Legendary West Indies captain Clive Lloyd has predicted that the likes of Andre Russell and Hardik Pandya are the players to look out for in the Cricket World Cup 2019 as flat pitches in England and Wales would make things difficult for bowlers, meaning all-rounders have a better chance of succeeding.
"From Afghanistan to England, or from India to West Indies, every team is blessed with top-class all-rounders. That's why I believe it will be an all-rounders' World Cup," Llyod said.
Now the question is, can Russell or Pandya win the World Cup for their respective teams? Russell won the most valuable player's award in the just-concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019, beating Pandya to the second position.
Hardik Pandya Vs Andre Russell
Emulating Russell's form with the bat was impossible this IPL season, but Pandya was the one who came closest to the big Jamaican.
Always a dangerous batsman in all formats of the game, Pandya seems to have incorporated the Helicopter shot, immortalised by his former captain MS Dhoni, into his arsenal and his performance with the ball was just as impressive.
Pandya's importance in the Indian team was underlined by the fact that they had to constantly tinker with team combination while the 25-year-old was embroiled in a controversy over his comments in a popular TV show. Captain Virat Kohli later said after Pandya made his comeback that he "provides a lot of balance to the team".
Yes, Mumbai Indians may have won the IPL but it was Russell who stole the show with his virtuoso performance with both bat and ball and also fielding. The 31-year-old seems to have got a second wind since returning from a doping ban that was imposed on him in January 2017.
He has struck 130 sixes in 58 games since it ended, which amounts to a six every five balls and the manner in which he flogged bowlers in the IPL looked like something straight out of a video game.
Russell is also a useful medium pacer and arguably the best fielder West Indies have got. If he remains fit and translates his superman form into the 50-over game, one can expect a few records to fall at his feet.
Let's also look at three other all-rounders who are likely to do well in England and Wales this summer.
Ben Stokes (England)
A line can be drawn in Ben Stokes' batting style and his on-field temperament before he got embroiled in the Bristol nightclub controversy and after it. Stokes was known for his explosive nature as a batsman and as a dangerous bowler who never shied away from getting into a confrontation with the opposition.
However, since his return, Stokes has mellowed down -- both on and off the field. This has resulted in his contributions to the team's score going down but the fact remains that he is still a world class pacer and an excellent fielder. Additionally, his unbeaten 71 in England's recent three-wicket win against Pakistan showed why he can never be discounted as a threat with the bat by the opposition. He has been drawing comparisons with Ian Botham ever since he made his debut and, with England being one of the favourites, Stokes can prove lethal.
Marcus Stoinis (Australia)
Virat Kohli termed Stoinis as the "biggest threat" prior to Australia's limited overs tour of India. The visitors went on to stun Kohli and team 3-2 in the series and Stoinis was in the thick of it. He scored 140 runs and even picked Kohli's wicket in the decisive final match.
The 29-year-old has been through the worst and the best of what has been a roller-coaster years for the Australian team in which the five-time world champions slipped out of the top five of the ODI rankings, lost to South Africa and India at home, were handed a flogging by England before turning it around in 2019 with the series win in India and another victory against Pakistan in the UAE. With the return of David Warner and Steve Smith, the defending champions, despite their topsy-turvy form, are being seen as favourites behind England and India to lift the trophy. Stoinis may not be the talisman of this team, but he is a trump card.
Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh)
He has already made his name as the greatest player his country has ever produced but Shakib Al Hasan's participation in the Cricket World Cup came under a question mark when he retired hurt during an ODI game against Ireland last week. He suffered a side strain and won't play the tri-series final that is being played in Ireland.
As Bangladesh cricket rose in stature over the past decade, Shakib grew with them and is the player that captain Mashrafe Mortaza depends on the most. Their performances in big tournaments has often hinged on Shakib's performances with the bat or the ball.
(With IANS inputs)