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Ten players to watch out for at the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup

All 10 participating teams have named their 15-member squads for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023, which will be played in India from October 5 to November 19.

Some teams have depended on experience to land them cricket’s most coveted trophy, while others have put their faith in a mix of old and new faces.

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Only a few of these will end up being standout performers for their team’s campaign on the biggest stage in cricket.

Here are the top 10 names you should watch out for at this year’s tournament:

Babar Azam: Pakistan

Pakistan’s captain and most prolific run scorer in recent years is an obvious choice given his reign at the top of the ICC men’s one-day international (ODI) rankings. Babar has been consistently ranked among the top five batters in the format over the past six years.

Although the 28-year-old had a mediocre run at the recently-concluded Asia Cup by his standards (207 runs in four innings) and could not lead his team into the final, Pakistan’s chances of qualifying for the semifinals of the World Cup will be closely linked to his batting form and on-field decisions.

Azam has garnered praise from several former greats, including Pakistan’s only Cricket World Cup-winning captain and former Prime Minister Imran Khan who termed him a “complete” batter.

“His technique, talent and temperament are all brilliant. It is very rare to find all three of these things in one batsman, but he has them all,” Khan said in an interview earlier this year.

Virat Kohli: India

Arguably the biggest star in world cricket and one of India’s all-time great cricketers, Virat Kohli has nearly all major titles in international cricket. Despite his age, the 34-year-old is among the fittest athletes in the sport and continues to score runs with a scarcely believable consistency.

Kohli has scored three centuries this year and now stands one short of Indian great Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 49 ODI hundreds.

The former India captain, who was part of India’s World Cup-winning side in 2011, has pledged to bring another title to the cricket-mad country.

“The memories of past World Cup victories, especially the iconic 2011 win, are etched in our hearts, and we want to create new memories for our fans,” Kohli said in the lead-up to the tournament.

Rashid Khan: Afghanistan

The Afghan leg-spinner has established himself as the country’s first globally recognised cricket icon. Khan made his debut at 17 years in 2015, and has since gone on to take 336 wickets across all formats of the game.

Khan’s bewildering googlies and relentless ability to take wickets have made him a mainstay of Afghanistan’s team over the past eight years. The 25-year-old’s ODI batting average of nearly 20 comes at a high strike rate and ability to push his side towards big totals with his contributions lower down the order.

Afghanistan will look at their former (youngest) captain to help them pose a challenge for the semifinal spots.

Adam Zampa: Australia

When Australia take the field on traditionally spin-friendly Indian pitches, Zampa will be their only specialist leg-spinner in the squad. The 31-year-old has established a reputation for breaking opposition partnerships and providing crucial breakthroughs for his team.

The combination of his healthy strike rate (31.5) and tight economy rate (5.53) will make him Australia’s most important bowler in the 50-over format, where he has taken 45 wickets in the past 20 months.

Heinrich Klaasen: South Africa

In a squad brimming with power hitters, Klaasen stands out for the ability to walk on to the crease lower down the order and get down to the business of hitting boundaries right away.

He boasts one of the highest strike rates among current batters as he often scores most of his runs from fours and sixes. As a skilled wicketkeeper, the 32-year-old holds the record for 10 wicketkeeping dismissals and scoring 200 runs in a series.

Last month, the power-hitter scored an 83-ball-174 against Australia in a home ODI series and South Africa will hope that Klaasen brings his recent form on to the biggest stage.

Ben Stokes: England

Stokes is arguably England’s biggest player of the current generation and their standout performer during their 2019 triumph. Following a brief retirement from the format, the 32-year-old made a return to ODI cricket and was included in England’s squad last month.

Stokes marked his return with a 124-ball-184 in the recent ODI series against New Zealand, breaking Jason Roy’s record (180) for the highest individual score in an ODI for England and guiding his team to an 181-run win.

The all-rounder has been playing as a specialist batter in recent months but his impressive fielding and contribution to on-field decision-making will be invaluable to captain Jos Buttler.

What is more, India’s Kohli recently picked Stokes as his current favourite cricketer.

Shakib Al Hasan: Bangladesh

Shakib Al Hasan is perhaps Bangladesh’s greatest cricketer of all time and one of the world’s all-time great all-rounders.

The wily left-arm spinner and left-handed batter has reigned over the ICC ODI all-rounder rankings for nearly 14 years. He has also consistently been among the best bowlers and all-rounders in other formats of the game.

The 36-year-old has astounding statistics in ODI cricket alone, with 308 wickets and 7,384 runs to go with several individual records that he has accumulated over his 17-year career.

Despite his individual brilliance, the Bangladesh captain has not been able to lead his team to glory in a major ICC tournament. But his fans will hope that can change this time around.

Shaheen Shah Afridi: Pakistan

Just as Pakistan captain Azam’s form could be the deciding factor in Pakistan’s run at the tournament, fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi’s spells with the ball will be key to their chances of hunting down batters on high-scoring Indian pitches.

Since making his international debut as an 18-year-old in 2018, Afridi has swiftly taken over as Pakistan’s bowling spearhead and has often found a place at the top of the ICC bowlers’ rankings.

The left-arm pacer has a penchant for taking wickets in his first over and handing his team an early advantage. With right-arm fast bowler Naseem Shah out injured, Afridi’s importance as an opening bowler will be doubled, but the pacer has shown his capability of handling big-match pressure in previous tournaments.

Mitchell Santner: New Zealand

The all-rounder has quietly established himself as a mainstay of the New Zealand side. The 32-year-old has been his captain Kane Williamson’s go-to bowler in tough situations, including a crucial spell in their semifinal win over India in the 2019 Cricket World Cup.

Santner’s best performances and highest ICC rankings have often come in the ODI format.

The southpaw is among the top fielders in the world.

Matheesha Pathirana: Sri Lanka

One of the breakout stars of Sri Lankan cricket over the past year, Pathirana has taken 15 wickets in 10 matches since making his ODI debut in June.

He comes from the Lasith Malinga school of slingy round-arm fast-bowling action and has a habit of keeping opposition scoring rates in check.

The 20-year-old combines unplayable yorkers with dreadful bouncers and has made an instant impact in international cricket.

Pathirana finished last month’s Asia Cup as the leading wicket-taker and impressed many former and current cricketers.

Source: Al Jazeera

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