14/02/2015 11:38 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST

10 Cricketers To Watch This World Cup

Daniel Kalisz via Getty Images
ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 10: MS Dhoni of India leads the team off the field after the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup warm up match between India and Afghanistan at Adelaide Oval on February 10, 2015 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

With the first games being played today, the 2015 World Cup is underway and the world's most talented cricketers will fight over the next 45 days for the game's ultimate prize.

Here are 10 cricketers to watch this tournament, the ones with the talent and opportunity to make a difference to their side's fortune.

  • M.S. Dhoni, India
    M.S. Dhoni, India
    No other player will be under as much scrutiny as the Indian captain. He has to vindicate his rating as arguably the best ODI player in the world, justify his sudden retirement from Tests to focus on limited overs cricket and perhaps most importantly, the title is his to defend. Even one of these tasks would be daunting for any player. But over the past decade, if there is one thing Dhoni has demonstrated, it is his extraordinary ability to absorb pressure. A billion-plus people will be hoping he can do it one more time.
  • Virat Kohli, India
    Virat Kohli, India
    Ryan Pierse via Getty Images
    In the doldrums after a poor tour of England in mid-2014, Virat Kohli made a spectacular comeback in the Tests against Australia, scoring a whopping 698 runs. This did not help India save the series, but ensured his rise to eminence. Master Blaster Viv Richards sees Kohli as India’s most potent match-winner. His run-in form into the World Cup has been tepid, but Kohli has the strokes and ambition to set the tournament on fire.
  • A B de Villiers and Hasham Amla, South Africa
    A B de Villiers and Hasham Amla, South Africa
    The `Awesome Twosome’ have batted with such aplomb and scored runs so prolifically as to leave bowlers across the world paranoid. De Villiers recently set a world record for the fastest century, and yet Amla has the higher strike rate of the two! Making the escape route for bowlers is almost impossible. If these two get going, the opponents are, well, gone.
  • Moeen Ali, England
    Moeen Ali, England
    With his flowing, luxuriant beard, Moeen is unmistakable on a cricket field. Of easy demeanour, he nevertheless plays with a panache and canniness that has often flummoxed opponents. A free-stroking left-hand batsman-opener, he gives England the early thrust they need. His beguiling off-spin has brought some batsmen of high repute to their doom.
  • Jason Holder, West Indies
    Jason Holder, West Indies
    Only 23, he has been saddled with not just adding heft to the bowling attack, but also the mighty responsibility of holding a mercurial side together. The West Indies have slumped a long, long distance since their wins in 1975 and 1979. If Holder can lead his team to even the semi-finals, it will be an achievement to cherish.
  • Steven Smith, Australia
    Steven Smith, Australia
    The only way to describe his recent form is `Bradmanesque’. Several experts have questioned his tics, quirks and unorthodox technique, but runs from his bat have been unstoppable. Smith has the derring-do and range of strokes to maul the best bowlers on his day. And on any given day, he is an outstanding fielder.
  • Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka
    Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka
    If he had come from India, England or Australia whose players are tom-tommed at mega-decibel levels, Kumar Sangakkara would be hailed as the best batsman in the contemporary game. Like the best wine, he has grown in flavour and richness with age. At 36, he is perhaps in the best form of his life, the pivot of the Sri Lankan side and the one player whose back bowlers would like to see very early.
  • Kane Williamson, New Zealand
    Kane Williamson, New Zealand
    He may not feature prominently still among the rising stars in international cricket, but that is only because New Zealand cricket and its players still remain a little under the radar. In the past 15 months, the 24-year-old Williamson has been among the most prolific batsmen in the world in all formats. Sound of technique, solid in defence and unafraid to play shots, he could give the Kiwis flight in this tournament.
  • Mitchel Starc, Australia
    Mitchel Starc, Australia
    Daniel Munoz via Getty Images
    Quick and with the ability to swing the ball late both ways, Starc is a threat to the best batsmen in any situation. He’s been around for a few seasons, but was unable to do justice to his talent. Experts reckoned this was because of a fragile body and temperament. In recent months, there’s been little evidence of such frailties. With Mitch Johnson, he forms perhaps the most potent opening bowling pair.
  • Younis Khan, Misbah ul Haq, Shahid Afridi, Pakistan
    Younis Khan, Misbah ul Haq, Shahid Afridi, Pakistan
    Pakistan have gone against the trend and vested their hopes in veterans to win a title that has eluded them since 1992. Till about six months back, none of these three looked sure of a place in the side. But they aren’t in the side because of nostalgia or compassion, rather merit. They simply snuffed out the challenge from younger players through sheer dint of performance. The World Cup is their swansong. Whether it is mellifluous or becomes a dirge remains to be seen.