With a long and arduous World Cup dawning upon us I thought I'd list a few players who I believe are going to succeed in what is one of the most anticipated events in the cricket calender.
All-rounder to watch-Shane Watson: Despite a very strong dislike for Shane Watson there is no way you can argue with his numbers. The arrogant opener was the leading run scorer for the calender year of 2010 and not to forget the second highest wicket taker. He has the ability to take the game away from the opposition from the start as his 1784 runs at 43.51 since his reinvention as an opener and lets not forget his very good start to 2011 with 161*. Also worthy to watch for his exploits in the field from his bucket hands in the slips to his out fielding (see his run out of Ab De Villiers in the 2007 World Cup for proof). He has good experiences in the sub continent specifically in India with his success with the Rajasthan Royals in the inaugural IPL. He is a definite early candidate for Man of the Tournament and will be key to Australia's success.
Bowler to watch-Brett Lee: Strange to refer to him as a veteran but at the age of 34 he is heading towards the end of career which makes it all the more amazing that he still bounds in and sends the ball flying at around 145kph. Many suspected his elbow injury to end his career but he is back and with more control and wile than ever proved by leading the wicket charts in the current series against England with 11 wickets at only 24 showing good form and a good platform for what is likely to be his last World Cup. Don't rule out his batting either capable of lusty blows or nudging it around to pull his team out of trouble he can provide very able assistance for any top order batsman. Watch out for the wicked jumping celebrations and smile of one of Australia's only nice guys.
All-rounder to watch- Shakib Al Hasan: Bangladesh's lead from the front inspirational captain and recent tormentor of New Zealand is proving himself to be quite a player. Since 2009 he has 1458 runs at an average near 40 picking up three centuries against top ranked nations such as India and sadly New Zealand. His off spin is accurate and nagging causing many players to throw away their wickets showing why he has a career average of under 30. Excellent in home conditions and can be a match winner with either of his disciplines, will be the most likely hero in any of Bangladesh's upsets.
Batsman to watch- Tamim Iqbal: Bangladesh's answer to Virender Sehwag. While Tamim may seem small he packs a mighty punch. Was a key player in Bangladesh's defeat of India at the last World Cup scoring a vital 54. While he has been out of the game for a small while getting surgery on his wrist it is a certainty that he will be keen to keep up his 2010 strike rate of 96 and with home advantage the small sub continental boundaries will not be safe. A player for the big stage he could even threaten to better Bangladesh's best individual innings of 154 (set by himself of course). If you're seeking entertainment make sure you watch one of his innings and look out for booming pulls and square cuts.
Batsman-John Davison: Without a doubt the best player Canada has ever had despite the fact that he is Australian. A batsman who does not like to wait around to see what will happen he just throws caution to the wind and swings with great success shown by the then fastest World Cup hundred in 2003 when he scored his century off just 67 balls to go along with two brisk half centuries against New Zealand in the 2003 and 2007 World Cups. Bowls surprisingly decent off spin which will be very useful on subcontinental pitches to plug up an over. This World Cup should be the last assignment for the now 40 year old Davison so be sure to watch him go out with a bang.
Bowler-Balaji Rao: Who doesn't love a slightly over weight spinner? Well Andy Flower but lucky enough for us he isn't Canada's coach as this slightly tubby leg spinner could be quite the bowler to watch in this Canadian team. He is a bowler who can turn it both ways and should be hugely effective on these subcontinent pitches even having good Indian experience playing first class cricket there and being part of the Indian Under 19 team back in the day. Look forward to this spinner waddle up and hopefully rip a few past some over confident batsmen.
Batsman-Jonathan Trott- Perhaps the player I thought most likely to be rubbish at one day cricket aside from Alistair Cook in the English test team but boy has Jonothan Trott proved me wrong. In the form of his life in Australia scoring four centuries this tour and holding together England's fragile line up in the ODIs. The subcontinent should suit his nurdle and nudge style of play with his wristy leg side flicks being prominent but also look of for his mediums which are being a great success at the end of the innings and should be successful on the slow low pitches at the World Cup.
Bowler-Graeme Swann: The player who has made off spin fun. Swann is one of the most entertaining player both on and off the field and at this World Cup he could be one of the most successful. Not at all afraid of giving the ball a rip we are very likely to see many balls turning into the batsmen and a fair pace. Swann also possesses excellent accuracy and can tie many a batsman down shown in his excellent one day average of 23 since 2009. His batting will also provide good entertainment with his hit out or get out mentality very prominent. He could take this English side further than they have ever been and take them to their first win to add to Andy Flowers rapidly growing trophy cabinet.
Batsman-Ed Joyce: Back for his country of birth after briefly being a traitor and going to play for England. A batsman of high class with every shot in the book he could be the one to hold the Irish innings together from the top as it should not be discounted that while he did play for England he managed a century against the then far superior Australians. Will be most interesting when he has to come up against England on March 2nd.
Bowler-George Dockrell; The Irish's great young hope as he has been called at only 18 his bowling performances have been excellent in international cricket with an average of 26. Had to turn down playing the Australians in a one dayer due to the fact that he had exams! Holds an excellent economy rate of 4 in one dayers and will be great to look out for simply due to the fact that he is a teenager (which I always like watching and being jealous that I'm not that good) and good spinners on the subcontinent often provide great results. Should be key to helping Ireland try repeat their stellar 2007 campaign.
Batsman- Sachin Tendulkar; The legend, the one and only Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. So many stats to choose but lets go for since the start of 2006 he averages 49, and the fact that he has the most World Cup runs ever. In home conditions Tendulkar is generally very very hard to get past even scoring big runs such as the only double hundred in one day internationals. Despite owning pretty much every good record you can own he does not have a World Cup so this is his big chance to finally tick that off his list in surely his last World Cup (his sixth!). If India do not make it be sure to look of for effigies and burnt players houses all over the place.
Bowler-Zaheer Khan; India's most dependable bowler and leader of their attack. His left arm pace bowling has given him a World Cup average of 21. Very experienced in his home conditions and will be sure to pull out pin point yorkers at the death and most likely find vicious reverse swing to fool many a batsman. Will definitely be India's go to bowler in high pressure situations.
Batsman-Steve Tikolo: The grand daddy of Kenyan cricket. Steve Tikolo was widely regarded as the best batsman to not have played test cricket when at his prime but now at the age of 40 he is a bit past it now but still the best batsman Kenya have. Dragged out of retirement specifically for this event be sure that he will be the technically sound rock of the Kenyan batting as he has often lifted himself for the big stage. Will most likely send down some overs of dull flat off spin which will be very effective. Hopefully will bring out at least one more good performance before this legend of Kenyan cricket retires for good after playing in everyone of Kenya's World Cup games since 1996.
Bowler-James Ngoche: Young and inexperienced Ngoche's first year in international cricket was 2010 managing to take 13 wickets at an excellent average of 18. Is Kenya's best spinner and will most likely bowl full quotas of overs on these turning pitches in the hopes that Kenya can give some of the big boys of cricket a fright.
All rounder- Ryan Ten Doeschate: The best the Netherlands have to offer by quite a fair distance. Ten Doescate actually owns the best batting average in One Day Internationals currently as it sits at an astonishing 68. Will be the Netherlands rock and will be required to score a good chunk of their runs. His fast mediums are very effective as well with a great average of 21 and will work out well on the slow subcontinental pitches. Now becoming a hired gun around the world in twenty20 cricket playing in Australia and being MVP in the New Zealand HRV Cup. As well as being a great player is as tough as nails recently copping a 140kph ball to the neck and shrugging it off. Will be the Netherlands biggest hope of causing some upsets.
Bowler: Adeel Raja: A spinner much like Graeme Swann with a habit of giving it a bit rip. Also quite controversial for failing random drug tests more recently for a drug that is used to help grow hair back. Should provide great control and a few good turning balls on these turning pitches and could provide a very good foil bowling in tandem with Ten Doeschate.
Batsman-Martin Guptill- The ex-Avondaler known as Marty Two Toes will definitely be a key batsman for New Zealand. In this current series against Pakistan he is striking the ball better than I ever seen him before. Will be looking to hit balls in the 'V' as he is very strong off the front foot and if things get too short he is not adverse to putting balls into the crowd. Electric in the field great prowling close in at short cover or with his bullet arm in the out field I am sure he will pull of at least one run out and one great catch in his maiden World Cup.
Bowler- Tim Southee: It's strange to think that Tim Southee as so young since it seems like he has been round forever but he is bowling at his best at the moment. He is managing to swing the ball prodigiously and bowl very good lines and lengths. Will be New Zealand's bowler at the death proving he can do the job with very good yorkers in the past. Will be interesting to see if he can manage to not be slaughtered around the park as he has been in the past. His batting will also provide good wild leg side swinging entertainment.
Batsman- Misbah Ul-Haq; A batsman who only a few months ago would not have been considered for the World Cup team but is now a definite starter. Is in the form of his life on this current tour to New Zealand and in touch with his game better than ever before. Plays in a very orthodox fashion and will no doubt be the rock amongst an often collapsing Pakistani team, will be key along with his partner in crime Younis Khan.
Bowler-Umar Gul: The definite leader of this Pakistani bowling attack. Bowls with good pace and is one of the best exponents of the one day game in recent history. Has a very respectable ODI average of 27 but his true talent will come out in his great death bowling as he can bowl a perfect yorker at a snap of the fingers. If there is reverse swing to be found he will find it and could be a very dangerous prospect in conditions he knows very well. His batting can also provide some good lower order entertainment.
Batsman-Hashim Amla: Undoubtedly the best batsman of the last year in both long and short formats of the game with over 1000 runs 5 centuries at an average of around 75 in 2010. His game of wristy flicks and accumulation will sort the slow low subcontinental pitches very well already proven by his recent success there in 2010. He will be a very likely candidate for leading run scorer in the tournament and could even take this South African team past their usual choking status.
Bowler-Imran Tahir: South Africa's secret weapon. A player who has player all over the world and done very well. It is no wonder that as soon as he was eligible for the South African team he was put in their World Cup squad. Is a very attacking leg spinner capable of great control and wicket taking prowess. Has a bowling average of under 23 in first class one day matches but will be interesting to see if Graeme Smith can get the best out of him. Has subcontinental experience and should be one of the players to truly announce himself on the world stage.
Batsman-Tillakaratne Dilshan: Another dashing opener in world cricket who is very good in his own conditions. Has been exceptional in the past two years averaging over 50 in 2009 and 2010. Will be expected to give Sri Lanka a good fast start to lay a strong foundation for the middle order. A man who can do everything from bat, bowl, field and wicket keep it is hard to know what to expect from Dilshan but be sure he will score some quick runs at the top, provide some handy wickets and pull off good stops in the field.
Bowler-Muttiah Muralitharan: Sri Lanka's epic stalwart in his last ever international assignment will want to take Sri Lanka one better than he could in 2007. Will no doubt be high in the wicket taking charts taking wickets with amazing control and deception its no wonder he has 53 World Cup wickets. Will definitely want to retire on a high and has a good chance to in his home conditions. Expect his back away and slog batting to be cheered ferociously as international cricket bids farewell to a legend.
Batsman- Darren Bravo: The young brother of Dwayne Bravo who has modeled his batting style on Brian Lara and it clearly shows with a high back lift and very punchy drives. Has had a very good start to his test career but not quite so much in ODIs but is a great talent and I'm sure along with the experience of the the other players can be very successful.
Bowler-Kemar Roach: The bowler responsible for Ricky Ponting losing faith in his pull shot. Will be the West Indies best wicket taking option as he has a great strike rate with a wicket every 26 balls in ODIs. Wont let the slow pitches of the subcontinent stop him from trying to bowl as fast as possible and try and intimidate batsmen and show off his very good yorker. Look out for him as a reminder of the good old days of West Indian fast bowling.
Batsman-Brendan Taylor: Has been excellent in the past 18 months carrying an often very weak Zimbabwe batting order and scoring heavily with one day hundreds against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and South Africa along with a few 90s. Has a great cover drive and should be remembered fondly as the batsman who beat Australia with a great 50 in the 2007 World T20. If he gets going Zimbabwe could be very capable of causing upsets.
Bowler-Ray Price: A spinner with a fast bowlers mind set. Ray Price may be on the wrong side of 30 but he loves getting in the oppositions face regardless of what he is doing. He has an amazing economy rate of under 4 per over he will offer great control and entertainment for all who watch. Look out for his great wicket celebrations as he quite likes jumping about and yelling.
Now we will just have to wait and see to the end of this epically long World Cup to see how right I am.