Limited Overs cricket being what it is, the list of 15 players to watch at the 2015 World Cup, is top heavy with batsmen, who, unfortunately, are likely to dominate at the world cup.
Man of the moment is AB de Villiers, whose form is such that he seems assured of a prominent role. He is simply the best batsman in the world in this format and opposition teams would be well advised to begin working on creative strategies if they hope to see the back of him early.
Not far behind him is Virat Kohli, whose full talent is finally blossoming. He has good players batting around him and we should see some significant innings from him. He enjoys confrontation and a better tactic than sledging might be what, many years ago, Peter Carlstein used to dislike so much, complete silence when he is at the wicket.
Kohli’s compatriot, Ajinkya Rahane has made giant strides in the past year. Indian players often struggle overseas but not this man. Picked for only one home test, he has been forced to prove himself outside India and he has done so in splendid fashion. Blessed with an even, calm temperament, his fielding skill is a bonus.
Brendon McCullum seems to improve with age and he is currently in the best form of his life. His aggression early in the innings, in both test and ODI cricket, has played an important part in New Zealand’s recent success. In addition, he remains one of New Zealand’s best fielders.
McCullum’s colleague, Kane Williamson is another who has made huge gains in his game recently and is already being mentioned, alongside Martin Crowe, as New Zealand’s best of all time. He needs to bat consistently well if the Black Caps are to have a chance. Given his suspension by the ICC, he is unlikely to bowl.
One of the most exciting batsmen in the world, in all formats, is Australia’s David Warner and he has the advantage of opening the innings. By the very nature of his game, there will be failures but there should also be occasions when he gives the innings terrific impetus at the beginning. He is also a superb fielder.
Although somewhat overshadowed by AB de Villiers at the moment, Hashim Amla is a consistently successful performer. His combination with de Villiers threatens all other sides and the breaking of this partnership is essential to opposition success. His temperament plays a major role in his achievements.
Like Brendon McCullum, Kumar Sangakkara is enjoying great success at an even later stage, as he approaches forty. This will doubtless be his last world cup and he is vital to Sri Lanka’s progress, especially as he also does duty behind the stumps.
The last of the batsmen is Steve Smith, another whose improvement has been rapid in the past year. His batting in test cricket has been a revelation, he paces his innings well and like Warner, he is outstanding in the field.
There are only two genuine all rounders on the list and the first is Mitchell Marsh, who is one of a group of injury prone, young, Australian cricketers. A very dangerous, powerful hitter down the order, his bowling has yet to make its mark but he has the ability. If he remains healthy, he should make a significant impact.
The second name on the list only just satisfies the requirements of genuine all rounder. Moeen Ali has established himself in the England side as a left-handed batsman but has increasingly been used in the role of supporting off spinner to Tredwell. Good against pace, his problems with spin may not matter against what are likely to be mainly mediocre spinners on tracks that do not suit them.
Sadly, there are only four bowlers on the list, the best known of whom is Mitchell Johnson. Provided he is not forced to bowl on flat pitches, he should do well against batsmen, few of whom fancy his brand of left arm aggression. A front line bowler, he is also a dangerous batsman and another outstanding Australian fieldsman.
Mohammad Irfan, the tallest first class cricketer of all time, made his first class debut only at the age of 27. His extraordinary height (7’1”) enables him to extract steep bounce at pace and Australian wickets should suit him, if he can remain fit. For Pakistan’s sake, he will need to be at his best.
Twenty two year old Adam Milne has been a terrific find for New Zealand. Like Australia’s Pat Cummins, he was recorded at 150km at the tender age of 18 but like Cummins, he has had injury concerns. He is new on the international scene and may shock a few opposition batsmen.
Finally, a spinner, who appears to have survived the ICC’s extraordinary blitz on bowlers’ actions, Sunil Narine. An immensely talented, intelligent bowler, Narine has wonderful variety for a finger spinner. If he receives support from the West Indies captain and fielders, he could have a big world cup.