What has an entry, has an exit too. This applies so much in cricket. Some players perform exceptionally well to become legends and then retire from the game when they have felt that they have contributed enough for their country or when they cannot find their peak form again. It is in such situations that there needs to be a succession plan created by teams to mould players for the future. And cricket is a batsman’s game; the team which has the best batsmen in the business is likely to win more matches as they have a competitive advantage. Some of the batsmen who can be the best in years to come are –
1) David Warner – Australia
For Australia, over the years Matthew Hayden was the man who would demoralize bowling attacks coming down the track and smashing them to all parts of the ground, almost from the first ball of the match. Hayden retired in early 2009, and since then the Aussies have struggled to find an attacking opening batsman who could fill Hayden’s shoes. Shane Watson has done it in bits and pieces, but is inconsistent as he continues to be plagued with injuries. It is only recently that Australia has found a gem in David Warner as he has had his best year in domestic cricket.
David Warner’s first break-through was playing South Africa in a T-20 in 2009 and smashing 89 runs off 43 balls. That caught the eye of the Delhi Daredevils owners and as a result made a name for himself in the IPL. However, it was not until this year that Warner played to his dangerous best. Two back-to-back hundreds in the Champions League for New South Wales and injuries to Watson and Shaun Marsh compelled the Australian selectors to pick David Warner in the team for the first Test match against the Kiwis at Brisbane. Though it was in the Hobart Test that Warner showed his grit by carrying the bat in the second innings despite his aggressive style of batting while his other team-mates lost their wickets from time to time. Sehwag predicted a bright future for David Warner a long time back, and his prediction is likely to come true. He could be given a regular place in the ODI team as well against India and Sri Lanka in the tri-series later this summer, and that will give a clear picture if the 25-year old will be the ideal choice for Australia’s opening conundrum in all three formats of the game.
2) Shaun Marsh – Australia
Unlike David Warner, Shaun Marsh is more subdued in his batting approach. Yet, opponents have paid the price for underestimating him because he can attack big time, when the situation needs him to. He, alongside Warner could be Australia’s next best opening pair in ODIS after Adam Gilchrist and Hayden and even in Tests as Marsh could do what Langer did, stay at the crease for as long as possible while still scoring runs at a decent strike rate.
The south-paw from Western Australia used the IPL to announce himself to the world. In 2008, he was the highest run-getter in the tournament and helped Kings XI Punjab finish fourth in the end. That IPL helped him win a place in the Australian ODI squad to play West Indies in West Indies. He has featured in some ODIS and T20s for Australia too, but not on a regular basis due to Australia’s batting order being strong enough until this year’s World Cup. His credentials so far, though were hard to ignore for the Australian selectors and so they decided to include Marsh in the Test squad for the tour to Sri Lanka. And on Test debut at Pallekele, Marsh scored a well-deserved hundred batting at No.3 in Ricky Ponting’s absence. That was followed by an impressive 81 in Colombo in the first innings. Sri Lanka has always been a tough place for Australian batsmen but Shaun Marsh passed the test with flying colours.
Although injuries have been the biggest setback for a talented lad like Shaun Marsh, it is evident that he is a match-winner for whichever team he turns out for on his day. The only roadblock between Marsh and his success is his fitness, which the Australian selectors will keep an eye on to pick a settled and well-balanced team for the future.
3) Virat Kohli – India
India has always been a batsman’s paradise. The country is known across the cricketing globe for the batting line-up it possesses, from time to time. However, times have changed and to find reliable batters these days is as hard as to find ‘dhabas’ in a big city. It is because of the advent of T-20 cricket and the perks involved it for players. After all, who would want to work hard for five days and get peanuts when he can work smart for one day, or rather three hours and get dollars and dollars?
However, Virat Kohli is not amongst those players. He could be considered as the brand ambassador for the motto, ‘Work hard, party harder.’ He maybe young and brash but has the old, traditional style of batting which could take India forward in the future once greats such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Laxman quit all forms of the game.
Virat Kohli’s USP is that he can bat as the situation requires him to, which most batsmen these days fail to do. Earlier, he was a defensive batsman which made life tough for him and his team in ODIs and T20s to an extent. However, now he focuses on rotating the strike time and again and sometimes unleashing the big shots as he is maturing with age. His progress in the IPL with the Royal Challengers Bangalore pays heed to this fact.
Since the last two years, Virat Kohli has been in the top three run-getters in ODIS. Gary Kirsten and MS Dhoni’s conference in the young man is giving the team massive dividends, as they are now world champions in this format. Seven out of his eight ODI centuries so far, have won India matches. He has made full use of the BCCI’s rotation policy due to excessive cricket played these days which has seen the likes of Sehwag, Tendulkar and Gambhir absent from the team most of the times.
In Tests, Virat Kohli is most likely to take the No.6 position in the batting line-up and then perhaps sent up the order just like Rahul Dravid in the early days of his career was. He can play the short ball decently and that is key for India to win matches away from the Indian subcontinent. The Delhi boy’s days are ahead of him and India could dominate world cricket with this man’s consistency alongside the fact that many consider him to be ‘India’s future captain’.
4) Rohit Sharma – India
Virat Kohli cannot take Indian cricket alone, to the heights it wishes to reach. He needs someone alongside him as batting is all about partnerships. At the moment, it seems Rohit Sharma could be the man who could be a regular in India’s Test and ODI teams.
Rohit Sharma first impressed on the tour of Australia in 2007-08 and that made him play for the Deccan Chargers for the first three years of his IPL career. He is one of the highest run-getters in IPL history and this year, he has taken his game to the next level altogether. Remember, this is a man who had failed in South Africa earlier this year and consequently, did not make it to the World Cup squad. Yet, he took it as a stepping stone to success and actually improved his batting so much so that he was selected in the ODI team to play the West Indies away right after the IPL.
Duncan Fletcher is a big fan of Rohit Sharma and that helped him contribute in India’s win in the West Indies by being the highest scorer. Though his England tour was cut short due to injury, he made an impressive comeback in the home ODIS against West Indies recently with a consistent string of fifties. Now, he is fighting for a place in the Test team with incidentally Kohli but the time will come when he will get his chance to excel for India in the longest format of the game as well. Besides, he is still 25 and has a long career ahead of him.
5) Darren Bravo – West Indies
This West Indies prodigy’s batting is reminiscent to that of the great Brian Lara. The moment he enters the creases, instant comparisons are brought about between the two. Both hail from Trinidad and Tobago, have a similar batting stance and are southpaws. These are some examples to show that Darren Bravo has everything in him to be a future legend for the West Indies and perhaps in world cricket.
A century eluded him for a span of 9 Tests, 31 ODIs and 4 T-20s. Though he is predominantly a stylish and attacking batsman, it is ironical that his first hundred came in a Test match and that too against Bangladesh this year. He feels more comfortable batting in Tests, and that is a rare for a player in times when T-20 cricket is gaining more fan-following amongst several players.
It is only recently that he has begun to be at home in the Windies batting line-up and start playing as if he is their mainstay. In India, he impressed even the biggest of Indian fans with two Test centuries in three Tests. His self-belief and Lara-style flamboyance covered up for his average technique and by the end of 12 Tests in his career, his run aggregate and average were identical as Lara’s!
Incredible as it all sounds but it goes to show that if the WICB treat Bravo as a human and then a quality cricketer, he could help West Indies become a part of the top 5 nations in cricket in a few years time, if not regain their glory days of the 70s and 80s. Darren Bravo might have to contend with a weak Windies side, but like Lara become that sort of a cricketer which people worship and look to idolize in the future.