Not England or India, all-rounders the real favourites for 2019 Cricket World Cup
Let's do a simple exercise. Let's try to think of the best all-rounders to have graced the cricketing field in the 21st century.
The first name that pops up is that of South African legend Jaques Kallis. Then you picture a freakish Andrew Flintoff, wielding his willow, like there is no tomorrow and cranking it north of 140 kmp when in full flow, often during the Ashes.
Now try a bit harder. Can you think of any other modern-day all-rounder, remotely close in ability to either Kallis or Flintoff? There is a lull phase and then come gushing down your Pandyas, Russells, Shakibs and the like. On the contrary, there are tens of specialists who have owned the cricketing world, either with the bat or the ball.
As the thumb rule for the all-rounders goes, he or she should be able to walk into the team, based on both batting and bowling. In this backdrop, two-time World Cup winning West Indian captain Clive Lloyd's statements hold a lot of weight.
"From Afghanistan to England, or from India to West Indies, every team is blessed with top-class all-rounders. That's why I believe it will be an all-rounders' World Cup," Lloyd told ICC.
After leading West Indies to the title in the first two editions, in 1975 and 1979, Lloyd was on the brink of becoming the most successful-ever World Cup captain, only to be held back by India's Kapil Dev, one of the greatest all-rounders of his era. This was the time, during the 80s and 90s, the all-rounder quartet of India's Kapil Dev, England's Sir Ian Botham, New Zealand's Richard Hadlee and Pakistan's Imran Khan ruled the cricketing world.
Fast forward to 2019, as we enter the World Cup, almost every team has quality all-rounders who are bound to have a major impact.
Australia have Marcus Stoinis whom Virat Kohli termed as the 'biggest threat' prior to India's limited-overs leg in Australia. Glenn Maxwell is another formidable all-rounder in their ranks. New Zealand have a destructive all-rounder in Jimmy Neesham, a big-hitter and a useful bowler in Colin de Grandhomme and a spinning all-rounder Michelle Satner. As we move towards South Africa, they have Chris Morris and Andile Phehlukwayo, both of whom are as good with the bat as with the ball.
Sri Lanka have a champion all-rounder in Angelo Mathews. It's a different matter that he hardly bowls now because of the frequent injuries. Another upcoming Sri Lankan all-rounder is Isuru Udana, who played some breath-taking knocks on Sri Lanka's tour of New Zealand. In Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan, Afghanistan have two all-rounders of immense potential. While Nabi has been one of the most consistent all-rounders over the last couple of years, Rashid has come a long way with his batting and has developed the power to clear the fence with ease.
In an online show, Virender Sehwag recently said that despite India winning the 2011 World Cup, the team still felt the need for a genuine all-rounder, which they now possess. India have Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja, both of whom can turn out to be game changers. Jadeja is a great value addition to the Indian team with his impeccable fielding, tight bowling and handy lower-order batting, but it is Pandya who will prove to be India's x-factor.
In Shadab Khan, Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, Pakistan have utility all-rounders who can chip in at crucial junctures of the match. The ability of England's Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali is no secret. Apart from Russell, who set the IPL 2019 on fire, West Indies have other all-rounders in Carlos Brathwaite, Jason Holder and Fabian Allen, each of whom have the capability of winning the match single-handedly.
It is quite clear then, in this World Cup, there will be a battle within the battle. While the teams will compete with all their blood and sweat to earn those crucial two points, the all-rounders will side-eye each other in what will be an attempt at one-upmanship.
So, while casually watching one of the World Cup matches, perched on your couch, if the gigantic impact of the all-rounders on the showpiece event suddenly dawns upon you, remember, you read it here first.
©Cricket World 2019