Though cricket is a team sport, ahead of the knockout stages of the ICC's marquee event, starting from March 18, we are picking up one player from each (quarter-finalist) team, who can play a crucial role from here on to make his side the world champions.
Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka): Veteran Sri Lankan player is going through a purple patch. Thus far he has scored four consecutive centuries in six matches for the Islanders in the tournament. He is not only proving his mettle in front of the wicket but behind the stumps too he is leaving no stone unturned. His wide experience and outstanding form makes him a crucial cog.
Virat Kohli (India): The backbone of Indian batting line up, Kohli, has so far played crucial knocks for his side in the group stages of the tournament. He started the tournament on a high by scoring a ton against arch-rivals Pakistan in the very first match. He remained unbeaten on two occasions. And most importantly, he got starts in all six matches. Kohli plays at a crucial position (number 3), from where he can build an innings for the team, no matter whether India is setting up a total or chasing one down. The vice-captain is a live wire on field, and lifts the moral of the team with his never-say-die attitude.
Darren Sammy (West Indies): In the West Indian squad, though there are too many matchwinners, Sammy is the most consistent performer. His all-round skills make him a dangerous customer. He is capable of turning the match around with bat and ball. On his day he can destroy any bowling line up with the help of his lusty blows all across the ground. For the erratic Caribbean team, he can prove out to be a key player.
AB de Villiers (South Africa): He is undoubtedly the most adventurous and innovative batsman in the world. He rightly showed a glimpse of that in the on-going event as well, when he smashed unbeaten 162 runs off 66 balls against West Indies. One of the fittest athletes in world cricket, AB is leading the South Africa pack and is in sublime form with the bat, as he has amassed 417 runs in the first six matches of the tournament. He has been leading his side from the front and most importantly knows the strengths and weaknesses of his side. If the 'chokers' want to break the jinx this time around, AB has to perform each time Proteas enter the field.
Brendon McCullum (New Zealand): The belligerent opener is middling the ball well and has looked in outstanding nick since the start of the showpiece event. In their six matches, he has scored three quick-fire half-centuries. His aggressive approach is also quite visible in his captaincy which has paid rich dividends so far. The Kiwis are looking charged up and don’t want to leaving any stone unturned this time around. McCullum has to keep the spirit going if he really wants to be the first Kiwi skipper to win a World Cup for the Black Caps.
Misbah-ul-Haq (Pakistan): Even after facing lot of criticism from all corners in the initial stages of the tournament for his captaincy and slow batting strike-rate, Misbah proved his critics wrong in the latter part of the group stages. Misbah & Co beat a robust team like South Africa to get the much-needed momentum to accelerate at the right time in the tournament. And in all those wins Misbah played a crucial role, especially with the bat. He is leading one of the most unpredictable teams in world cricket but under his leadership, the team has achieved a lot in the past. So for Pakistan, it would be Misbah, who can be a game changer.
Mahmudullah (Bangladesh): The 29-year-old has become an overnight star in Bangladesh after his heroics in the World Cup. The right-hander scored consecutive tons in their last two group games to help his side reach the quarter-finals of the mega event for the very first time. One can easily find a renewed vigor in his batting. Though Tigers are not considered as one of the title contenders to lift the trophy, such spirited performances generally help the team to give their best shot at the crucial junctures of a match or a tournament. He is the pick from the Bangladesh side, who could change the dynamics and equations of the World Cup.
Glenn Maxwell (Australia): One of the most destructive batsmen in world cricket, Maxwell is in sublime form. Whenever, he got the opportunity in the showcase event, he has excelled. In fact, against Sri Lanka he played a whirlwind knock of 102 off mere 53 balls to prove his credentials once again as a swashbuckling batsman. Along with that, he is an outstanding fielder and more than a handy bowler. On his day, he can single-handedly change the course of a match. So he would be the player to ‘watch out for’ in the Aussie squad as the tournament progresses.