With only a few days to go for the ICC World Cup 2019, the spotlight is unsurprisingly on blockbuster players such as Virat Kohli, David Warner, and Dale Steyn.
However, the World Cup has often brought the best out of lesser-known names over the years, and we can expect it to be no different this time either.
As we count down to the quadrennial showpiece event, here is a look at five such players who could go on to become game-changers for their respective teams.
Isuru Udana (Sri Lanka)
It was against India in 2012 that Isuru Udana, then aged 24, made his ODI debut.
A left-arm seamer and a right-handed batsman, Udana fell out of favour from the ODI scene after just two games, though he kept making sporadic appearances in T20Is.
However, in March 2019, he returned to the ODI team, this time ensuring that the necessary impact was created – with the bat.
In the fourth ODI against the Proteas (South Africa) at Port Elizabeth, Udana came in with Sri Lanka at 97/7.
What followed was a breathtaking counterattack, as he clubbed 78 in just 57 balls, inclusive of seven fours and four sixes, to improve the total to 189.
Though the hosts cruised to victory, Udana had attracted the selectors’ attention.
To strengthen his case, he scored 84* off 48 balls in a T20I at Centurion nine days later.
These efforts earned him a World Cup ticket, and with Sri Lanka going into the tournament as underdogs, he might just prove to be the surprise package.
Mohammad Mithun (Bangladesh)
It can be said that Mohammad Mithun’s ODI average of 32.7 doesn’t do justice to his talent and temperament. All of his four fifties so far have come in sticky situations, which augurs well for the Tigers as they aim to defy the odds at the ICC World Cup 2019.
In the first match of the 2018 Asia Cup at Dubai, Bangladesh were effectively 3/3 (having lost two wickets followed by Tamim Iqbal retiring hurt) against the Sri Lankans when Mithun joined Mushfiqur Rahim in the middle.
A composed Mithun struck 63 in 68 balls, aiding Rahim in a vital stand of 131. It was the same story in a crunch Super Four clash against Pakistan, as he again allied with Rahim, this time scoring 60 in a stand of 144 after coming in at 12/3.
In New Zealand in February, he scored 62 and 57 in losing causes.
While the focus at the ICC World Cup 2019 will be on the likes of Rahim, Tamim and Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh’s opponents would do well to keep an eye on Mithun as well.
Oshane Thomas (West Indies)
A highly promising fast bowler from Jamaica, Oshane Thomas stole the show with his match-winning performance in the fifth and final ODI of the West Indies’ home series against England in March.
The 22-year-old Thomas began by scalping the visiting captain Eoin Morgan, and later destroyed the lower order to send England’s score crashing from 111/5 to 113 all out.
His figures of 5/21 in just 5.1 overs eventually led to the West Indies’ series-leveling seven-wicket victory.
While his economy rate is on the higher side, there is little doubt that Thomas is capable of making batsmen dance to his tunes if he performs to his potential. Armed with the pace that can stun the best, he made his international debut on the tour of India last October following a productive display in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL).
The youngster might be in the nascent stage of his career, but if he gets going, there is no reason why he cannot deliver the goods in the ICC World Cup 2019.
Rassie van der Dussen (South Africa)
After eight ODI innings, Hendrik ‘Rassie’ van der Dussen’s average reads a mind-boggling 88.25.
The 30-year-old played his first ODI only in January this year, against Pakistan at Port Elizabeth, and immediately made an impression with a 101-ball 93 from number three.
Though this wasn’t an innings in a winning cause, his unbeaten 80 in the very next game at Durban played a pivotal role in taking the Proteas from 80 for 5 towards a five-wicket win in a tricky chase of 204.
Van der Dussen might be new to international cricket, but he brings with him a lot of experience – he made his domestic debut in 2007-08 and has played the game in a number of countries including South Africa, England, Ireland, and Canada.
He has also played in the CPL and was instrumental in the Jozi Stars’ triumph in the inaugural Mzansi Super League with a chart-topping 469 runs.
Needless to say, he will have a key part to play for his team at the ICC World Cup 2019.
Rahmat Shah (Afghanistan)
It would not be an overstatement to say that Rahmat Shah is the most dependable batsman in the Afghan side. With his composed approach at the crease, the 25-year-old provides a sense of stability to his team’s batting line-up, which can often be prone to sudden collapses. In 59 ODI matches, Rahmat, who thrives batting at the vital number three position, has scored 1935 runs at 36.50 – currently the highest average by an Afghan batsman – with four centuries and 13 fifties.
Though Rahmat’s strike rate of 71.06 is on the lower side, it points to the anchoring role that he often plays – he scored key half-centuries in each of Afghanistan’s two games against the West Indies in last year’s World Cup Qualifier. He hit a stroke-filled 113 in 115 balls against Scotland earlier this month, which is a good sign for the Afghans as the World Cup draws near. He also bowls handy leg-spin, good enough to have fetched him a haul of 5/32 against the UAE in 2014.