World Cup 2019: Afghanistan's Hazratullah Zazai, Windies' Shai Hope and other potential surprise packages

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Hazratullah Zazai will be one to watch in the 2019 World Cup.

The 2019 ICC World Cup is nearly upon us with the top 10 nations in international cricket set to battle it out in England in what is the 12th edition of the competition.

Naturally, all eyes of the cricketing world will be on stars like Virat Kohli, Jos Buttler, Chris Gayle and Babar Azam.

However, there will also be plenty of players flying under the radar and looking to spring a big surprise in the tournament. Here, we look at five such players who could steal the thunder from the biggest stars.

RASSIE VAN DER DUSSEN (SOUTH AFRICA)

Although he is a 30 years old, Rassie van der Dussen is a still a relative newbie in international cricket having only made his debut for South Africa towards the end of last year.

The attacking right-handed batsman shone in overseas T20 franchise leagues such as the Global T20 Canada and Caribbean Premier League before earning a South Africa T20I call-up and has been going from strength-to-strength ever since.

Rassie topped the batting charts in the maiden Mzansi T20 Super League with his 479 runs leading Jozi Stars’ run to the title. A designated opener who can bat equally comfortably in the middle-order, the South African has already registered four fifties in 10 ODI innings – all of which have come in 2019.

His quality was clear to see when he slammed a brisk 93 in his ODI debut against Pakistan and he can be expected to put in similar displays in the World Cup.

Van der Dussen has taken no time to find his feet in international cricket.

Van der Dussen has taken no time to find his feet in international cricket.

JAMES NEESHAM (NEW ZEALAND)

Having spent nearly 18 months out of international cricket due to knee injury, Jamesh Neesham is now firmly back in the ODI scene since making his New Zealand comeback at the start of the year.

Since his return to international cricket, the Kiwi all-rounder has aggregated 204 runs in ODIs at an average of 68 and a strike-rate of over 182 while also chipping in with 10 wickets with his medium pace.

Neesham’s first international since July, 2017 saw him smash five sixes in a single over against Sri Lanka at the start of the year and that is the explosive ability he brings down the order to the New Zealand side.

New Zealand are a side spoiled for choice when it comes to all-rounders but Neesham can prove to be their most lethal asset. The 28-year-old warmed up nicely with returns of 3-26 with the ball in his side’s warm-up win over India and looks to be in excellent physical condition to stamp his authority on the World Cup.

Neesham has been looking the business since his injury return.

Neesham has been looking the business since his injury return.

SHAI HOPE (WEST INDIES)

While all the attention on the West Indies squad is currently drawn on the big-hitting Chris Gayle and Andre Russell, it is young Shai Hope who could prove to be the ace of the pack for the Caribbean side.

The 25-year-old wicketkeeper batsman’s talent was never in doubt ever since he emerged as a junior cricketer but an indifferent start to life in international cricket saw his star fade away quickly. However, he has turned it around in some style over the past two years and has added the consistency to his unquestionable talent.

Sine the turn of 2018, Hope has been averaging over 65 with the bat in ODIs with 1,460 runs from 27 innings. He has scored tons against India, Bangladesh (three times) and mostly recently Ireland during that period and it is no surprise that he has been elevated to vice-captaincy.

He looks in pristine touch at the moment and is bound to have a substantial impact at the World Cup.

Hope has started to add consistency to his displays.

Hope has started to add consistency to his displays.

ASIF ALI (PAKISTAN)

Although he his still recovering from the personal tragedy of losing his daughter to cancer, Asif Ali is destined to play a big role for Pakistan in the upcoming World Cup.

The right-handed batsman was surprisingly not picked in Pakistan’s preliminary 15-man World Cup squad but his displays against England in the recent ODI series were enough for the selectors to correct that mistake.

With Pakistan’s failure to accelerate in the death overs a longstanding issue, Asif’s ability to clear the ropes with ease will be pivotal to the side’s hopes in the World Cup. The 27-year-old showed what he brings to the table with two quick-fire fifties down the order against England and he could be expected to play the role of a finisher for Pakistan in the World Cup.

His ability to deal in boundaries was evident in the 2019 Pakistan Super League (PSL) and he could very well light up the tournament if he brings some consistency into his performances.

Asif Ali could solve Pakistan's finishing woes.

Asif Ali could solve Pakistan’s finishing woes.

HAZRATULLAH ZAZAI (AFGHANISTAN)

While Afghanistan’s spinners will justifiably be their biggest strength, they also have come exciting batting talent coming through their ranks. One name among them shines above all – 21-year-old Hazaratullah Zazai who enters his maiden World Cup with a reputation of taking bowling attack to the cleaners.

The left-handed opening batsman has taken no time in finding his feet at the international level ever since he made his debut for Afghanistan in 2016. In just six T20I appearances for his country so far, the southpaw has managed to register two fifties and record century against Ireland where he smashed 162 off just 62 deliveries.

His reputation as a hard-hitting batsman grew further when he hit six sixes in a single over in the Afghanistan Premier League (APL) held in Sharjah last year. He is yet to fully get going in the ODI format for Afghanistan but his strike-rate of nearly 193 in T20Is suggest that he could cause plenty of mayhem with the bat in his maiden World Cup appearance.

Zazai has already broken a few records in a short span.

Zazai has already broken a few records in a short span.

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