@Yas_Wisden 4 minute read
A new year brings renewed hope and after a miserable 2020, that rings true even more than usual. In recent times, with mixed success, we’ve tipped groups of uncapped players to make breakthroughs in the international game. From last year’s cohort, Haris Rauf and Cameron Green made their international debuts.
This time, here’s a selection of 10 men’s players from 10 different countries to look out for in 2021:
England – Dan Lawrence
This is a bit of a freebie pick. Should England’s tour of Sri Lanka go ahead, Lawrence is likely to make his long-awaited Test debut in the first game of the series. With Ben Stokes rested, Rory Burns back home to attend the birth of his first child and Ollie Pope an injury doubt, Lawrence is set to be rewarded for his consistent excellence for Essex. Still only 23, Lawrence’s game leapt to another level in 2019 after he made a drastic technical adjustment that saw him disregard his exaggerated trigger movement. It was a move that reaped instant rewards, as in early 2020 Lawrence was the standout player on England Lions’ successful tour of Australia. “He’s one of the best batsmen I’ve ever seen,” his Essex captain Tom Westley told Wisden Cricket Monthly earlier this year. “He’s not a stereotypical English player, he’s a freak.”
Australia – Will Pucovski
After David Warner’s injury in the white-ball leg of the ongoing India tour and Joe Burns’ wretched form at the start of the Australia summer, Pucovski looked a sure bet for a Test debut at the Adelaide Test in December. But another concussion, the ninth of his life, ruled him out of contention just as the step up to Test cricket seemed a formality. With question marks over Burns’ form remaining and with Matthew Wade unlikely to be a long-term solution up top, should Pucovski become available for selection again soon, it seems like a matter of time before this prodigiously talented youngster is awarded his Baggy Green.
India – Suryakumar Yadav
That Suryakumar has yet to play for India speaks volumes about the immense batting talent at their disposal. A vital cog in arguably the greatest T20 side of all time, 2021 could finally be the year that Suryakumar wins his first India call-up. A T20 World Cup on home soil would provide the 30-year-old the perfect platform to show the world exactly what he’s capable of.
Pakistan – Imran Butt
A first-class average of 36.11 isn’t much to get excited about, but Imran Butt, who turns 25 in December 2020, is already on the cusp of breaking into the Pakistan Test line-up. The right-hander was the leading run-scorer in the 2019-20 Quaid-e-Azam trophy and it was that form that earned him a call-up for Pakistan’s 17-man squad for the first Test of their New Zealand tour. With Asad Shafiq out of favour, the 35-year-old Fawad Alam occupying one of the middle-order slots in the absence of the injured Babar Azam, and Azhar Ali turning 36 in February, Butt could find himself in the Pakistan top six sooner rather than later.
Sri Lanka – Pathum Nissanka
The owner of a truly extraordinary first-class record. The 22-year-old, with an average of 67.54, currently has the fourth highest first-class average of all time (min. 50 innings) after racking up 13 hundreds in his first 33 games in the format. As prolific for Sri Lanka A as he is in domestic cricket, Nissanka’s introduction at Test level feels like a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.
New Zealand – Rachin Ravindra
Given the success New Zealand’s Test side is currently enjoying – they may well enjoy a stint at the top of the Test rankings in January, and are on track to qualify for the World Test Championship final – 2021 may turn out to be a year too early for Rachin Ravindra. Much-hyped at the 2018 U19 World Cup, Ravindra, whose forename is a portmanteau of ‘Rahul’ and ‘Sachin’, has struggled for consistency in domestic cricket, but seemed to have turned a corner for New Zealand A in their recent outings against West Indies A and Pakistan Shaheens. Against West Indies A, Ravindra scored an unbeaten 144 from the top of the order as well as taking a second innings six-for, a performance that was followed by a 70 against a strong Pakistan side. Competition for top seven spots in the current Blackcaps squad is fierce but his left-arm spin and youth – Ravindra only turned 21 in November – could accelerate his route into the XI.
Afghanistan – Noor Ahmad
The 15-year-old whose arrival at this year’s Big Bash came with great fanfare. A left-arm wrist-spinner who can impart considerable turn on the ball in both directions, his path into Afghanistan’s plans ahead of the 2021 T20 World Cup is a feasible one.
South Africa – Raynard van Tonder
A former U19 captain, van Tonder has built up a formidable domestic record in his young professional career. The right-hander was the leading run-scorer in the 2019/20 franchise first-class competition in South Africa while still just 21 and carried that form into the following South African summer; van Tonder has scores of 166 and 200 already to his name after just five first-class outings this season – both hundreds came against attacks brimming with international talent. After a spate of Covid-19 cases in South African domestic cricket, van Tonder won a maiden Test call-up for their home series against Sri Lanka. With few South African middle-order slots nailed down, he may well find himself in the South African top order in the near future.
Bangladesh – Shoriful Islam
One of the stars of Bangladesh’s U19 World Cup win in 2020. A left-arm quick not dissimilar in style to his compatriot Mustafizur Rahman, Shoriful showed his pedigree at senior level in the recently concluded Bangabandhu T20 Cup, finishing as the competition’s third-highest wicket-taker. With good numbers across all three formats, don’t be surprised if he earns a maiden senior call-up in 2021.
West Indies – Jayden Seales
Quite simply the standout bowler at this year’s U19 World Cup, with Ian Bishop one of many esteemed pundits effusive in his praise for the young quick. With minimal first-class experience behind him, Seales is another for whom 2021 might be a year or so early but so exciting is his potential, it’s feasible that he might, at some point soon, be fast-streamed into the senior set-up. Admittedly, he is the least likely member of this list to play international cricket in 2021.