2014 witnessed some new players coming and straightaway stamping their authority in the international arena. James Neesham, the all-rounder from New Zealand, made a wonderful century in his Test debut against India at Wellington and also played some invaluable knocks during New Zealand’s tour of West Indies. Yasir Shah, Pakistan leggie, had a tremendous Test debut against Australia and also bowled well against New Zealand at UAE. He along with Zulfiqar Babar didn’t give Misbah-ul-Haq a single reason to miss their suspended spinner Saeed Ajmal.
Such performances by the emerging players boosts the confidence of the team to a great extent. So, based on such performances, let us take a look at the top 5 emerging players of 2014:
5. Tom Latham (NZ):
It’s a treat to watch this guy bat. After Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford failed to provide good starts to their team in Tests, McCullum placed his trust in Latham and he didn’t disappoint. His performances as an opener on Caribbean and UAE tracks were quite exceptional. His sound technique not only made him score two hundreds and three fifties this year (with one more Test against SL left), but also gave Brendon McCullum full freedom to play his shots. Latham was one of the key players in New Zealand’s Test success this year and McCullum would be hoping that he maintains his great touch for New Zealand in the years to come.
4. Gary Ballance (ENG):
It would be fair to say that England have found a good one in him. Three Test hundreds till now with two coming against India and one against Sri Lanka. Also, the three useful fifties can’t be ignored. His ability to take care of his wicket and play long innings make him a player to watch out for in the near future. The good thing is that England have included him in the final World Cup squad and seeing his List A records, where he has scored runs with a strike-rate of 89.16, it can be said with some surety that if, Alex Hales fails at the top, Ballance would be able to provide the right balance to his team at the top of the order.
3. Axar Patel (IND):
Undoubtedly, Axar is Dhoni’s secret weapon for the World Cup. Axar was a revelation for Kings XI Punjab in IPL this year. His great performances earned him a place in the ODI squad that toured Bangladesh just after the IPL. Some decent performances in Bangladesh and in the CLT20 this year pushed the selectors to include him in the squad for ODIs against Sri Lanka and he didn’t disappoint at all. He emerged as the highest wicket-taker of the series (with 11 wickets in 5 matches) and that somewhere down the line made him a surety of the World Cup.
Except Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, none other team has faced him on more than one occasion and it would be right to say that Axar Patel can surely turn-out to be India’s game changer at the World Cup.
2. Matt Henry (NZ):
It might to early to say this but I’m seeing Shane Bond in him. It’s true that he has played only a handful number of ODIs for New Zealand but his wicket-taking ability is the one thing that makes me add him in this list. Henry made his ODI debut against India this year and took 4 wickets. In the recently concluded New Zealand’s ODI series against Pakistan at UAE which New Zealand won 3-2, Henry picked up 13 wickets in 4 matches with a 5-fer in the decider. Amazing that is!
With the World Cup scheduled to take place in Australia and New Zealand, Henry can turn out to be one of the best bowlers in the event and his partnership with Kyle Mills and Tim Southee can surely prove to be deadly for most batting line-ups.
1. Sarfraz Ahmed (PAK):
Have to say that Sarfraz is the best among of all of them. He has improved a lot both as a wicket-keeper and as a batsman and has been a revelation for Pakistan. After changing a lot of wicket-keepers over the years, Sarfraz Ahmed finally provided some stability to this Pakistan team. His batting performances against Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand (mostly in Tests) this year were also very amazing. Coming in at number 7 in Tests and scoring a quick-fire hundred is never easy. But Sarfraz did this job too perfection for his team.
Seeing his confidence with the bat, Misbah should and must think of pushing him up the order in ODIs if Pakistan are to play some real attacking cricket in the World Cup.