Cricket World Cup 2019: Shaheen Afridi, Avishka Fernando and other youngsters who have impressed

Ajit Vijaykumar 07:50 07/07/2019
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Shaheen Afridi was sensational in the 2019 World Cup.

The World Cup is an opportunity for teams to put their best foot forward and try to claim the title of the best in the world. Up until now, the 50-over World Cup has been the most definitive platform to decide the top team in the world; T20 doesn’t allow a clear assessment on all three facets of the game.

It is therefore an opportunity for young players to make a mark and provide a glimpse into the future. Here we take a look at 10 players – in no particular order – under the age of 25 who impressed during the 2019 World Cup and look more than capable of starring in the 2023 World Cup and beyond. Note: Stats for 2019 World Cup group stage.

Avishka Fernando

Age: 21, Matches: 4, Runs: 203, Best: 104

The Sri Lanka batsman has risen through the U19 ranks and emerged as a standout batsman, with a particularly impressive technique against genuine pace.

Thrown into the deep end against England on a tricky Leeds pitch, Fernando ripped Jofra Archer apart during a match-defining 49 off 39 balls. While he did smash a match-winning ton against the Windies and a 30 against the Proteas, his maiden knock against the Englishmen will be tough to top.

Jofra Archer

Age: 24, Matches: 9, Wickets: 17, Best: 3-27

England board had to move quite a few pieces to ensure Archer’s availability for the World Cup. The out-and-out quick was parachuted in for one purpose – blast the opposition away with pace. And he has done that with breathtaking ease.

Seemingly ambling in, Archer hurled 150kph thunderbolts and maintained an economy of well below five over after over, match after match, which is a testament to his once-in-a-generation talent. England haven’t just unearthed a diamond, it’s the Cullinan.

Mohammad Saifuddin

Age: 22, Matches: 7, Wickets: 13, Runs: 87

Bangladesh fans were looking forward to seeing the 22-year-old Saifuddin showcase his all-round skills at the World Cup. After giving glimpses of it throughout the tournament – notably in a tense game against New Zealand where he hit 29 and took 2-41 – Saifuddin showed his mettle against India.

He first used change of pace to restrict India’s scoring at the death and then when all seemed lost, smashed an audacious 51 not out from 38 balls to take the Tigers close to an improbable win. If he works on increasing his pace, Saifuddin can easily become a leading all-rounder in the game.

Nicholas Pooran

Age: 23, Matches: 7, Runs: 367, Best: 118  

The left-handed batsmen had long been earmarked as a special talent. The West Indian had a great tournament, hitting fifty against England and Afghanistan, and a quick 40 against the Aussies. His best, however, came against Sri Lanka where with the team 199-6 chasing 339, Pooran cracked 119 from 103 balls to take the Windies close to a miraculous win.

The Trinidadian has a long and fruitful career ahead of him. And to think he had to start his career afresh after a career-threatening car accident in 2015.

Shaheen Afridi

Age: 19, Matches: 5, Wickets: 16, Best: 6-35

The young left-arm fast bowler is the one to take Pakistan bowling forward in the coming years. Ever since he burst onto the scene during the 2018 Under-19 World Cup, Shaheen has only gotten better with each outing.

A late addition to the playing XI after Hasan Ali failed to impress, Shaheen has outperformed veteran left-arm quicks Mohammad Air and Wahab Riaz, which is a big plus for Pakistan cricket.

Shaheen saved his best for last, blasting Bangladesh away with a six-for, becoming the youngest to take an ODI five-wicket haul at Lord’s.

Rishabh Pant

Age: 21, Matches: 3, Runs: 84, Best: 48

In many ways the future of Indian cricket, Pant was not even part of the original squad for the World Cup. But injury to Shikhar Dhawan saw him drafted in and injury to Vijay Shankar saw him in the playing XI.

And in two outings – a quick 32 in a losing chase against England and a fine 48 against Bangladesh – Pant gave a glimpse of what he has to offer in the ODI arena. Already established in the Test and T20 arena, ODIs were a bit of a bugbear for Pant but after being thrust into the most high-pressure situation – big chase against World Cup hosts and favourites England – Pant has come out with flying colours.

Mujeeb Ur Rahman

Age: 18, Matches: 7, Wickets: 7, Best: 3-39

The Afghanistan spinners seems to have been around for ages but is still just 18. Mujeeb showed remarkable control and guile while bowling with the new ball and was markedly better than Rashid Khan. Even in the match against England where the hosts 397, Mujeeb gave away just 44 runs in 10 overs.

The teenager made ample use of the helpful conditions in England this year and credit to him for maintaining an economy of just 4.47 after bowling close to 60 overs.

Babar Azam

Age: 24, Matches: 8, Runs: 474, Best: 101*

Undoubtedly the best batsman in Pakistan and sure-shot entry into the hall of fame. Babar has the technique and temperament to prosper in all formats and conditions and he put his best foot forward in England.

Unfortunately he didn’t get enough support from those around him, with his partnership with Haris Sohail coming a bit.

But the signs are there for a bright future. Not only will Babar become a leading batsman soon, but will take over the captaincy reins soon.

Babar struck his maiden World Cup ton.

Mustafizur Rahman

Age: 23, Matches:8, Wickets: 20, Best: 5-59

Bangladesh left-arm seamer was devastating on responsive pitches in England, with his off-cutters proving to be almost impossible to hit away.

Rahman is a bit of a mystery figure as he rarely speaks even to his compatriots. That mystery spilled onto the field as well as The Fizz exploited the dry conditions with his best coming against a strong Indian batting line-up at the death in Birmingham that resulted in a five-for. He finished the tournament with another five wicket haul – against Pakistan at Lord’s in the next match.

If he manages to remain injury free – he has had shoulder and foot injuries – then Mustafizur will develop into a world-beating bowler.

Ikram Alikhil

Age: 18, Matches: 7, Runs: 142, Best: 86

The Afghanistan wicketkeeper was handed the keeping gloves after veteran Mohammad Shahzad made an acrimonious exit following controversy over his fitness levels.

Ikram is just 18 but warmed up to the job brilliantly, improving with the bat as the tournament wore on and in the final league game of the tournament – against West Indies – Ikram was pushed up to number three and hit a superb 86.

He struggled in the beginning of the tournament but got better and provided enough encouragement to the Afghanistan management moving forward in the post-Shahzad era.

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