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30 May 2019 by Martyn Hindley

2019 Cricket World Cup - India and Virat Kohli offer clear value in top batsman field

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The powerful return to form of MS Dhoni in one-day international cricket has provided a mouthwatering backdrop to India’s ICC Cricket World Cup preparations. But it’s the current captain – rather than the man who lifted the trophy in 2011 – who is the one to beat when it comes to his side’s leading runscorer in the tournament.

Virat Kohli’s force of personality is reinforced by a record since the start of 2018 that far outstrips the record of anyone else in the world game. 25 innings in this format over that timeframe have yielded an astonishing 1813 runs at an average of 90.65, with Rob Esteva uncovering trends going back much further in the latest Silly Point podcast from The Stats Zone, that further underline why Kohli is a good bet even as short as 11/8 for India’s leading scorer. He is the clear favourite at 7/1 to take the overall honours across all ten nations for the tournament.

Elsewhere, the picture is less clear but here are five pieces of data to get you thinking about your choices for team top batsman and bowler markets.

1. Boult-ing down the opponents

English conditions suit Trent Boult down to the ground but his overall form has also been very impressive in ODIs. On Tuesday, his return of 4/50 was New Zealand’s only shining light as the West Indies biffed them around Bristol for 421 in a warm-up match and that continues a trend over the past year or so that has seen him lead the way for his country with 43 wickets at a cost of just 24.83. A wicket-taker, rather than a container, you can expect Boult to make a strong start against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and can profit from the 15/8 as NZ’s leading wicket-taker. The 14/1 on him being the pick of the tournament is no bad shout either.

2. Hope springs eternal in addition to Gayle force

On Silly Point, Rob Esteva and Sachin Mehrish both marvelled at the six-hitting power of the West Indies, which was in evidence in Bristol on Tuesday. There, Shai Hope scored 101 and that was no fluke as he is West Indies’ leading scorer in this format since the start of 2018. His 1460 runs have come at 66.36 and form suggests that he can be a real rival to the evergreen Chris Gayle for the honour of top Windies runscorer.

3. Mature Mushfiqur can propel Bangladesh

Putting the weight of your support behind Tamim Iqbal in the ICC Champions Trophy two years ago was an absolute no-brainer, but if you are looking for a left-field pick for Bangladesh, then you can do worse than to note the form of Mushfiqur Rahim (5/1 to be Bangladesh top scorer). Averaging almost 50 over the last 16 months (and having scored 122 runs more than Tamim in that timeframe), Mushfiqur arrives at the tournament in decent nick having finished the warm-ups with a cultured 90 coming in at number four against India.

4. Experience could be key for Ross Taylor

Playing in his fourth ICC Cricket World Cup, Ross Taylor has struggled for consistency on cricket’s biggest stage. Whether the 2007 version (not very good) or the 2011 edition (excellent) turns up in England is likely to be key to New Zealand’s success, especially as Taylor is in good form with 1232 runs at an average above 82 since the start of 2018 and has one decent knock under his belt from the warm-up win over India. He is likely to give Kane Williamson a run for his money as NZ’s best and his spell with Middlesex prior to the World Cup will have given him an edge in his preparations.

5. Beware the spinners

As Rob noted in the first edition of the Silly Point podcast, the leading wicket-takers in ODIs of late have all been spinners, with Kuldeep Yadav’s 65 wickets over the past 17 months beating anyone else in the world game. Even if some of the pitches aren’t receptive to spin over the next six weeks, you can expect the spinners to find a way to get among the wickets and therefore Adil Rashid (5/2; England) and Rashid Khan (1/1; Afghanistan) are leading the markets for their team’s top bowler as well as Shadab Khan of Pakistan, if you can get over his recent concerns with injury and illness.

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