There was once a time when a score of 250 runs had a really good winning probability. The batting revolution called the T20 hadn’t been introduced and almost everywhere in the world bowlers were much more than just bowling machines. In comes, the T20 format and all the preconceived batting notions along with traditional strategies go for a toss. The 300-run mark in an ODI innings, which was earlier perceived to be a match-winning score, was reduced to just a psychologically ‘feel-good’ achievement with no guarantee of a victory.
The development of this ‘aggressive batting intent’ was aided by some tweaks in the playing rules like the fielding restrictions, free-hit opportunities after a no-ball etc., along with the shortening of ground dimensions and advent of heavy bats. The batsmen took a full toll of the favourable changes in the game and took run-scoring to another level, so much so, that now even 350 can’t be termed as a safe score. A plethora of such batting talent will be on display on the belter of English pitches in the coming English summer.
With the World Cup around the corner, we take a look at the top 10 batsmen to look out for in the tournament:
1. Virat Kohli (India)
The biggest run-churner in the ODI arena since the 2015 World Cup with a mind-boggling average of 78.29 runs per innings for his 4,306 runs in the period — highest for any ODI batsman. The India skipper also boasts of the highest number of ODI centuries since the last World Cup with 19 ODI tons to his name. His batting form in IPL 2019 may have blown hot and cold but his brilliant English summer last year, coupled with his insatiable appetite for runs, makes him the most dangerous batsman for the World Cup-bound bowlers.
2. Rohit Sharma (India)
He is the undisputed leader of the modern-day six-hitting with a tally of 130 sixes from 71 ODI innings since the last World Cup. He is also the second highest run-scorer with 3,790 runs along with 15 centuries, only behind Kohli in both the batting metrics. His three double hundreds in the ODI arena further add weight to his already fearsome reputation. India will just be hoping for a continuation of the role he has played for his team in the last few years.
3. Kane Williamson (New Zealand)
If you are looking into the batting statistics, you can rest assured of finding the name of one Kane Williamson in any list you pick — whether it’s Tests, ODIs or even T20s. Such is the expertise of the New Zealand skipper. Averaging just a shade above 47 runs per innings for his 2,868 runs from 64 innings since the last World Cup, he stands at No 7 in the list of highest run-scorers in the said period. His artistry with the bat will be a key factor in defining the journey of the Black Caps in the fast-approaching showpiece event.
4. Ross Taylor (New Zealand)
Taylor has been the best Kiwi batsman since the big New Zealand heartbreak of April 2015. He currently stands at No 5 on the list of highest run-getters since the last World Cup with a tally of 2,892 runs from just 56 innings. He averages a whopping 68.85 runs per innings with the bat which is the second highest for any player (minimum 25 ODI innings since World Cup 2015) in the ODI circuit after Kohli’s skyline of 78.29. His strike-rate of 87.08 gives a notion of him being a slow-starter but, once set, he becomes a really tough nut to crack for the bowlers.
5. Joe Root (England)
Easily the best English batsman in business at the moment. His 3,288 runs from 69 ODI innings since England’s ignominious exit from the World Cup 2015 are only bettered by the Indian duo of Rohit and Kohli. His average of nearly 60 in the above-mentioned period shouts out his importance in the English batting line-up. His presence serves as the solid base over which England have built their fortress of aggression in the past few years which has contributed heavily to them becoming the No 1 ODI side in the World.
6. Steve Smith (Australia)
There was no doubt that Smith was one of the leading batsmen of his generation before that ignominious Sandpaper saga rocked the Australian world, resulting in a one-year ban on Smith along with David Warner. His first major scrutiny, after his return from the exile, came in the form of his Indian Premier League (IPL) stint with Rajasthan Royals (RR). He looked rusty in the initial phase of the tournament but, as the tournament progressed, his batting prowess too came to the fore. He will be raring to mark his international return with some heavy run-making for his team’s title defence. His unique batting technique, which had given headaches to bowlers before his ban, will surely help him in his endeavour towards redemption.
7. David Warner (Australia)
Like Smith, Warner’s first major test since coming back from the ban lay in his role as opener for Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the IPL 2019 and going by his performance in that role, it’s safe to say that he never went away from the top-notch competitive cricket. Seven fifties and a belligerent hundred in his first 10 innings for the franchise will give you an idea of how dominant he has been on the IPL run-scoring charts. His importance in the Australian batting line-up can be gauged from the fact that he, despite that one-year ban, is still the second highest Aussie run-scorer since the title-winning campaign in 2015. His 2,296 runs from just 44 innings at an average of 56 are bested only by Aaron Finch’s 2,325 runs coming in 14 innings more than Warner. His current purple-patch has already sounded the alarm bells for the bowlers.
8. Quinton de Kock (South Africa)
The highest scoring left-hand batsman and the fourth highest overall since the last World Cup with a tally of 2,971 runs coming at a very healthy clip of 50.35 runs per innings for his 62 ODI appearances in the period. De Kock was in tremendous form in the five-match ODI series against Sri Lanka where he topped the batting charts with three fifties and a hundred to accumulate 353 runs. He continued his purple-patch in his role as an opening batsman for Mumbai Indians (MI) in IPL 2019 where he had already totaled 393 runs from the first 11 appearances for his franchise. Bowlers, in the World Cup, will look to get rid off him early in the innings otherwise the flamboyant left-hander has the ability to single-handedly take the game away from the opposition.
9. Babar Azam (Pakistan)
Babar Azam holds the distinction of being the best batsman in the Pakistani line-up. The 24-year old's performance vindicates this tag of his as he has accumulated a total of 2,462 runs from 57 innings in the period between April 2015 to the mid-April 2019. No other Pakistani batsman has been able to breach the 2,000-run mark during this period which adds weight to Babar’s importance for Pakistan’s success. He is technically sound and wears a cool head which is the sine qua non in dealing with pressure situations and going by the history of the World Cup, the tournament can become a pressure cauldron at times. He is the flag-bearer of young emerging Pakistani batting talent and will be looking forward to stamping his authority in the biggest ODI arena.
10. Chris Gayle (West Indies)
This will be the last World Cup appearance of the big-hitting Jamaican and he will be raring to make it a memorable one. Gayle has had his issues with the administrators of West Indian Cricket in the past and that’s the reason behind his meagre 20 ODI appearances in past four years. But even in that small sample size, he has shown why he is considered one of the most dangerous batsmen in the world. West Indian team management will be happy that a major chunk of his tally of 920 runs in past four years has come in the recent ODI series against England where he top-scored with 424 runs at an average of 106. Also, he carried his form into the IPL season where he plundered 444 runs in his first 10 games at an average close to 50 and a strike-rate of 162. Clearly, Gayle's recent numbers promise a lip-smacking ride for the entertainment freaks looking for some belligerent hitting action at the World Cup.