It's that time of the year again! As the bell rings on 2019, we have got a new set of players who either managed to excel or had an outstanding first year in international cricket. The odds of "making it" at this level are extremely small but there were a few (new) players who stood head and shoulders above the rest and will be the ones to watch out for in the coming years.
While the likes of Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, Shai Hope, Babar Azam, Ben Stokes, Pat Cummins and a few more stars did their thing, there were players like Jofra Archer, Marnus Labuschagne and Mayank Agarwal who too played a pivotal role in their respective teams' success.
Here, we look at five such players who undoubtedly will be worth keeping an eye on as we step into the next decade:
England have found a gem in Archer! From bowling the match-winning super over in the World Cup finale to picking up 22 wickets in his debut Ashes series, Archer announced his arrival at the global stage in grand fashion. The hype around Archer forced England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to make some changes to their qualification rules and that made the 24-year-old paceman from Barbados eligible to play for England. He played a couple of ODIs and a T20I and was straightaway drafted into England's World Cup squad. The right-arm pacer played all the 11 encounters and ended up as the tournament's third highest wicket-taker (20). Everytime Eoin Morgan needed a wicket or wanted someone to bowl tough overs, he turned to Archer and the fast bowler delivered. He took three-wicket hauls in five games and such was the confidence of Morgan that he gave Archer the ball to defend 15 runs in the super over against New Zealand.
Following his success in limited-overs cricket, Archer was called-up for the Ashes series but was left out of the first Test. He made his debut at Lord's and took out the immovable Steve Smith with a ferocious bumper. Archer bowled with great pace and intensity throughout the series and played a huge role in the two Tests that England won. He was on cloud nine when he took the flight to New Zealand but soon reality struck. Archer struggled big time with the Kookaburra ball in New Zealand and despite taking six wickets in the Boxing Day Test against South Africa, looked far from his best. Archer is still young though and England will have to manage him carefully if they want to get the best out of him in the coming years.
1104 runs at 64.94! Labuschagne had a magnificent 2019 and was the only batsman to score over 1000 runs in Test cricket this year. He came in as a concussion substitute for Steve Smith after the latter suffered a blow on the back of his neck in the second Ashes Test at Lord's. And boy he made this opportunity count! Starting from Lord's, he had scores of 59, 74, 80, 67, 11, 48, 14, 185, 162, 143, 50, 63 and 19 respectively. Whenever he walked out to bat, Labuschagne looked like an immovable object. The right-hander has now made that all-important No. 3 spot his own. He was only a step behind Smith in the Ashes but when Australia returned home, he even outperformed arguably the best Test batsman of this era.
The right-hander loves batting and is someone who can keep going and going. Labuschagne has now been named in Australia's ODI squad that will tour India for three games and the next goal for this talented Queenslander will be to prove his worth in white-ball cricket. Just like his very good friend Smith, Labuschagne is also a cricketing nerd and with the talent he possesses, sky's the limit for this 25-year-old.
The Karnataka lad has been unstoppable ever since he walked out at the MCG on the opening day of the Boxing Day Test against Australia in 2018. The right-handed opener had to wait for years, and after scoring tons of runs in domestic cricket, he finally got an opportunity to make his international debut and grabbed it with both hands. He went on to make 76 in the first innings and then followed it up with scores of 42 and 77 in his next two innings Down Under. Agarwal didn't have a great West Indies tour and was due for a big score when South Africa arrived in India. He smashed 215 in his very first innings of the series and followed it up with another century in the third Test. If that wasn't enough, Agarwal slammed 243 against Bangladesh in Indore to end 2019 with 754 runs to his name at an average of 68.54.
Agarwal has now sealed that opening spot and his next goal would be to break into India's ODI set-up. For now, he has been serving as a back-up to Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan but if and when an opportunity arrives, you can bank on Agarwal to make a solid first impression considering he averages over 50 in List-A cricket. It's already been 12 months since Agarwal made his Test debut and the 28-year-old seems to be showing no signs of slowing down.
The tearaway paceman made his international debut in December 2016 but it was in this year's World Cup where he made a name for himself. With 21 wickets to his name, Ferguson was the competition's second highest wicket-taker. He took at least one wicket in all the nine encounters that he played and also claimed three wickets in the final against England. He constantly touched the 150 kph-mark and him knocking over South African skipper Faf du Plessis with a fiery yorker ended up making all the tournament highlight packages.
In total, he picked up 35 wickets in 17 ODIs at 23.71 in 2019. While the likes of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Matt Henry bring that control and lateral movement, New Zealand can afford Ferguson bowling fast and pushing opponents on the back foot. He can be expensive sometimes but Ferguson brings that much-required X-Factor to the Black Caps bowling line-up. Ferguson also has a super record in first-class cricket in which he has taken over 150 wickets at an average of 24.60. He was rightly handed his maiden Test cap earlier this month against Australia but the pacer suffered a calf injury and could unfortunately only bowl 11 overs. At 28, Ferguson is in the prime of his career and it will be fun watching his progress next year, especially in Test cricket.
Having made his ODI debut in 2019, the swashbuckling Trinidadian had already done enough to force everyone to sit up and take notice. Unlike some of the big-hitters in the West Indies camp, the 24-year-old is quite level-headed but also has the ability to change the game in a matter of few overs. He was dismissed for a duck on his debut against England but managed to play a couple of cameos against Pakistan and Australia in the World Cup. His first fifty came against England before he smashed his maiden ton against Sri Lanka. He was also outstanding in the ODI series against India and the onus will now be on him to deliver on a consistent basis.
Pooran was out of action for two years after he suffered a chronic ankle injury in a car accident, but in the last 10-11 months has become a crucial member of the West Indian side in white-ball cricket. West Indies have shown signs of improvement under the new leadership of Kieron Pollard and Pooran's going to be a huge factor if the Caribbean side wants to do well in the coming years. The left-hander is yet to make his Test debut but has all the talent to represent West Indies across all three formats.
Honourable mentions: Abid Ali, Naseem Shah, Rassie van der Dussen and Alex Carey