It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that this World Cup will go to the team that will use their all-rounders sensibly. An all-rounder doesn’t have to be a fast bowler who could bat or a batsman who could bowl medium pace, but any player who could get the team out of trouble with his batting, bowling and/or fielding. There are many such players in the ten teams participating in the World Cup, but only a few are likely to change the course of the match with their dual skills. Let’s go through some of these players who are no mug with the bat, make things happen with the ball and are outstanding in the field, all at the same time.
Andre Russell (West Indies)
He may have been an outcast for the West Indian team for quite some time, but Andre Russell is now back to where he belongs. He has been gaining experience of T20 leagues all around the world during the last 4 years, played just one match during that time for his national team but on his return, he performed as if he never left. His fiery pace bowling against Pakistan was one of the reasons why the Men In Green weren’t able to score more than 105 runs in their opening encounter. He can dispatch any bowler out of the park, is an excellent fielder at any position and a brilliant bowler who can make it to any side on the basis of his golden arm. If West Indies manages to reach the final 4, it will be due to the heroics of this man who is on the verge of scoring 1000 runs for his team, has taken 67 wickets in 53 outings so far and can save runs with his fielding on any given day.
Ben Stokes (England)
Looks can be deceptive and so can be English all-rounder Ben Stokes. He doesn’t look like a threatening pacer, yet he takes wickets at will; he isn’t menacing to look at while batting but he is a one-man army with the helmet on; and in the field, he can appear from nowhere and shatter the opponents’ dream of winning the match. With him in the side, England has all the chances of defeating every team in the World Cup and even emerge victorious for the first time. It is the best time for him add to his 65 wickets in 85 matches and runs to his already impressive record of 2306 runs with 3 centuries and 16 fifties. He needs to improve his bowling average of 41 and economy rate of 6.14 runs per over, but with a hand like his, that can catch a ball without looking at it, you hope that he continues at the strike rate of a wicket after every 40 balls, forever.
Glenn Maxwell (Australia)
And there will come a time when people will say that they lived in the era of Glenn Maxwell, such is the pressure of playing against the off-spinning all-rounder. Not only does he bring variety to the Australian pace attack, he also speeds up things with the bat, if the team needs quick runs. Otherwise, he is happy to score the way he has done in his 100 ODIs, scoring 2700 runs at an average of 33 at a strike rate of 122. No matter who the opposing bowler is, Glenn Maxwell is usually in a mood to score runs all over the park, that too without wasting many deliveries. He has also bagged 50 wickets at a strike rate of 48, which is good for a bowler who usually stuns with his Jonty Rhodes inspired fielding that would be enough to get him a place in any side in the world.
Hardik Pandya (India)
He may not be an ideal Cricketer on and off the field but when the going gets tough, Hardik Pandya usually delivers. Not since Sourav Ganguly has an Indian been so consistent in the field both as a bowler and a batsman, winning matches on his own. His innings in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 is still fresh in Pakistanis minds and they would want to get rid of him both as a batsman and a bowler as quickly as possible. The conditions in England suit his style of bowling where he can swing the ball and take wickets; his aggressive batting may help India too and with him in the side, the Men In Blue might qualify for the next stage. He has all the chances in the world to improve his records – 731 runs at an average of 30 and a strike rate of 117 and 44 wickets at an average of 40 – during the mega event which would give his career a huge boost as a match winner.
Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh)
Not only is he the top ranked all-rounder in the world, he is also one of the most feared ones as well. His ascent to this position coincides with Bangladesh’s rise as a Cricket Powerhouse and if they don’t do well in the current edition, then they might not do it for a long time. He has an impressive record in ODIs scoring 5717 runs at an average of 36 and a strike rate of 81 and he is on the verge of scoring his 50th score of over 50, 7 of which have been tons. He is just one wicket short of reaching the milestone of 250 ODI wickets at an average of 30 and a strike rate of a wicket after 40 deliveries. He is all set to deliver the good in the round robin league format and every team must beware of his heroics that have helped Bangladesh more than any cricketer in the squad.
Thisara Perera (Sri Lanka)
If you had an all-rounder who scored runs at a strike rate of 112 and had more wickets than matches played, that too at an average of 31 and a strike rate of 32, what would you have done? I would have planned the whole match around him so that the other team is shocked while batting, stunned while bowling to him. However, that’s not the case with Thisara Perera who has been serving Sri Lankan Cricket for the past 7 years, but not getting his due. This World Cup will help him more than any other player because he is the only world-class all-rounder in his side (Angelo Matthews hardly bowls these days) and has loads of experience to win a match on his own. Sri Lanka must depend on him if they want to do well in the tournament where they have gone mostly with players not even the Islanders recognize!