Who are the men most likely to catch the eye in the World Cup? Here’s one from each squad who might just prove to be the key man for their countries come cricket’s biggest tournament. And, even if they aren’t, it’ll be fun watching them.
Netherlands – Ryan ten Doeschate (1234 runs ave 69, sr 87; 48 wkts ave 21, econ 4.8). Been round the block for Essex in England’s non-stop county cricket whirligig, hitting the ball as hard as anyone and bowling tight, but with enough variation to keep batsmen honest. No bowler wants to see him striding to the wicket with 100 needed off 13 overs and six wickets in hand.
Sri Lanka – Angelo Mathews (666 runs ave 33, sr 81; 27 wkts ave 28, econ 4.6). Ice runs through the veins of this batting all-rounder who has all the shots in the textbook and a few that aren’t. Looks a million dollars in everything he does… well $950,000 to the Pune Warriors.
Zimbabwe – Sean Ervine (698 runs ave 28, sr 86; 41 wkts ave 38, econ 5.7). Seems to have been around forever, but is still only 28. Never looks fully fit, but on one of his rare good days, can win a match on his own with bat or ball. May not get another chance on the biggest stage, so might just deliver in a couple of matches.
India – Zaheer Khan (250 wkts ave 30, econ 4.9). Doesn’t bat much and fields even less these days, but the man can bowl. His experience, swing and left-arm over and round angles will trouble the best batsman at the start and finish of an innings, but his trump card will surely be the motivation to win on home soil in his last World Cup. One of his team-mates has similar motivation I understand.
Australia – Shane Watson (3208 runs ave 42, sr 85; 121 wkts ave 28, econ 4.9). Loves the sub-continent with its pitches that favour his straight power-hitting and wicket-to-wicket wobblers. Knows conditions from international and IPL cricket and won’t be over-awed. In very decent nick too.
Pakistan – Abdul Razzaq (4921 runs ave 31, sr 81; 259 wkts ave 32, econ 4.7). All the experience in the world and a cool head amongst the adrenaline junkies in the green of Pakistan. Can still do a job with the ball, but his stronger suit is his ultra-clean hitting down the order. The man who can get his team from 250-7 with five overs left to 310-8 setting a target. And no chase is a write-off with him at the wicket.
South Africa – Imran Tahir. Has never played an ODI, but has bowled all over the world and taken wickets wherever he goes. Offers South Africa two qualities possessed by no other player in their squad – a surprise factor and a history that does not include the word “choke”.
Bangladesh – Tamim Iqbal (2640 runs ave 30, sr 79). Electrifying opening batsman who can make the best bowlers look like mugs. The feet aren’t always in the right place, but has Gilchristian hand-eye coordination and blinding bat-speed. Though still only 21, he is self-possessed and charming in interview and will enjoy his spell in the spotlight.
England – Eoin Morgan (1806 runs ave 40, sr 81). Everything you want in an ODI batsman, he can nurdle it around in a period of consolidation, hit boundaries to accelerate the scoring and judge a chase with Bevanesque coolness. England expects… and that might just be his biggest problem.
Ireland – Trent Johnston (552 runs ave 21, sr 98; 46 wkts ave 40, econ 4.1). Canny with bat or ball in hand, his dibbly-dobblers may just pray on the egos of bigger stars. Will operate on the principle that “if you miss, I hit” and that’s never a bad idea on the sub-continent.
Kenya – Steve Tikolo (3377 runs ave 30, sr 76; 93 wkts ave 33, econ 4.8). The grand old man of Kenyan cricket will need all his 14 years of World Cup experience if his under-powered squad are to avoid embarrassment. Will hit the ball hard, but probably won’t run hard.
New Zealand – Jesse Ryder (695 runs ave 33, sr 92). As big a talent as there is in the game (no giggling at the back now), he doesn’t bowl much now due to injury niggles, but has a range of shot as wide as any batsman. Enjoys sub-continental pitches and will avoid too much running between the wickets by the simple expedient of hitting boundaries.
West Indies – Darren Bravo (219 runs ave 37, sr 84). Looks like Brian Lara. Really. No, I mean it – he really does, in every sense. Might not be quite as good, but 75% of his illustrious distant relative’s batting is worth more than 100% of most others. Wonderful, simply wonderful, to watch – a gift of resurrection to Lara’s many admirers.
The Tooting Trumpet, whom you can often find at Testmatchsofa.com and on Twitter at @garynaylor999 and @Fakeadil.