Five players to watch at the Cricket World Cup in India

By Sports Desk October 02, 2023

The World Cup gets under way on Thursday with a rematch of the 2019 final as England take on New Zealand at Ahmedabad.

Here the PA news agency looks at who to keep an eye on in India.

Jasprit Bumrah (India)

The fast bowler with the greatest claim to be in a world XI in all three formats, his absence at last year’s T20 World Cup was palpable. While Mohammed Siraj is an ever-growing threat, Bumrah is India’s X-factor quick. Possessing an idiosyncratic action replete with toe-crushing yorkers and enigmatic slower balls, Bumrah has yet to hit the heights since returning from a year out with a back injury. But as long as he is not overburdened, a World Cup on home soil could be just the stage for Bumrah to shine.

Ben Stokes (England)

England’s go-to when the pressure is at its most intense, Stokes is back for one last ride in ODIs after ending a 13-month retirement. The lure of England defending their crown has proved too irresistible but he will operate as a middle-order batter only due to ongoing left knee troubles precluding his bowling. No matter. Whether he still has the appetite or the eye for this format was answered in emphatic fashion with a stonking 182 against New Zealand at the Kia Oval last month.

Kane Williamson (New Zealand)

Luck went against New Zealand in 201,9 while an anterior cruciate ligament rupture at the Indian Premier League in March left Williamson a major doubt to lead the Black Caps this time. He will not be ready to face England but should be available thereafter. The big talking point is whether Williamson can hit the ground running after six months out. But the 2019 player of the tournament has never cared much for outside noise and his return could galvanise a New Zealand line-up dependent on his runs and guidance.

Shaheen Shah Afridi (Pakistan)

The 6ft 6in left-armer has pace to burn, can produce lavish swing with new ball or old and a flair for performing in Asia – although he has never before played in India. Being a star attraction has never been a problem for any cricketer with the surname Afridi but history suggests he will have to be carefully managed. A jarred knee in last year’s T20 World Cup final ultimately paved the way for an England win, while Pakistan head across the border already weakened with exciting paceman Naseem Shah ruled out.

Adam Zampa (Australia)

Ashton Agar being unable to shrug off a calf injury leaves Zampa as Australia’s only specialist spinner, with all-rounder Glenn Maxwell offering supplementary support. It is a bold gambit from the five-time champions but represents absolute faith in their leg-spinner, whose 74 wickets is the most of any bowler since the last World Cup among the teams to have qualified for this event. Thumped for a world record-equalling 113 in South Africa last month, conditions in India will be more to his liking.

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