It is often said that One-Day Cricket is a batsman’s game, with seemingly endless powerplays making the job of the bowler something of a thankless task.
But in the favourable conditions of the World Cup’s host countries; Australia – where pacey, bouncy wickets offer as much to the bowler as the batsman, and New Zealand – with its lush, green pitches and prolific cloud cover, it’s fair to say that the bowlers could influence the outcome of more matches than usual.
So when considering the top bowler market, what should you be looking out for?
An Opening/Death Bowler – it is during the opening powerplay that the batsmen really look to score heavily in order to lay the foundation for a big total. This, in itself, can lead to a wicket goldmine. Similarly at the death, when so many games are won and lost, bowlers can really come to the party and pick up some cheap scalps.
A Seam Bowler – as previously mentioned, the conditions in Australasia tend to favour the quicks rather than the spinners. This isn’t a guarantee of wickets though; they still need to bowl with a bit of cunning and guile, or in some cases just raw aggression and brute force.
Plays for a Team Likely to Go Far – a bit of a betting bread and butter this one, but naturally you need to look for the bowlers likely to be there or thereabouts come the final on Sunday March 29th.
In Good Form – there’s no place to hide for bowlers coming into the World Cup without any form. Realistically, you need a bowler that is going to be able to hit the ground running from ball one.
So based on this logic, you’d expect the following to be in the mix:
The bookies favourite and with good reason; the lanky Starc enjoyed a phenomenal 2014, and ended the year with a better ODI strike-rate than any other bowler in world cricket.
He has taken 61 wickets in 32 short-form internationals so far, at an average of 20.62 – that’s a better record than Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath and Mitchell Johnson had at the same stage of their careers.
No less-of-a-judge than Wasim Akram is backing him to do well too: “On these wickets he’ll be impossible to play. If I had to pick one of them with the new ball I’d definitely pick Mitchell Starc,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
With Australia hot favourites to cruise through to the final – a run in which Starc will spearhead the attack – he has to be considered a strong contender.
A bloke likely to push Starc all the way is his Australian compatriot Mitchell Johnson.
A bowler who loves to take wickets and terrorise batsmen, Johnson is capable of fizzing the ball through at chest height or pitching it up and letting the swing do the talking….and all at 90mph.
Not content with humiliating ‘the Poms’ during the Ashes catastrophe, Johnson also demolished the England top-order in the final of the recent Tri-Series too. A man in top form then – and one that’s hungry for success.
On his day Steyn is practically unplayable, and he fits all of the criteria outlined above: delivering rapid out-swingers with the new ball and toe-crushing yorkers at the death, and playing in a South Africa side tipped for big things.
Bowling in the pool stage at the likes of Ireland, UAE and the West Indies should yield stacks of wickets, and at 31 this could be Steyn’s last World Cup – so expect him to go out on a high.
Of the three-pronged New Zealand pace attack it’s Tim Southee who catches the eye. A veritable veteran of the One Day game, Southee has pedigree; his 18 wickets in World Cup 2011 led the Kiwis to the Semi-Final, and landed him third place in that tournament’s top bowler stakes.
In a format that requires a bit of thought and craft to go with pace and bounce, Southee has all the ingredients to go close. His four wickets so far have put in a good position too.
Fans of extreme value have perhaps already noted the very agreeable odds for Mohammed Shami, who was the leading ODI wicket-taker in world cricket in 2014.
He picked up four wickets in India’s opening Pool B triumph over Pakistan; a performance that has sent his original 50/1 price tumbling. Shami is the key man in an otherwise friendly Indian pace attack, and that should guarantee that he gets through a lot of overs