Dubai: The 50-over World Cup is just days away from the first ball being bowled in the match-up between last edition’s finalists England and New Zealand in Ahmedabad. The 13th edition has followed the same format as the last one where each of the teams plays the other once in a round-robin format with the top four qualifying for the semi-finals. A prerequisite for a team to be successful in a long tournament of this magnitude is consistency. One or two wins will not help, hence the team will have to depend on their talisman to be the pivotal factor while the rest of them play around that one central figure.
Gulf News picks the key players in their respective teams, who will play a big role in their team’s fortunes. Many of these stars have time and again won several battles for their teams in their careers and that experience should come in handy in a high-voltage event like the World Cup.
Players to watch:
The England all-rounder has come out of ODI retirement to bring the much-needed balance to the team. Stokes always answered the call when the team needed the most. He was instrumental in England winning the 2019 World Cup at home and similarly, his knock halted Pakistan from running away with the Twenty20 World Cup final in Australia last year. In the third match after reversing his decision to retire from ODIs, Stokes pummeled a hapless New Zealand attack to score 182 off 124 balls to take England to a massive 348 for six. Bigger the stage, the better he performs with bat and the ball. If not, he could come up with a blinder of a catch or effect a stunning run out. His winning mentality rubs on the others and gives England the invincible look.
The Indian talisman is not scoring those big hundreds regularly, but he is making sure that his contributions are helping towards the winning cause. Kohli 2.0, in his new avatar, has eschewed all his flamboyant celebrations and has a subdued celebrations even after winning some big games. The 34-year-old is in his zone and if Rohit Sharma was scoring runs in tons in the last World Cup under Kohli, it is now the turn of Kohli to repay his skipper, which he is in prime position to execute and deliver. The Delhi batter missed the first two matches against Australia to be ready for the showpiece.
The left-handed opener, who will be playing his last 50-over World Cup after announcing his retirement plans earlier this year, still remains the backbone of Australian batting. Warner, if he gets going, then he could take his rivals by the scruff of the neck and to leave his rivals’ bowling in tatters. The authority with which he plays always has a flip side to it. Sometimes in a bid to take the attack to the opposition he needlessly sacrifices his wicket conceding the initiative back to the opposition. The left-hander is one of the most feared batters in world cricket and will be keen to bow out on a high.
Shaheen Shah Afridi
The Pakistani is arguably the best pacer in the world today. The lanky fast bowler could surprise the batters with his pace and late swing, especially to the right-handers. In the absence of Naseem Shah, Afridi’s role for Pakistan gets added importance. Returning from injuries, the 23-year-old left-arm pacer has not hit the top form yet, but he is a champion bowler who could come up with some magic at any stage, something like Wasim Akram produced for Pakistan in the final against England in Melbourne in 1992.
The New Zealand left-arm pacer has the knack of getting the early breakthrough. He doesn’t hold great pace, but knows exactly how to make a batter play a false stroke with his accurate line and late swing. Boult is one of the key for New Zealand’s success over the years and in one spell he shred the Indian batting to pieces in the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup. He might not get huge help from the conditions, but still he could get the wickets by varying his pace. He is the go to man for his skipper Kane Williamson and in the absence of Tim Southee, Boult has a bigger responsibility on his shoulders.
Shakib Al Hasan
The Bangladesh skipper will be well assisted with a mix of youth and experience. But for Bangladesh to cross over the finish line, Shakib’s performance will be vital. He could turn the ball on the slow Indian pitches, where he is well accustomed with after years of playing the Indian Premier League. The top-ranked allrounder could also vary his pace to tease the batters and go after him and have a final laugh with their wicket in the bag. He could also come in handy with the bat and play crucial knocks to tilt the balance in the Tigers’ favour.
The wily leg-spinner has rediscovered himself in international arena and the well-travelled Afghanistan star will use all his expertise that he had learnt from playing several franchise leagues to put to good effect in the World Cup. Even though he might not be as successful as he is in the Twenty20 format, Rashid will be able to break partnerships and bring his team back into the contention at crucial stages of the match. The 25-year-old has earned the respect of even the best batters in the world.