World Cup 2015 - The Young Aces
Quicklinks - our six 'young aces' to watch:
With the World Cup just three weeks away the preparation for all the teams are in full swing. Seven out of the ten Test-playing teams are involved in tournaments in their last ditch effort of finalizing the team combinations and bring all the players to form.
Even the qualifiers like Ireland, Scotland and Afghanistan were also involved in a tri-series as preparation for this tournament.
There will be 210 players participating in this year’s tournament. Here we will be focusing on some of the youngsters who are going to play in their first World Cup.
Despite this being their first World Cup they have already shown enough skills and potential in last couple of years and can easily light up the tournament with their amazing performances.
Australia will always be a big favorite in any cricket World Cup due to their enviable record in this tournament. This time they also have the added benefit of having the home support. After a short lull Australia has again build a team of great performers with perfect mix of experience and youth.
Although they have many key players in their team, Glenn Maxwell can be identified as the X-factor in the team who can change the scenario of a match in matter of few overs. His ruthless hitting helped him get prominence through various Twenty20 leagues throughout the world, but he is also a handy all-rounder and a livewire in the field.
He generally comes to bat at number four or five and expected to bat in the middle over’s leading to the slog over and utilize the second batting Power play. He is relatively experienced after playing 39 One-Day International matches, scoring close to thousand runs with a strike rate close to 120. With an ability to hit sixes at will he is dangerous on his day and can become a nightmare for the bowlers.
Maxwell is pretty decent bowler as he showed against Pakistan in last October when he defended two runs in the 50th over by bowling a two-wicket maiden. Generally he is a steady bowler and a very good fielder who can cover any fielding position in the ground.
The Australia team is still unsure about their bowling combination and if they decide to go without Xavier Doherty in their final eleven then Maxwell need to play a pivotal role as the main spin bowling option. But Maxwell has the skill to accept this challenge and play a similar role to that Yuvraj Singh played for India in 2011 edition and be the key factor in Australia’s bid to get the cup back.
Where the Australian team generally gives a picture of calm and certainty around their work ethics, the most Pakistan team most often defines chaos and instability. This team is no different; they cannot host any team in their country, doubts of match fixing looms large over the team, their players and captain changes more frequently than any other team in general.
Yet some of Pakistan’s finest performances have come despite such disturbances and if they want to repeat their World cup winning feat of 1992 in the same country, Junaid Khan has to become a key contributor.
One of the most consistent fast bowlers in last couple of years, Junaid has to carry the responsibility of leading the Pakistan bowling unit in the tournament. One point which can go against him is the fact that this tournament would be his first tour of Australia and New Zealand. But he has already proved his mettle in UAE, India and Sri Lanka; conditions with much less assistance to fast swing bowling.
Pakistan will look forward to him to give them early break through as well bowl some tight overs during batting Power play and slog over. With a relatively weaker batting line up Pakistan would like their bowlers to give little extra and their success will very much depend on their bowling unit as well as Khan.
Among the players covered in this article, Moeen Ali is the least experienced. He has played a handful of Test, ODIs and T20s, all since 2014 but in this short period he has developed as such an impact player for England that a big chunk of England’s World Cup glory are depending on him.
It is not every day that someone can put of a web of spin around the Indian batsmen renowned for their ability to play spin bowling. And when it was done by someone who was primarily selected as a batsman in his second series then that makes a wonderful story. That’s what Moeen did last August, when he literally make Indian’s taste their own medicine and came out as the biggest gain from England’s come-from-behind 3-1 series win.
His reputation has grown more in last six months and he is now settled in the top of England line up with a job of giving them brisk start along with Ian Bell. He has already scored an ODI hundred and can boast of a few other good performances.
His bowling is useful and like Maxwell, Ali also may need to play the role of the primary spinner in the eleven. As Rahul Dravid mentioned recently, with the new rules and aggressive mind set of the batsmen, no team has the luxury of playing just a part-timer as their fifth bowler because now days those 10 overs can go for over 100 runs. This is where players like Moeen and Maxwell will be important cogs in their respective captain’s World Cup plans.
For India, most of the focus will be on superstars like MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli. But with Shikhar Dhawan not looking very comfortable in the top of the order, India needs support for Kohli in the middle order and in this regard Ajinkya Rahane is India’s best choice.
Rahane had a stellar Test series against Australia finishing with 399 runs and helped India drew the third and fourth Test with significant innings played on the last days of both the tests. After a start-stop beginning of his career, Rahane has now become a permanent member of the India team and with solid technique can either open or play in the first drop.
India will look forward to build the innings around Rahane, who would be expected to play a sheet anchor's role in the World Cup where as stroke players like Kohli, Sharma, Raina and Dhoni can play their shots around him.
India knew that Kohli’s form is their best bet for retaining the trophy but tournaments like World Cups cannot be won by a single player and supporting role from Rahane would be critical. You never know, Rahane has enough ability to come out of the shadow of Kohli and shine with his own performance.
For cricket fans, 2014 started with a bang when Corey Anderson broke Shahid Afridi’s 17-year old record of the fastest ODI hundred on the New Year’s Day. Although that record is also broken now in the last 12 months Anderson has built his reputation as one of the cleanest hitters in the world.
Last year, New Zealand had one of their most successful years in their history. Like most successful teams it was a team effort with most of the players making significant contribution.
Anderson also fulfilled his role in the team. Like Maxwell and Moeen, he also plays a dual role in his team and is always involved in the game. His seam bowling can be a game changer especially when New Zealand is supposed to play all of their matches at home until the semi-final stage.
Currently New Zealand can boast of having one of the strongest and in-form batting line up consisting of Guptill, McCullam, Richardson and Taylor. Anderson’s primary job would to take advantage of the good start provided by the top order.
Quinton De Kock
Six ODI centuries in your first 35 matches is an astonishing feat, and it is more incredible when it was scored by someone who is barely 22 years old. But this is what Quinton de Kock is all about. One of the biggest young talents in the world de Kock had a humble beginning in the One Day cricket but it all changed in December 2013 when he scored three back-to-back hundreds against the touring Indians.
The good form continued throughout 2014 and in his last 22 ODI matches de Kock has a 50 plus batting average. With his support even Hasim Amla can play freely at the top before AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis can build on the solid base provided by them.
De Kock also carries the responsibility of keeping the wickets for South Africa which is an advantage for them as that frees de Villiers from keeping duties and let him focus on his captaincy. The only concern could be the ankle injury sustained by him in December. The selectors have shown great faith on him by selecting him in the squad despite knowing the fact that he may miss first couple of games.
But when he will finally play in the World Cup, he can easily turn many heads towards him with his scintillating batting performance.
These six players will be nervous before playing their first match in the World Cup but they have already shown enough spark with their performances in last couple of years to excite the fans. And they can easily do an encore to brighten up the World Cup during the February-March tournament in various parts of Australia and New Zealand.
© Cricket World 2015