World Cup 2019 gave us a glimpse of a bunch of young talents and would-be superstars of the future. Here, we look at the best Under-25 players from the tournament.
The biggest pre-World Cup talking point was the possible inclusion of Jofra Archer in England’s final squad. Archer, primarily a fast bowler, was born in Barbados and holds a British passport thanks to his English father. He played for the West Indies Under-19 team in three matches in 2014 but was keen to represent England in international cricket. Initially, the ECB laws would prevent him from playing for England till 2022. However, change of rules in November 2018 ensured Archer could play for England in World Cup 2019. He made his debut in April 2019 and became one of the primary forces in England’s World Cup-winning campaign. In the showpiece event, Archer took 20 wickets, including as many as five three-wicket hauls, with his best bowling figures (3/27) coming in his debut World Cup match. He finished as the joint third-highest wicket-taker along with Mustafizur Rahman. His growth in stature was evident when he was entrusted with the responsibility of bowling the all-important Super Over in the finale.
Babar Azam is one of the best young talents around and has secured some outstanding records despite his young age. A prolific stroke maker, Babar picked this World Cup to give a good account of his talent and skill, becoming the second fastest to score 3000 ODI runs during the tournament. Babar, who admires Virat Kohli, had earlier got to 1000 and 2000 ODI runs in fewer innings than the Indian captain. He has 10 ODI hundreds with the latest coming during the World Cup in a tricky run-chase against New Zealand who were unbeaten until that game. Despite being just 24 years old, his ability to understand situations and craft innings accordingly make him special. Babar finished eighth in the World Cup top run-getters list while scoring at an average of 67.71 with a century and three fifties.
Shaheen Shah Afridi
Pakistan have produced a long list of top fast bowlers over the last 30-40 years and Shaheen Shah Afridi is the latest one in this prestigious list. A 6’6” tall left-arm pacer, Afridi creates an awkward angle for batsmen and also owns a good yorker. Afridi came to the fore during the Under-19 World Cup in 2018 where he finished with 12 wickets from five matches, including 6/15 against Ireland U19. He became a regular face in PSL that year and also made his T20I debut in April 2018. The same year saw his debut in ODIs and Tests in September and December respectively. He was not a first choice in the eleven at the start of the World Cup, but impressed against Australia by picking up a couple of wickets. He took 4/47 against Afghanistan, followed by a historic 6/35 against Bangladesh to finish with 16 wickets in five matches. His bowling figures against Bangladesh is the best-ever by any Pakistani bowler in a World Cup match. He also became the first teenager to pick up a five-wicket haul in the World Cup with that performance.
Another young player who established himself in world cricket with his performance at the World Cup was the young West Indian batsman Nicholas Pooran. The Trinidadian left-hand batsman and wicket-keeper announced himself during the 2014 Under-19 World Cup with a memorable 143 (out of a team total of 208) against Australia. He was tipped to be a part of the national team soon but played only a handful of T20 Internationals for the West Indies over the next four years. Finally, he made his ODI debut just before the World Cup and despite a duck on his debut, the selectors picked him for the mega event. Pooran did repay the trust of the selectors by finishing the tournament with 367 runs (almost 100 more than the second-highest scorer among West Indies batsmen) at an average of 52.42. His fifties against England and Afghanistan were eye-catching, but his counter-attacking hundred against Sri Lanka was one of the most remarkable knocks of the tournament. On the back of his century, West Indies came close to chasing a target of 339 and lost by just 23 runs.
Although it looked like Bangladesh were solely dependent on Shakib Al Hasan at the World Cup, there was Mustafizur Rahman who once again showed great promise. Mustafizur came to the scene like a shooting star by taking 11 wickets in his first two ODIs against a fancied Indian batting line-up in 2015. It looked like Bangladesh had got their first world-class fast bowler as his cutters were proving deadly. However, consistent injuries over the next few years pushed him back in his career and his participation in various global T20 leagues was also affected. He started the World Cup slowly but came to form as the tournament progressed, clinching his 100th ODI wicket in the match against Pakistan. This was during his second consecutive five-wicket haul in the tournament with the other coming against India. However, despite his best efforts, Bangladesh lost both matches and were unable to take a forward step to the semi-finals. Despite taking 20 wickets, his economy rate was 6.70 which he would like to improve in upcoming matches.