Graphic: Shubman Gill, Akbar Ali, Naseem Shah and Tom Banton

20 cricketers for the 2020s

From Shah to Shaw, from Philippe to Pope: the players we think will dominate the decade

The 2020s, it is well acknowledged, have not exactly made a dream start. But as cricket slowly biosecures itself towards resumption, there remains the prospect of watching wunderkinds come into their own.

To compile this list, we asked 15 coaches, players, scouts, analysts and observers from around the world for their inputs on the exciting talent available in men's cricket: Tom Moody, Mike Hesson, Deep Dasgupta, HD Ackerman, Ian Bishop, AR Srikanth, Tim Wigmore, Russel Arnold, Paras Mhambrey, Hassan Cheema, Srinath Bhashyam, Tamim Iqbal, Andy Moles, Jarrod Kimber and Robin Peterson.

We imposed no age limit: the youngest on the list is just 15 - the Afghan left-arm wristspinner Noor Ahmad - while the oldest is Pakistani fast bowler Haris Rauf, who, at 26, is a veritable uncle in this group. Instead, we placed caps on the number of international matches a player had played to be eligible: no more than five Tests or seven ODIs or seven T20Is as on December 31, 2019. The names appear in no particular order.

Please remember to write us in 2030 to tell us whether we got it right or wrong.

Kai Schwoerer / © ICC/Getty Images

Shubman Gill

20, India, batsman
Few batsmen have towered over the rest at age-group level as Gill did, and he was Player of the Tournament at the 2018 Under-19 World Cup. His all-round game is built around quick hand-eye coordination, deft wrist work and a front-foot pull shot reminiscent of Ricky Ponting's. Allied to that is an unmistakable confidence, a penchant for scoring quickly, and astounding consistency. - Shashank Kishore

My hero: "Sachin Tendulkar. By the time I started enjoying the game, he was still at his peak. I have interacted a bit with him. I've asked him how he maintained consistency and form with the kind of pressure that was always on him."

Biggest ambition: "I was fortunate to be part of an U-19 World Cup- winning team, where I was Player of the Tournament. I want to play a big part in a [senior] World Cup-winning Indian team."

Favourite match: "India v Australia, Kolkata, 2001. I was too young to watch it live, but I have heard so much about the game. That special partnership, India's win, and a packed Eden Gardens - it feels surreal even when you watch the highlights."

Expert eye: "He's very level-headed for someone who has had phenomenal success at the age-group level. He considers every game as a blessing. You will never see him sitting idle at training. He knows when he should go the extra yard with his batting, what works for him, what doesn't. That from someone who is 20 tells you how sorted he is." - Abhishek Nayar, Gill's mentor at Kolkata Knight Riders

Stefan Gosatti / © Getty Images

Tom Banton

21, England, batsman
Banton's swashbuckling strokeplay earned him comparisons with Kevin Pietersen when he starred at the top of the Somerset order in the 2019 English summer. International recognition and interest from franchises swiftly followed. Having played hockey since he was a young child, his reverse sweep is just as reliable as his forward defence and he hopes his international career can include Test cricket too. - Matt Roller

My hero: "AB de Villiers."

Biggest ambition: "Play for England and win games for them, keep enjoying and learning."

Favourite match: "Royal London Cup final, May 2019 [Banton top-scored with 69 and kept wicket; Somerset won]."

Expert eye: "He's a good kid and he works really hard at his game. I've challenged him to keep improving, to get fitter and stronger, and then he'll hit the ball even further and harder. We'll see a lot of him in the next few years." - Marcus Trescothick, Somerset assistant coach

Louis Botha / © Getty Images

Noor Ahmad

15, Afghanistan, left-arm wristspinner
Ahmad made his U-19 debut for Afghanistan when he was just 14. He has a propensity to extract extra bounce and skid off the pitch from a high-arm, unorthodox action. Ahmad bagged 4 for 30 in his second youth ODI, threatening to upset India U-19s in Colombo. He shone, too, in Mis Ainak Knights' title win in the 2019 Shpageeza Cricket League. - Deivarayan Muthu

My hero: "Rashid Khan."

Biggest ambition: "To be among the world's best bowlers."

My favourite match: "The Afghanistan-Pakistan game in the 2020 U-19 World Cup [Ahmad took 2 for 32 in his ten overs, and ran out a non-striking batsman as he backed up]."

Expert eye: "Noor is a match-winner. He takes wickets in the middle overs, which is vitally important. His googly turns prodigiously. His conventional legspinner needs a bit of work. If he can improve his stock ball, that will make his googly more dangerous. He needs to play more cricket to understand the pressure of bowling against better batsmen." - Andy Moles, Afghanistan director of cricket

Ryan Pierse / © Getty Images

Naseem Shah

17, Pakistan, fast bowler
A classical right-arm fast bowler, Shah stunned the world with his pace and swing when he made his Test debut at just 16. His spirited run-up, smooth delivery stride and raw pace make for a fine sight, and he has already made a big impact in the international arena, becoming the youngest fast bowler to take a hat-trick and a five-wicket haul in Test cricket. - Umar Farooq

My hero: "Waqar Younis."

Biggest ambition: "To become a role model for the next generation."

Favourite match: "In the 2011 World Cup, Pakistan's semi-final against India was the game that lit my imagination. In my village we had a big screen up, and I felt myself in the match and dreamt about playing for Pakistan one day."

Expert eye: "He has impressed straightaway not only with his pace but with his skills, temperament and his knowledge of his own bowling as well; he reads batsmen very quickly. Not many players can reach that standard that early." - Azhar Ali, Pakistan Test captain

Mark Metcalfe / © Getty Images

Josh Philippe

23, Australia, keeper-batsman
Philippe has a strong cricket pedigree - his mum played for Western Australia and his dad for the state 2nd XI - and fell in love with the game early. Steven Smith saw something special when he helped lure Philippe to Sydney for the Big Bash, where the youngster led the Sixers to glory with 52 off 29 balls in last season's final. A deal with the Royal Challengers Bangalore and talk of an Australia call-up point to his eye-catching batting style, plus he has an added string to his bow as a gloveman. - Valkerie Baynes

My hero: "Mike Hussey and Steve Smith."

Biggest ambition: "To play cricket for Australia."

Favourite match: "BBL 2019-20 final. To win a Big Bash final and also to play a big part in it is something I won't forget."

Expert eye: "I've said it so much, that kid has got some serious talent. He's got a pretty unique swing - the way he hits so clean, that six he hit to the on side early on [against Dan Christian] was an amazing shot, the way he check-drove it and gained so much power just shows the talent he's got. He's so young, he's got so much time on his hands." - Steven Smith, after batting with Philippe in the Big Bash

Mark Tantrum / © ICC/Getty Images

Rachin Ravindra

20, New Zealand, allrounder
A solid batsman who can score quickly too, with a good technique against both pace and spin. Throw in some tidy left-arm spin and Ravindra is the complete package. Since 2019, he has been part of the New Zealand A set-up. Getting into the senior team, particularly in limited-overs cricket, could be just a matter of time. - Shashank Kishore

My hero: "Sachin Tendulkar. Grew up hearing stories of him from my dad. Have watched tons of his videos on YouTube. Goosebumps!"

Biggest ambition: "To be a part of a World Cup-winning New Zealand team. And to be a world-class Test batsman."

Favourite match: "India v Sri Lanka, Hobart, 2012. I must have watched the highlights of Virat Kohli's 133 not out a hundred times at least. The way he countered Lasith Malinga with supreme confidence is a lesson for all young cricketers. My takeaway from that: never get overawed by the bowler, just watch the ball and let your instincts take over."

Expert eye: "His drive to constantly get better is inspiring. He'll train at 6am most mornings with his dad, come to the team gym and training sessions during the season, and then train again with his dad or team-mates later in the day. He can play all formats. His batting in the short form has gone through the roof within the last 12 months." - Glenn Pocknall, Wellington Firebirds head coach

Christopher Lee / © Getty Images

Kartik Tyagi

19, India, fast bowler
A tall right-arm bowler who can nip the ball around at pace, Tyagi was almost a prodigy who wasn't. He made his first-class debut in 2017, a month short of his 17th birthday, but was soon laid low by injury. A dedicated recovery regimen and a positive frame of mind meant he was back to bowling in time for the 2020 U-19 World Cup, where, fitter and stronger, he emerged as one of the bowlers of the tournament. - Saurabh Somani

My hero: "Brett Lee and Virat Kohli. Both are aggressive. Kohli's mindset is to always look for victory. The same with Lee. He would bowl fast, at 100%, no matter when he was bowling."

Biggest ambition: "To be the best player in the world. There's nothing beyond being the best player in the world."

Favourite match: "The U-19 World Cup match against Australia is one of them - probably my best performance on a big stage. It was a tough match. We didn't have a huge total. Winning that match brought a lot of positive feelings for us. [Tyagi took 4 for 24 and was the Man of the Match as India defended 233]."

Expert eye: "He came to my academy when he was 11 or 12 years old. He had good height and a high-arm action. Gradually his strength also increased. He's very hard-working and picks up things very quickly. He has the class to play for India one day." - Vipin Vats, former Uttar Pradesh wicketkeeper and personal coach of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Praveen Kumar

Matthew Lewis / © ICC/Getty Images

Akbar Ali

18, Bangladesh, keeper-batsman
Akbar's calmness under pressure in this year's U-19 World Cup final, in which he made an unbeaten 43 in a tense chase, didn't just win Bangladesh the trophy, it also gave the world a glimpse of a future international cricketer. Akbar has a solid batting technique, and the eye and temperament of an accumulator. - Mohammad Isam

My hero: "My father, Mohammad Mostofa, has always been my hero."

Biggest ambition: "To play for Bangladesh for a very long time."

Favourite match: "It has to be the U-19 World Cup final."

Expert eye: "He has done unbelievable things in the last two years. He bats at No. 7 and does the hardest things for us. We always knew he had the temperament and confidence to finish games. As long as he is in the middle, we have the confidence in the dressing room that we can win the game." - Naveed Nawaz, Bangladesh U-19 coach, after the tournament win

Ishara S Kodikara / © AFP/Getty Images

Ollie Pope

22, England, batsman
Pope stands out among his generation, both for style and statistics. No Englishman in history has a higher first-class batting average than his 60.68, and his fluency against the short ball and on the drive makes him one of the country's most elegant players. Many predict he will end up as England's Test No. 3; his ambitions and talent, though, extend across formats. - Matt Roller

My hero: "AB de Villiers."

Biggest ambition: "Contribute and help win games for England in all three formats."

Favourite match: "South Africa v England, Cape Town, January 2020 [Pope top-scored in the first innings with 61 not out; England won by 189 runs]."

Expert eye: "If he surrounds himself with good people, doesn't believe in his own publicity, and just lets his bat do the talking, then we've got a serious talent in the England set-up for a long, long time" - Alec Stewart, Surrey director of cricket

Matthew Lewis / © ICC/Getty Images

Ibrahim Zadran

18, Afghanistan, batsman
In an Afghanistan side filled with power-hitters and strokemakers, Zadran has a tight technique and an even stronger temperament, which makes him an especially promising prospect in the longest format. He has featured in two U-19 World Cups, and shone on his Test debut, against Bangladesh last year, where his 87 off 208 balls at the top of the order helped fashion a 224-run victory. - Deivarayan Muthu

My hero: "My uncle Noor Ali Zadran. Had he not been there for me, I would have not made it this far."

Biggest ambition: "To help the children of my country, whether it is in sports or education."

Favourite match: "Definitely my debut as a Test player. Nothing could be a prouder moment than representing my country at the highest level of a sport that I love, and to perform so well was the icing on the cake."

Expert eye: "Ibrahim has proven over the last two years that he has got the qualities to bat for long periods of time. Technically very correct, mentally very strong, his work ethic is very good. He is also an excellent fielder, has a fantastic arm, and has proven to be very good to the spinners, standing in a close-in position." - Andy Moles

Kai Schwoerer / © ICC/Getty Images

Gerald Coetzee

19, South Africa, fast bowler
A genuine quick with a mean bouncer, Coetzee regularly sends the speed gun upwards of 145kph and has risen just as quickly to national prominence. He has played in two U-19 World Cups and the Mzansi Super League but is also well suited to the longer format. He bypassed the provincial tier of South Africa's domestic system and went straight into franchise cricket in the 2019-20 season, where his ability to swing the ball at pace caught many experienced batsmen off guard. - Firdose Moonda

My hero: "My cricketing hero is Dale Steyn and my non-cricketing hero is CrossFitter Mat Fraser."

Biggest ambition: "To be the best one day. I would love to be the all-time leading wicket-taker for South Africa but I know that's going to take a gigantic effort."

Favourite match: "When the Proteas played the Aussies in 2008-09 and Graeme Smith had to go bat with a broken hand against Mitch Johnson. That series was amazing."

Expert eye: "There is no question in my mind that Gerald Coetzee will be in that South African side or part of that group fairly shortly. He is quick, has a natural ability to swing the ball out. For any young bowler that's a great asset and is especially what made Dale Steyn so great. He has got a wonderful attitude, takes great care on and off the field, and he is a super athlete." - Allan Donald, Knights coach

Matthew Lewis / © ICC/Getty Images

Yashasvi Jaiswal

18, India, batsman
An adventurous left-hand batsman with strokes all around the wicket, Jaiswal went from being a talented youngster talked about in Mumbai circles to one grabbing national headlines when he reeled off three centuries in nine days in the 2019 Vijay Hazare Trophy. The last of those was a double-hundred - which made him the youngest cricketer to make a double in List A cricket. A couple of months later he was opening for India in the U-19 World Cup - spectacularly enough to be crowned the Player of the Tournament. - Saurabh Somani

My hero: "Sachin Tendulkar and Wasim Jaffer."

Biggest ambition: "To deliver on my potential and play good cricket for as long as I can."

Favourite cricket match: "India v Pakistan in the U-19 World Cup semi-final [Jaiswal hit 105 not out in a ten-wicket win]."

Expert eye: "What I really liked about him during the World Cup was, he showed a tremendous amount of maturity. It is very easy for someone who has a List A double-hundred to go to the U-19 World Cup and think, 'You know what, these are U-19 bowlers, I'm going to smash it', and be overly aggressive. He can definitely do well in the longer format also. He has all the attributes." - Rohan Gavaskar, commentator at the U-19 World Cup

Fiona Goodall / © ICC/Getty Images

Rahmanullah Gurbaz

18, Afghanistan, keeper-batsman
A right-hand opener with 360-degree scoring ability, Gurbaz is made for T20 cricket. Last year, against the reigning T20I champions, West Indies, he pulled off some outrageous strokes, including the lap-scoop on one knee, to deliver a 2-1 series win. In his very next innings, his Bangladesh Premier League debut, he smoked an 18-ball fifty for Khulna Tigers in Dhaka. - Deivarayan Muthu

My hero: "AB de Villiers."

Biggest ambition: "To play for my country and represent it across the world."

My favourite match: "The Afghanistan v West Indies series decider in which I made 79 for my team."

Expert eye: "He certainly has the ability to become a top player. His desire to succeed and his understanding of how important it is to play for Afghanistan, and his willingness to take on that pressure, makes him a very special young man. If all the ducks align and if the work ethics remain good, I've no doubt that we will see a lot from him." - HD Ackerman, Afghanistan batting coach

Jan Kruger / © ICC/Getty Images

Jayden Seales

18, West Indies, fast bowler
Born into a family of fast bowlers, Seales swings the new ball in both directions and consistently clocks speeds in the early 140s. His performance in the 2020 U-19 World Cup, where his wickets were underlined by an entertaining array of celebrations, marked him out as one who would be fast-tracked into the senior team sooner rather than later. - Sreshth Shah

My hero: "Curtly Ambrose, for his passion, perseverance and skill."

Biggest ambition: "To play Tests for West Indies."

Favourite match: "West Indies' opening match at the 2020 U-19 World Cup, against Australia [Seales took 4 for 49; it was the first time West Indies beat Australia in an U-19 World Cup]."

Expert eye: "He's got some terrific skill already, and genuine pace for an U-19 kid. He gathers pace off the wicket, which tells me he's got a very good wrist. He snaps through his wrist, which is a bit like Pat Cummins does, very, very effectively. They are the type of bowlers that bother the batsmen, because they gather pace off the wicket, they [get the ball to] climb off the wicket into the bat." - Tom Moody, commentator at the U-19 World Cup

© Getty Images

Haider Ali

19, Pakistan, batsman
Hailing from Rawalpindi, Haider is a flamboyant and ambitious strokemaker across formats. In his debut first-class season last year, he scored 645 runs at 49.61, which included a fighting 134 in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final. Picked as a supplementary player by Peshawar Zalmi in the 2020 PSL, he finished as the joint leading run-getter for the team. - Umar Farooq

My hero: "Rohit Sharma."

Biggest ambition: "There are so many who went on to play for Pakistan, but my aim is not only to play for the country but to play long and leave an impact."

Favourite match: "The 2017 Champions Trophy final in which Fakhar Zaman scored a hundred against India. This is an opportunity I wish I could have."

Expert eye: "A talent with a good head on his shoulders and a good listener. He can do wonders in the right hands." - Mohammad Akram, Peshawar Zalmi head coach

Brett Hemmings / © Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Qais Ahmad

19, Afghanistan, legspinner
With a legspinner, wrong'un, flipper, and even a seam-up bouncer in his repertoire, Qais is already a T20 - and T10 - globetrotter. His variations caught the eye of the folk at Welsh Fire, who snapped him up in the inaugural draft of the Hundred. Already a T20 veteran when he made his T20I debut, against Ireland this March, he sparkled with 3 for 25. - Deivarayan Muthu

My hero: "Virat Kohli."

Biggest ambition: "To play for Afghanistan in all formats."

Favourite match: "The Big Bash match [Hobart Hurricanes v Sydney Sixers, December 20, 2019] when I got four wickets and was the Man of the Match."

Expert eye: "What has impressed me the most about Qais is his energy - fantastic bowler, fantastic fielder, and he isn't bad with the bat either. That's what makes him an exciting cricketer. His ability to read the game as well. His experience in the Big Bash has been very good for him and he's got a lot of variations, which he's still working on. Spinners only mature a lot later in life, he has a lot to learn - a fantastic package really." - Lance Klusener, Afghanistan head coach

Darrian Traynor / © Getty Images

Jake Fraser-McGurk

18, Australia, batsman
A batsman with authority and confidence beyond his years, Fraser-McGurk's fifties on his first-class and List A debuts as a 17-year-old last season indicate his potential across formats. He is a gifted fielder too. Greater exposure to spin bowling along with continued mental and emotional development could put him on the fast track. - Valkerie Baynes

Hero: "Ricky Ponting."

Biggest ambition: "Playing Test match cricket for Australia."

Favourite match: "List A debut, against New South Wales [Fraser-McGurk made 54 off 49 balls in Victoria's six-run win]."

Expert eye: "He's seemed to be able to rise to every challenge that's been put in front of him. You look at him and you think, 'Well, you've got everything you need, it's just whether you make good decisions down the track.' Sometimes he'll leave a few runs out in the middle, and as a coach you can get a little bit frustrated, but then he'll just do something magical and play an innings that is exceptional. When he has his good days, they're just incredible." - Chris Rogers, Australia U-19 coach

Marty Melville / © AFP/Getty Images

Prithvi Shaw

20, India, batsman
Shaw's impressive scoring rate as an opener is built on strong hand-eye coordination. His bright start as an IPL and India cricketer, not least his century on Test debut, offered glimpses of his attacking range. A few tweaks to tighten up against the moving ball could make for a ruthless, dominant batsman, across formats, for years to come. - Varun Shetty

My hero: "Sachin Tendulkar and my dad."

Biggest ambition: "Winning the World Cup for India."

Favourite match: "The 2011 World Cup when India won, I was watching that match in the stadium. And my Test debut against West Indies [Shaw was Man of the Match for his 134; India won by an innings]."

Expert eye: "The intent to dominate the bowlers is Shaw's strength. He has the talent and skills to excel, but burnout could pose a big challenge because Shaw is likely to play all formats." - WV Raman, former India opener and India women's coach

Daniel Pockett / © Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Haris Rauf

26, Pakistan, fast bowler
Rauf first grabbed eyeballs with his pace at a Lahore Qalandars trial in 2017. He started his professional career with grade cricket in Australia, and hit the jackpot when he got a chance to replace his hero Dale Steyn in the Big Bash League last year. He made the most of it, taking 20 wickets (including a hat-trick) at 13.3, putting his 140kph-plus pace and his shrewd slower ball to good use. The performance instantly earned him a Pakistan T20 cap. - Umar Farooq

My hero: "Dale Steyn."

Biggest ambition: "To become a role model for the upcoming generation."

Favourite match: "The most memorable one I played was the one in which I took 4 for 23 for Lahore Qalandars against Karachi Kings in Dubai, 2019. My favourite game I watched was the 2015 World Cup semi-final between South Africa and New Zealand."

Expert eye: "He is a unique combination of passion and aggression." - Aaqib Javed, Rauf's mentor

Jekesai Njikizana / © AFP

Lasith Embuldeniya

23, Sri Lanka, left-arm orthodox spinner
Embuldeniya hails from the flight-and-guile school of Sri Lankan spin bowling (big turn and mystery spin being the other institutions), and over the past year has become Sri Lanka's first-choice Test option. Accurate and uncomplicated, he has an ambling approach to the crease, but owing to his height, he is capable of getting significant bounce even on low South Asian pitches. His five-wicket haul on debut set up that famous win in Durban last year. - Andrew Fidel Fernando

My hero: "Rangana Herath. Apart from being an outstanding left-arm spinner, character-wise, he is one of the best. He also has an amazing story because although he was overlooked for so long and kept getting dropped from the team, he never gave up and had that determination to come back late in his career and become a great player."

Biggest ambition: "To take five wickets against every Test nation [which Herath has accomplished]. In the shorter term, it's to try and fill the role that Rangana aiya performed in the Test team, as quickly as possible."

Best match:" My debut in Durban had everything. It was a thriller. It was emotional. We won. I couldn't have asked for anything more.

Expert eye: "The most important thing about Lasith is that he has all the fundamentals a left-arm spinner needs, like accuracy, and he also has something I never had, which is height. In addition to that he learns very quickly, and is keen to work hard." - Rangana Herath, former Sri Lanka spinner

Deivarayan Muthu, Sreshth Shah and Varun Shetty are sub-editors at ESPNcricinfo. Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor. Saurabh Somani and Matt Roller are assistant editors. Valkerie Baynes is a general editor. Umar Farooq is the Pakistan correspondent. Mohammad Isam is the Bangladesh correspondent. Andrew Fidel Fernando is the Sri Lanka correspondent

 

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