Cricket World Cup: The game changers

1:00 pm on 29 May 2019

Analysis - World Cups are all about stepping up when the pressure comes on.

Those who thrive in such situations can write their name into their sport's folklore.

Clay Wilson picks out six players who could turn the 2019 Cricket World Cup tournament on its head.

Ben Stokes, England

England all-rounder Ben Stokes.

England all-rounder Ben Stokes. Photo: Photosport

Oh how the Black Caps would love to have this Kiwi-born star at their disposal.

Stokes has perhaps more ability than anyone in world cricket to impact a match in an all-round fashion, evidenced by the fact the 27-year-old fetched the highest price at the 2017 and 2018 Indian Premier League auctions, including a whopping $2.6 million in 2018.

A left-handed batsman, Stokes has the power and skill to hit the ball a long way in all directions, while his right arm seam bowling can reach beyond 140km/h and his athleticism makes him capable of outrageous feats in the field.

Add to that a competitive fire to match his flaming red hair, and you have a player who deserves everyone's attention.

Hardik Pandya, India

A prime example of the new breed of Indian cricketer, this uber-talented 25-year-old is equally at home in all of cricket's three disciplines.

Pandya hits the ball hard, holds nothing back with the ball and hurls himself around in the field in a way that suggests he always wants to be in the spotlight.

New Zealand fans got a taste of his abilities with a 22-ball 45 during the fifth ODI of India's recent tour, while a ridiculous 91 from just 34 balls in this year's Indian Premier League further showed the threat he poses.

Pandya's slender frame and loping stride belies his sneaky pace with the ball, with many quality batsman capable of paying the price as a result.

Glenn Maxwell, Australia

There's a reason Maxwell has earned the moniker 'The Big Show'.

A batsman who can be called on for some casual, but often effective, off-spin, this Victorian is a wizard with the willow.

Australian cricketer Glenn Maxwell.

Australian cricketer Glenn Maxwell. Photo: Photosport

The 30-year-old produces shots that throw the text book out the window and leave commentators lost for words, while the addition of supreme confidence and an explosive power disguised by an unassuming frame can make him a joy to watch.

Consistency hasn't always been Maxwell's number one trait but when he's on, with the bat, ball or in the field, Australia have a match-winner in the truest sense of the word.

Andre Russell, West Indies

West Indian batsmen are renowned for hitting the ball hard, but it's hard to imagine anyone has hit the ball harder than Andre Russell.

The Jamaican with the trademark bleach blonde mohawk has lit up this year's Indian Premier League, reaching 50 sixes after just 12 matches and 18 maximums clear of nearest rival and Windies team-mate Chris Gayle.

Like when he is batting, Russell generates no lack of velocity with the ball and, although he's now on the northern side of 30, is one of the most effective outfielders going around.

Whether he can replicate his IPL form at the World Cup remains to be seen but opposition teams will certainly be very, very wary.

Kagiso Rabada, South Africa

International batsmen knew about the sheer quality of this 23-year-old Proteas fast bowler long before his outstanding performance in this year's Indian Premier League.

Rabada bagged 25 wickets in the round robin phase of the recently completed IPL, four more wickets than his nearest rival, in two less matches.

Kagiso Rabada

Kagiso Rabada Photo: Photosport

But given what he has done at the top level since his South African debut at the end of 2014 at the age of only 19, it wasn't exactly a shock.

Capable of consistently bowling more than 150km/h and swinging the ball in both directions, Rabada doesn't shy away from a battle and fits the mould of some of the fearsome Proteas quicks to come before him.

Colin de Grandhomme, New Zealand

His numbers at international level don't jump off the page but Colin de Grandhomme certainly has the type of game to be a difference maker for the Black Caps, and tournament wrecker for rival teams.

The 32-year-old Zimbabwe-born all-rounder is capable of clearing any boundary with ease and, while he's still learning to harness it, bats with a confidence to go for broke from ball one.

Although his medium-pacers in the mid-120s won't scare any international batsman, that pace enables a lot of control and just enough swing and seam movement to make him a handful if conditions in England are at all English.

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