ZIMBABWEAN all-rounder Sikandar Raza has been tipped by the International Cricket Council as one of the 10 players, drawn from as many countries, who could shine at the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier which gets underway in Bulawayo and Harare on Sunday.
The high-stakes battle will see only two nations making it to the ICC Cricket World Cup in England and Wales next year.
“The stakes are high at the Qualifier in Zimbabwe, and the tournament is wide open. From the sleeping giants of the Windies, to up-and-coming powerhouses like Afghanistan and Ireland, to those still developing rapidly, every side in the competition has players capable of producing exceptional moments,’’ the ICC said on the official website.
“From 4-19 March, 10 sides will be scrapping it out for the opportunity to play at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
“Here are our picks of the players most likely to light up the competition:
Sikandar Raza (Zimbabwe)
If Zimbabwe’s recent 4-1 ODI series defeat by Afghanistan is anything to go by, then they will need to exploit every ounce of advantage offered by playing at home. One player that can play a big role with bat and ball is Raza, who is an important figure in the side.
Alongside Brendan Taylor, Raza’s 92 from 74 balls was pivotal to the only win in that Afghanistan series and strong performances from the 31-year-old will go a long way to furthering Zimbabwe’s cause.
Ryan ten Doeschate (Netherlands)
The return of ten Doeschate to the Dutch side comes as a massive boost to their chances of making the World Cup. The experienced middle-order batsman, and captain of English County Champions Essex, is as cool a head as they come, equally adept at finding the gaps and running hard as he is at clearing the ropes.
His average of 67 with five hundreds in 33 ODIs tells its own story. Now 37, ten Doeschate is nearing the end of his international career. If he can help the Dutch reach the 2019 World Cup it could provide a fitting swansong for him.
Evin Lewis (West Indies)
While many eyes will be fixated upon Chris Gayle, his opening batting partner should not be underestimated either. Lewis’ impressive, explosive and powerful batting has seen him become a go-to man in T20 competitions around the world and if he can bring some form to Zimbabwe then fans should be in for a treat.
His domestic form has been good of late, meaning opposition bowlers may not have much fun bowling to Lewis and Gayle up front.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Afghanistan)
The “mystery” spinner everyone is talking about. Like Lamichhane, Mujeeb has generated plenty of interest and earned a lucrative IPL contract off the back of his outstanding performances.
Mujeeb became the youngest player to take an ODI five-wicket haul during Afghanistan’s win over Zimbabwe in the fourth ODI earlier in February, eclipsing the likes of Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram and team-mate Rashid Khan in the process. As well as impressing at the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand, he has enjoyed a near-perfect start to his international career. Expect that to continue in Zimbabwe.