The World Cup begins on May 30 and each team has named a provisional 15-man squad that it will take to England in a bid for glory. Competition for places at this eagerly anticipated tournament is ferocious and that has resulted in joy for some white-ball stars and heartbreak for others. The likes of Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and Joe Root were always guaranteed to go to the World Cup, but there have also been some surprise inclusions. Here are five interesting wildcards that will have a chance to make a name for themselves this summer:
The odds compilers rate India as the team most likely to prevent England winning the World Cup this summer, as you can see here. They are blessed with a magnificent, experienced squad that is packed full of world-class talent, including Kohli, MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul. Yet the selectors had some difficult decisions to make when putting together the provisional squad and they opted for the experience of 33-year-old Karthik over the potential of 21-year-old Rishabh Pant. Karthik made his debut for India 15 years ago, but he has not been a regular throughout his career. He has only been to one previous World Cup, when he did not get a game in 2007. However, coach Jacques Kallis rates Karthik highly and feels he will help guide some of the younger players in the squad, while helping India out of tricky situations with his all-round prowess. “We’ve seen Karthik finishing matches under pressure,” added chief selector MSK Prasad.
In many ways, Smith is an obvious choice for Australia’s World Cup squad as he is arguably the world’s finest batsman. However, his selection is tinged with a great deal of controversy, as he has only just returned from international exile. He and vice-captain David Warner were both suspended for their roles in the ball-tampering scandal against South Africa. It led to all manner of blubbing in press conferences, while even the Australian Prime Minister laid into the duo, and they were plunged into the wilderness. Yet Australia’s form nosedived without them and the team looks a lot stronger now they have been reinstated. Smith is no longer the captain – that honour goes to Aaron Finch – but he is a game-changing batsman and he has the ability to lead his team to glory this summer.
Pakistan made an intriguing decision to omit dynamic fast bowler Mohammed Amir from their provisional World Cup squad. The quick bowler missed the 2011 and 2015 tournaments while serving a five-year suspension for match fixing, but he might have expected to figure in this summer’s tournament. However, his form has not been great recently, and Pakistan have turned to youth instead in a bid to clinch victory at the tournament. They have named the youngest squad of any team and that is exemplified by teenage bowlers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Hasnain. Afridi is already well known across the world, with coach Mickey Arthur tipping him to become the world’s number one quick bowler in a few years’ time, but Hasnain carries a similar amount of potential too. The 19-year-old has been sending down balls at 93mph as he has led the Quetta Gladiators to the Pakistan Super League title and he could torment several batsmen at this summer’s tournament.
The 28-year-old wicketkeeper was selected for the World Cup despite never playing a one-day international. Blundell had only featured in three T20s for New Zealand and two Tests, so his inclusion was a huge surprise. He did not play a single ODI for Wellington in New Zealand’s domestic season, but he will serve as a backup to Tom Latham at the World Cup. Yet he has already begun to repay the selectors’ faith in him by hitting an impressive 77 as a weakened New Zealand team went close to upsetting a near full-strength Australia. He top-scored for the Kiwis, and his knock included nine fours and a six from 102 balls, highlighting his potential worth to the team.
The Proteas recalled 36-year-old batsman Amla to their World Cup squad and that looks like a sensible decision. Amla was dropped midway through the series against Sri Lanka in March and his international future was in doubt. His inclusion meant heartbreak for Reeza Hendricks, who had been an ever-present part of the squad since making his debut last August. The selectors opted for Amla’s experience and it could prove crucial as they plot a path to victory at the tournament. He has scored 7,910 runs in 174 one-day internationals, at an average of 49.74, and he highlighted his formidable talents when hitting a century against Pakistan in January. He has spent a lot of time working in the nets with batting coach Dale Benkenstein and he could star for South Africa.