ICC World Cup 2011 – A look at some of the most special talents | Pakistan Today

ICC World Cup 2011 – A look at some of the most special talents

COMMENT – These are the hard men of cricket. Those that can take an ODI by the horns and by sheer ability and strength of character, can change its course. With ice running in their veins and nerves of braided Kevlar, they can bowl or bat or field their opponents out of the game. And it could very well be some of these multi-taskers who could make the difference between victory and defeat. Yes, the World Cup is upon us and we take a look at these very special cricketers.
For Australia, look no further than Shane Watson. Watson is a poor man’s Jacques Kallis, rock steady with the bat and fast and accurate with his seamers. Watson is an exceptional athlete, strong, with the usual Aussie cocksureness. His only flaw is the inability to convert his 50s into big scores. Were that to happen regularly, he could make a huge impact for his team. David Hussey is another batting all rounder, a big hitter and a medium pacer who can keep the runs down. Hussey looks like he enjoys the challenge of the big stage.
The enigma is Mitchell Johnson, the tear away paceman who flatters only to deceive too often. Should he get his act together, the confidence could transmit to his batting, which is electrifying. Much depends on how Ricky Ponting handles him. Jacques Kallis has quietly and unobtrusively played his way into becoming a cricketing legend. That he has a higher batting average than Tendulkar or Ponting in Tests and ODIs plus a bushel load of wickets, testifies to his greatness. South Africa will revolve around this unassuming player.
Another player who will be sure to be among the runs is AB DeVilliers. A superb all round athlete, he can make a difference with his batting as well as his opportunistic fielding. England have a whole slew of all-rounders. Paul Collingwood and Tim Bresnan would lead the way. A healthy Chris Broad, with some recent batting heroics behind him, will also be raring to have a go. There are also Graeme Swann, arguably the best spinner in the competition and no mean bat, as well as Luke Wright.
Collingwood has been in a slump, but is showing signs of coming out of it. The signs are that he will be back among the runs as the World Cup warms up. Yousuf Pathan is arguably the most destructive batsman in the game. And he does it without giving too many chances. It is either a straight bat or it is out of the park. He starts circumspectly, but then accelerates into a frenzy of sixes. There is no ground that can contain his hits or even mishits. His slow off-spin is varied cleverly for containment.
How India does will depend to a great deal on whether Yousuf fires when he is needed most. Virender Sehwag is another who can electrify with the bat and one who is no mean spinner with the ball. Sachin Tendulkar misses out in this group because his bowling is too expensive. New Zealand is another team with a high percentage of all-rounders. Daniel Vettori, Scott Styrus, Jacob Oram are all very experienced and can produce quality performances with the bat and the ball.
The New Zealanders are hard triers, always giving 100 per cent. But a lack of quality at the highest level means that they will at best make it to the semi-finals. The West Indians have Dwayne Bravo and Chris Gayle leading a team that has not shown too much potential in recent times. Bravo can contribute with the bat and his fast medium stuff. He is also a good competitor. Gayle is a monster batsman who can turn a game on its head in a matter of minutes. He also chips in very effectively with his accurate spin which is delivered from a high trajectory. The West Indies would do well to make it into the knockout group.
The Sri Lankans are considered by this scribe to be one of the favourites along with England. They have high quality batting and bowling. Their hard man is Angelo Matthews. Matthews has been indicative of a rare talent, both with the bat and the ball. This could be his debut ball. Should Matthews fulfill his destiny and if the batting clicks as it should then it would be left to the waning talents of Muttiah Muralitharan to seek yet another moment in the sun. Slinga Malinga, the side arm pacer is devilishly hard to get away and will have his role to play.
Sri Lanka in the finals? Once there, they will have a chance to win? Pakistan has two hard men. Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi. They also had Sohail Tanvir but he was dropped on fitness issues. Razzaq is at a par with Yousuf Pathan as the most electrifying hitter in the game. It is said that he outdistanced Afridi by a considerable margin in a friendly hitting competition. Razzaq is so relaxed at the crease and he gets his right hip into his shot with such good effect that sixes flow with effortless ease.
He is no mug with the ball either, always taking wickets at key moments with his fast medium seamers. Pakistan should consider using Razzaq as a floater, sending him not when wickets fall, but when a certain number of overs have been bowled. He should go in between the 25th and 30th over. It will give him time to settle down and then make the big score that he is capable of. Afridi, should he handle himself properly, could single handedly win the cup for Pakistan.
He should open the innings. The ball is hard, the field is in and his mishits will clear the fielders. His scoring arc is narrow and opposing captains can restrain him in the later overs. A cameo fifty by Afridi early on and some incisive spin bowling could win just about any match for Pakistan. This is a wide open World Cup. It could boil down to how these hard men perform.



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