By Matthew Harris
The 2015 World Cup begins on February 14th with India looking to defend their trophy in conditions that won’t suit MS Dhoni and his men. The reigning Champions are mere fourth favourites in a market led by an Australian unit that looks to be peaking at just the right time.
In the limited overs forms of the game however, matches can be won and lost by one brilliant performance and here are five men who could have an important say in terms of the title destiny.
They’ve yet to win a major tournament and they still carry around an unwanted ‘Chokers’ tag but many feel this could be South Africa’s year. The Proteas demolished an admittedly poor West Indian team recently but while Hashim Amla was his consistent self, the batsman who really caught the eye was the skipper De Villiers.
A scarcely believable century from just 31 balls set a new ODI record before the right hander went on to smash 149 from 44 against the hapless West Indies. De Villiers is quick on his feet, gets himself into awkward positions on the crease and can score anywhere; a serious problem for all bowlers at the World Cup.
He may be an obvious pick but Australia’s Smith has been transformed from an expensive leg spinner who could bat a bit into arguably the best player in world cricket right now. The bowling is merely part time these days but the stand in skipper has scored big runs in all cricket and approaches this tournament in the form of his life.
His leg spin could remain unused but Smith’s brilliant fielding is enough to mark him down as a genuine all rounder.
Surprised to see Williamson placed ahead of Brendon McCullum on this list? Just look at the scores from his last 16 ODI innings:
112, 54, 97, 26,103, 15, 97, 123, 46, 70*, 10, 88, 60, 65, 77, and 71.
The diminutive right hander has emerged over the last four years to form part of a New Zealand side who are highly regarded enough to be installed as third favourites for the title. McCullum is the explosion at the start of the innings but Williamson is the glue in this Kiwi line up and the real key to a successful campaign for the co-hosts.
In many ways, Kohli underlines India’s problems at the World Cup and the reason why few are predicting a successful defence for the reigning champions. Supreme in their own back yard, they don’t travel too well and after a poor Tri-Series campaign in which they finished behind England and Australia, it could be a struggle for MS Dhoni’s men.
Other batters are equally culpable but Kohli carries the hopes of the nation and if he can somehow be at his scintillating best, India may have more of a chance than many of us expect.
5. Steven Finn – England
The man who was ‘unselectable’ just over 12 months ago has remodelled his action and judging by his efforts in that tri-series, Middlesex’s Finn has a vital role to play in England’s World Cup campaign.
James Anderson is the most experienced of the seamers while Stuart Broad seems set to share the new ball but based on current form, Finn is the most potent of the trio. Few expect England to win it and while they remain a side in transition, the bowling department is suddenly falling into place.