Cricket World Cup: Players to watch + dates for your diary

The wait is almost over as Thursday marks the beginning of the 12th ICC Cricket World Cup.

This year’s tournament is being jointly hosted by England and Wales, bringing with it the opportunity to see some of the world’s best cricket stars as well as cheer on the home nation as they bid to win the tournament for the first time ever.

Manchester’s famous Old Trafford cricket ground will be one of those venues with a host of nations set to take the centre stage on the hallowed green.

Collecting insight and statistics from this year’s competitors, MM breaks down the players to watch at this year’s tournament as well as the important fixture dates for your diary in the lead up to the summer spectacle.  

Virat Kohli (India, pictured above)

A veteran, a legend, a world class batsman.

For years cricket pundits have run out of superlatives to describe a player many consider to be the best batsman in the world.

Despite a sense that India may be ushering in the new generation, the ICC ODI no.1 batsman will captain the Indian side for a third successive World Cup campaign and is expected to shine on the biggest stage once again.

Statistically speaking, Kohli is living in a league of his own. The veteran was the fastest batsman to reach 10,000 ODI runs, racking up an impressive 41 one-day international (ODI) centuries in just 227 games.

Embodying much of why cricket is so popular in India, Rakesh Patel, the head of India’s cricket global supporters’ group (Bharat Army), said: “The way he conducts himself and his preparation is beyond what anyone has ever done in the past.

“He has brought a different level of standard and professionalism to Indian cricket.”

Jasprit Bumrah (India)

Heading up India’s fast bowling attack is Jasprit Bumrah.

Very much a product of the Indian Premier League, this is one man who will be very hard to knock off his perch.

Coming off the back of an excellent IPL season where he won the title with the Mumbai Indians, the finals man of the match has an overall bowling average of 22.15 from 49 matches, making him one of the greatest challenges for battling sides taking on India at the World Cup.

As highlighted by Ali Martin, the Guardian’s cricket news reporter, Bumrah will be keen for redemption on English soil as it was his front-foot no-ball in the 2017 Champions League final that gave Fakhar Zaman a life on three – ultimately spurring on their fierce rivals Pakistan to victory. 

There’s no doubting that Bumrah will be a force to be reckoned with.

Date for your diary: India v Pakistan, June 16, Old Trafford

Jos Buttler (England)

Jos Buttler is one of the most feared English batsman and surely one of the danger men for the home nation.

As a trailblazer for the new generation, Buttler has been singled out amongst a talented array of English batting talent because of his unrivalled strike rate that is far superior to his counterparts (119.57).

Tactically astute and with the ability to hit the ball incredibly hard in every direction, the 28-year-old has averaged more than 40 runs per innings.

Notching an overall tally of 117 sixes in 108 innings, the destructive figures sum up just how effective he can be when he gets into his stride.

Jofra Archer  (England)

One name that has been mentioned on several occasions pre-tournament is the highly rated Jofra Archer.

Regarded a one of the brightest young breakout stars in this current England side, his whirlwind rise to the top of the game has been simply remarkable.

Originally born in Barbados, the 24-year-old had played just a handful of one-day international games before he was selected in the 15-man man World Cup squad last week and is now set to take centre stage on the biggest stage.

Archer can bowl at over 90mph, as well as offer quick runs with the bat, making him a lethal weapon for England in regards to their fielding prospects.

Given his combination of ‘pace, bounce and skill’, words uttered by national selector Ed Smith regarding his inclusion, the young prospect has even gained plaudits from the very best – Indian legend Virat Kohli himself singling him out for praise.

Speaking pre-tournament he said: “I think he’s going to be the X-factor because he has all the skillsets and he’s very different from anyone else.

“He can generate a lot of pace which can be intimidating and you don’t really expect that from his run-up.

“I personally will be watching his bowling because whenever I’ve seen of him he’s been really impressive.” (Source ESPN).

Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)

Challenging Jofra’s throne as the one of the most exciting young bowlers at this tournament is Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan. Third in the ODI bowlers’ rankings, Khan is regarded as one of the best spin bowlers in the world and has been singled out by many experts to make all the difference for his side at the World Cup.

Over the last couple of years, Khan has earnt plaudits from across the Cricket spectrum that stretches beyond his own exceptional talent. Helping to give a name to associate countries, Khan was instrumental in helping his country through a nail biting qualifying campaign, quickly rising to number one in the international T20 rankings.

Branded as an all-rounder and team player, Khan is the type of man you would look to build a team around and, with an average of 15.08 from 55 ODI averages, you can see why.

Given that the World Cup is a series of one day internationals, Afghanistan on paper look to be inferior to some of the top sides in the tournament but, with Khan a serious threat to even the best of batsman, he could be the key to some huge upsets.

Date for your diary: England v Afghanistan, June 18, Old Trafford

Kane Williamson (New Zealand)

Coming ever so close to the crown in 2015, captain Williamson will lead his New Zealand side into this World Cup with their tails very much up.

A natural born leader and a profile batsman, the modest Kiwi remains very much one of the game’s top stars.

Despite having what experts deemed as a disappointing season in the IPL, Williamson comes into the tournament as the number 11 ODI batsman with the stats to back it up.

Becoming the first New Zealander to score 18 test centuries, Williamson is arguably his country’s greatest ever batsman and, with a batting average of 45.90 in 139 ODI games, he is the man for the big occasions.  

Noting his qualities to the team, county cricket expert, Tanya Aldred, said: “He has been hampered by a recent shoulder injury but won’t mind being underestimated – a brilliant, laidback, ambidextrous, leader of men.”

Date for your diary: New Zealand v West Indies, June 22, Old Trafford

Kagiso Rabada (South Africa)

Despite being forced to retire midway through the IPL season due to injury, Kagiso Rabada is set to make his return for this summer’s tournament as the poster boy for South African cricket. 

Having taken an average of 14.35 from 66 matches, Rabada is ranked fourth in the ODI Bowler world rankings and has proved integral ever since he made his debut for the national side.

Named the best young player in the world last year by Wisden, he has provided more international wickets since the last World Cup than any of his peers.

Highlighting his importance, Rabada’s coveted teammate, Dale Steyn, told “When you put a cricket ball in his hand you quickly realise that this is what he was put on earth to do.

“It’s amazing. You don’t have to teach him anything, it just comes naturally to him.

“There’s not much more you can say about it. He’s just got it all.”

Date for your diary: Australia vs South Africa, July 6, Old Trafford

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