The Cricket World Cup is upon us and promises to be a thriller, with England well equipped to defend their title and a host of challengers, led by much-fancied hosts India, aiming to wrest it from them.
Established stars and rising ones will be out to make their mark on the grandest stage, as the action kicks off today with a repeat of the 2019 final as England once again face New Zealand.
Here are some of the players to look out for over the next few weeks:
Ben Stokes (England)
There was minor controversy when England’s Test captain answered the call to come out of ODI retirement, stirred up by former Aussie skipper Tim Paine.
In as a specialist batter because of his chronic knee problems, Stokes did his best to quell any concerns with an England ODI record knock of 182 from 124 balls against New Zealand last month.
A big-match, big-moment player with a big presence to match – providing he can shake off his latest injury scare, which emerged on the eve of the tournament.
Jasprit Bumrah (India)
Virat Kohli has superstar status (and his record is ridiculous) but Bumrah could sneak up as the main man for the hosts.
A back injury sidelined him for a year but if he stays fit he’s a brilliant fast bowler – his ability to produce inch-perfect yorkers and savvy slower balls at the right time could be decisive on home soil.
Babar Azam (Pakistan)
An obvious man to keep an eye on as the ICC’s top-ranked batter in 50-over cricket. Averaged 67.71 at the last World Cup, has a career average of 57 and is equally comfortable against pace or spin.
Simply brilliant to watch and rattles along at a strike rate of almost 90.
Adam Zampa (Australia)
Seamers like Mitchell Starc will spearhead the Aussie attack but don’t underestimate the importance of Zampa’s spin.
He’ll be carrying extra responsibility as the only specialist spinner in the party, with Ashton Agar injured, but Australia have a rich history of leggies and conditions in India should suit him.
Smashed about in South Africa last month but has more ODI wickets than anyone since the last World Cup (74).
Mujeeb ur Rahman (Afghanistan)
A spinner with an enviable skill-set who England batters should be wary of when they face him.
In demand with franchises around the globe, he’s risen to No.3 in the ODI bowler rankings with a deadly mix of off-spin, googlies and leg-spin in his bag of tricks.
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