible understudy to the great Hashim Amla at the top of the order – a tantalising prospect indeed when you consider his batting partner is none other than Quinton De Kock. Whether the selectors agree and have Markham pencilled in for England is not yet clear.
Which player do you think will have the greatest impact on the ICC Cricket World Cup?
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