With a little over three weeks until the 2015 Cricket World Cup begins, Australia and New Zealand are preparing to host what has the potential to be the best World Cup in cricketing history.
World cricket is flush with batting innovators, big-hitters and majestic shotmakers.
To some spectators, the World Cup and its 50-over format is seen as antiquated and endangered when compared to the vibrant universe of Twenty20 cricket.
However, ODI cricket is not being given the credit it deserves, and here’s why. Watch out for the following ten batsmen who are set to light up the 2015 World Cup.
- Joe Root – England – middle order
- Key stat: Scored three ODI centuries in 2014
Many see Joe Root as a future England Test captain, but at the moment he’s quite content plundering runs for England in every format of the game. Root has become so important for England that he very often finds himself to be England’s saviour when his colleagues have faltered. Root is a steady accumulator of runs, and the antipodean pitches will suit him in February.
- Chris Gayle – West Indies – opener
- Key stat: Hit more sixes than fours in ODIs last year
Perhaps the most destructive opening batsman in the world, Gayle is back in the West Indies side after their recent pay dispute. His presence looks sure to lift a side controversially shorn of Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo at this World Cup. Gayle will continually look to make a fast start but is in danger of being caught out by the fast and bouncy pitches Down Under, with his main weakness being the short ball. If he can survive that, he will score both quickly and colossally.
- Steve Smith – Australia – middle order
- Key stat: Boasts a 49.18 average in 12 ODIs last season
Steve Smith has taken well to Test captaincy, scoring four centuries at an average of 128.16 in the recent series against India. He should be confident of transferring that form into the World Cup when he will have the chance to score big runs on home soil. For Australia, the problem lies in where to place Smith in a middle order that is brimming with runs, which is a nice problem to have.
- Kane Williamson – New Zealand – number three
- Key stat: Compiled a 70.00 average in 12 ODIs during 2014
New Zealand’s latest batting talent has finally broken through, for good. Kane Williamson enjoyed a superb 2014 in ODI cricket, striking seven half-centuries in just 12 innings. He forms a profitable partnership with Ross Taylor in the top order and can also send down some useful off-spin. Williamson has carried his 2014 form into 2015, having scored 103 off 107 balls against Sri Lanka this week.
- Hashim Amla – South Africa – opener
- Key stat: Hit 892 runs in ODI cricket in 2014
In normal circumstances, Hashim Amla’s unbeaten 153 against the West Indies would have made all the headlines, but he was upstaged by AB de Villiers’ record-braking innings. His 2014 form, where he recorded five centuries and a 52.47 average, has progressed into 2015 and he will look to create a solid base for the South African innings before AB, David Miller and co light the bonfires.
- Virat Kohli – India – top order
- Key stat: Scored 1,054 runs off 1,058 balls in ODIs last season
Ignoring a lippy attitude and some questionable on-field manners, Virat Kohli has emerged as India’s ‘Mr Reliable’. His run-a-ball record in ODI cricket during 2014 is a by-product of some devastating T20 displays, and the pin-up boy of Indian cricket is now churning out the runs in all forms of the game. His excellent fielding adds another string to his bow – and it is in that department where India need to focus on most if they are to retain their title.
- Angelo Mathews – Sri Lanka – middle order
- Key stat: Second-highest ODI runscorer in 2014 with 1,244 runs
One of the most underrated cricketers in modern times, Mathews has quickly established himself as the leading middle order batsman in ODI cricket. His ability to accelerate an innings in both clinical and efficient style is a skill keenly sought when ambitions of World Cup glory are harboured. His place in the team is as an all-rounder, but if he can replicate the form which saw him amass a tally of 1,244 runs last season he could finally gain the recognition he deserves.
- Rohit Sharma – India – opener
- Key stat: Registered the world-record innings in ODIs with 264 against Sri Lanka last November
When a batsman possesses the elegance and talent to emulate the great Sachin Tendulkar, huge expectation comes with it, and Rohit Sharma has finally lived up to it. His mammoth total of 264 against Sri Lanka was a world-record in 50-over cricket, and a recent knock of 138 has confirmed the Indian opener’s super form ahead of the World Cup.
- Kumar Sangakkara – Sri Lanka – number three
- Key stat: Top ODI runscorer in 2014 with 1,256 runs
Ever-dependable, rock-solid and almost impossible to dismiss, Sangakkara has confirmed his presence in the pantheon of all-time cricket greats. Having scored four centuries and eight fifties in 2014, he arrives at the World Cup in excellent knick and will again be the cornerstone of the Sri Lankan innings. Can he finally add a World Cup title to his illustrious career?
- AB de Villiers – South Africa – number three
- Key stat: Scored the fastest ODI 50 and 100 in history, making 149 off 44 balls last Sunday.
There is no batsman more mesmeric than AB de Villiers when he swings at full cry. A master innovator, creating shots that previously seemed impossible, he has crafted a new way of hitting; a new way of scoring big totals quickly. That was best evidenced by his thunderous 149 from 44 balls against the West Indies this week, scoring the fastest 50 and the fastest 100 in ODI history along the way. I reckon he’s seeing the ball well, don’t you?
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