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Cricket World Cup: Shubman Gill, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Harry Brook – the under 25s who could thrive

Shubman Gill, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Harry Brook among the young players who could star at Cricket World Cup in India; tournament live on Sky Sports between October 5 and November 19; England face New Zealand in Thursday’s opening game – a repeat of 2019 World Cup final

Ahead of the Cricket World Cup in India, which begins on Thursday, we look at some of the under 25s who could thrive over the next couple of months…

Shubman Gill (India, 24)

The India opener is the leading run-scorer in ODI cricket in 2023 by a distance, with his haul of 1,230 in 20 innings nearly 300 more than anybody else. Gill has passed fifty in half of his innings this year, with five fifties, five centuries and a top-score of 208 against New Zealand in Hyderabad as he became the eighth man to record a double century in one-day international cricket. Gill was the youngest to achieve the feat, doing so at 23 years and 132 days.

Cricket World Cup

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The right-hander’s glittering 2023 included plundering 890 runs, and three hundreds, for Gujarat Titans in the IPL, while he comes into the World Cup with scores of 74 and 104 against Australia. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli may be the headline names in the India batting line-up but Gill could prove the star performer as the team look to triumph on home soil, just as they did in 2011.

Shaheen Shah Afridi (Pakistan, 23)

The left-arm quick feels like he has been around forever, having made his international debut in April 2018 shortly before his 18th birthday. Since then, Shaheen has taken over 250 wickets across the formats with 86 of those coming in 44 ODIs, including four in a clash with India in the recent Asia Cup.

Shaheen Shah Afridi (Associated Press)

The paceman’s importance for Pakistan has increased further with fellow bowler Naseem Shah ruled out of the tournament following a shoulder injury. Shaheen provides speed and movement with the new ball and is also a capable performer at the death. Pakistan were denied that second attribute in last year’s T20 World Cup final against England with Afridi leaving the field injured. Had he not, they may very well have ended up winning the trophy.

Harry Brook (England, 24)

Brook looks likely to start the World Cup as batting back-up with England’s top six set to comprise Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Liam Livingstone but if he gets his chance he could very well nail it, just as he has done in Test cricket.

Brook’s international red-ball record reads 1,181 runs in 12 Tests at an average of 62.15 and strike rate over 90, with Sky Sports’ Mark Butcher saying the batter possesses a “touch of genius”.

Those numbers, plus his swashbuckling batting style, were why fans and pundits were left so perplexed when Brook was left out of England’s initial World Cup squad but he replaced Jason Roy in the final 15 after his team-mate suffered some untimely back spasms.

The 24-year-old is yet to truly ignite in a ODI cricket with just one half-century in six innings and he struggled opening the batting in the recent series against New Zealand, but plonk him somewhere in the middle order, the spot in which he shone in the T20s against the Black Caps, and he could fly.

Bas de Leede (Netherlands, 23)

If underdogs Netherlands are to cause an upset in the tournament – they begin their first 50-over World Cup since 2011 against Pakistan on Friday – then they may need all-rounder De Leede to impress. The right-arm seamer and hard-hitting batter is one of the chief reasons they are here in the first place, after an all-round masterclass during the qualifying event in Zimbabwe this summer.

Bas de Leede, Netherlands (Getty Images)

De Leede bagged five wickets in the must-win match against Scotland before smashing 123 from 92 balls as the Dutch reached their target of 278 to book their place in India. The 23-year-old will enter the World Cup in decent nick, too, having scored a maiden first-class hundred last month to help Durham earn promotion to County Championship Division One.

Marco Jansen (South Africa, 23)

The South Africa all-rounder is a hard man to miss, standing almost 6ft 8in tall, and he has been a big hit for the Proteas since making his debut a couple of years ago – the left-armer brings notable bounce with the ball as well as the ability to muscle boundaries with the bat.

Marco Jansen (the tall one) with his South Africa team-mates (Associated Press)

Jansen recently shredded Australia’s top order during an ODI victory in Johannesburg, with his five-wicket haul including the scalps of Mitchell Marsh, Marnus Labuschagne and David Warner. Earlier in the game, he cracked 47 from 23 balls, including three sixes.

Dunith Wellallage (Sri Lanka, 20)

Sri Lanka head into the World Cup full of optimism after winning 14 of their last 16 one-day internationals, only losing twice to India in that time. If they can cobble together enough runs – something they did not do against India in the Asia Cup final as they were blown away for 50 – then they have the spin attack to do some real damage in this competition.

Dunith Wellalage (Associated Press)

That will be led by off-spinner Maheesh Theekshana, who has claimed 31 wickets in 15 ODIs this calendar year and can bowl all the way through the innings, but Sri Lanka also seem to have unearthed a potential gem in slow-left armer Dunith Wellallage. The youngster claimed a five-for against India in the Asia Cup group stage and also chipped in with an unbeaten 42 from 46 deliveries.

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