Guyana is set to observe its 54th Independence Day on Tuesday, May 26.
Fourteen days to go. You can almost taste it.
Watching the warm-up games and consuming the column inches that come with World Cup hype, it’s striking how many players forecast to have a big impact at the tournament have in fact never played in it.
India’s most important bowler, as it turns out, made his ODI debut after the 2015 World Cup, while two of England’s three most important batsmen are also making their first appearance at the showpiece event. Running the eye over them, I’ve attempted to rank the top ten. There’s a bowler-heavy theme, likely due to the fact seven of the top ten ODI bowlers in the world are cup debutants, a crazy stat in itself.
Here they are
10. Usman Khawaja (32, Australia)
Khawaja was in the ODI wilderness from early 2013 to 2016 and has finally cemented a spot in the Australian XI after a superb tour of India and the UAE. Having passed 50 in seven of those ten games, he has finally delivered what many knew he was capable of in the shorter formats. The elder statesman of this list, Khawaja will either open with Aaron Finch or come in at first drop, and he is now a key cog in the Aussies’ tilt at back-to-back trophies.
9. Kuldeep Yadav (24, India)
Despite a lacklustre IPL season, Kuldeep’s left-arm wrist spin presents one of India’s key weapons. Unlike most of the successful leggies currently plying their trade, Kuldeep still looks to deceive opponents in flight, getting the ball fizzing above the eye line. It makes him vulnerable on flat tracks, but he’s shown time again that he’s a wicket-taker. Along with his mate Yuzvendra Chahal (an apology on this list), the pair will prove a handful, particularly as the tournament progresses.
8. Jofra Archer (24, England)
He’s not even technically in England’s final 15-man squad yet (he will be), and only just made his international debut, but wow, what a start it’s been. Seaming it around corners at 150 kilometres and hour-plus against Pakistan in the last week, Barbados-born Archer is ready to shine on the world stage. The 24-year-old has an English father and is a British passport holder, and under the England and Wales Cricket Board’s previous rules would have had to wait until 2022, after a seven-year residency, to play for England. Recent ‘changes’ (ahem) means eligibility was brought forward four years. Fair play to the ECB – I would have cut it to three months the first time I saw him glide in.
7. Jason Roy (28, England)
Whenever Roy bats well England generally do too. A breathtaking player at the top who will attack from ball one, the South African-born opener is one of the world’s most aesthetically pleasing players. Last year’s five-game series against Australia was emblematic of Roy as a batsman – in games one and five he was dismissed for 0 and 1, but in the other games he plundered 120, 82 and 101, all at a strike rate of 120-plus. Get him early or he’ll punish you.
6. Babar Azam (24, Pakistan)
After debuting shortly after the 2015 World Cup, the Pakistani young gun took just 21 innings to reach 1000 runs, the equal-fastest ever. To put the start of his career in context, Virat Kohli took 53 innings to reach 2000 runs – Babar took just 45. Speaking of Kohli, there’s already been comparisons with the Indian superstar, and coach Mickey Arthur thinks he’ll be a top-five player across all three formats “very soon”. He’s ready to show the world what he’s got.
5. Jonny Bairstow (29, England)
It’s strange to think Bairstow is yet to play at a World Cup. When you consider the way he has dominated ODI cricket of late, he is the currently the best batsman in the world without a World Cup cap. Regularly getting England off to a flyer, the opener has passed 30 in 13 of his last 20 ODI innings. Of the eight times he has passed 50 in this period, five have turned into hundreds. He enters the tournament in tremendous touch following a dominant IPL series and as recently as Wednesday morning plundered 128 (93) against Pakistan.
4. Kagiso Rabada (23, South Africa)
Australians have become well used to this name in recent years. Floating into the crease, Rabada’s action is as repeatable as they come, and it’s cricketing poetry. What isn’t quite so poetic, however, are his ruthless bumpers invariably followed up by some words with the striker. Perhaps that’s why the Aussies got so riled by him in last year’s infamous Test series – he’s all too familiar. And he’s also very, very good. Barring serious injury he will finish his career as one of the all-time greats.
3. Adil Rashid (31, England)
For favourites England, their hopes of winning a first World Cup perhaps most rely on Rashid’s shoulders. They already bat deep and have a strong array of seamers – as a result, their number-one weapon in the middle over is the Yorkshire leggie. Rashid made his ODI debut way back in 2009 before a five-and-a-half year hiatus out of the national team. Since the 2015 World Cup, however (which he did not play in), he has taken more ODI wickets (127) than anyone in the world.
2. Rashid Khan (20, Afghanistan)
What a marvel this man has been since hitting the international scene in late 2015. Ranked the world’s No. 1 T20 bowler and No. 3 ODI bowler, it’s hard to believe he’s not even a year out of his teenage years. His speed through the crease and well-disguised variations make him a nightmare to face for batsmen looking to turn over strike. Further, his deadly accuracy and ability to skid the ball through is making loose balls an increasing rarity. If Afghanistan are to pull a few surprises during the World Cup, expect Rashid Khan to be right in among it.
1. Jasprit Bumrah (25, India)
In the aftermath of Monday morning’s IPL final, the great Sachin Tendulkar said this: “Without any doubt, let me go on record and say that he (Bumrah) is the best bowler in the world at this stage”. And it’s becoming increasingly hard to argue with. Bumrah’s 2-14 off four in the final single-handedly won Mumbai Indians their fourth IPL title and earnt him man-of-the-match honours. It capped a stellar six months in which he was also (equal) leading wicket-taker in the Test series against Australia. He is the world’s No. 1 ranked ODI bowler and an absolute handful to face at any stage of the innings.
Yuzvendra Chahal, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Shai Hope, Mustafizur Rahman, Shimron Hetmeyer and Lungi Ngidi.