For the amount of number-churning cricket lovers do, the game is the math hater's nightmare. And while we are kept busy by the Fab 4 and the next Fab 4, who seldom tire of scoring the big tons, home and away, there are the rookies who sneak up on them slowly, to usurp them off their top spots in the rankings and the hearts of fans.
The world is still not getting enough of Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and Joe Root and is amazed at the runs stacked up by Steve Smith, while firmly holding on to the title for the world’s ugliest batting style (he is next only to the great Don Bradman in average for anyone with more than 5000 Test runs – impressive statistics, especially for someone who was picked first for his leg-break bowling).
But amidst all this buzz are a few young players who are already shouldering their teams’ fortunes and showing that they have what it takes to make it big. While it is too early to say if they will kiss the realms of cricketing greatness, these five talented batsmen have certainly won our attention.
#1 Quinton de Kock
Probably the best and the most established batsman on this list, Quinton de Kock has already attained batting heights out of reach of most cricketers by being picked as the ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year recently.
Besides, the South African southpaw, who doubles up as a wicket-keeper, is in the Adam Gilchrist mode even in Tests and has shown time again, including in the recently concluded Test against New Zealand, that he is capable of a breathtaking counter-attack in the most adverse of circumstances. The 24-year old has 1228 runs in 18 Tests at an average of 49.12. He maintains that average despite a blistering strike-rate of 72.
The South African has three centuries and eight half-centuries coming lower down the order, meaning he has fired in 11 out of 28 innings. Behind the stumps, he is probably one of the most athletic wicket-keepers in the game’s history. While his true test will come in Tests played in the sub-continent, one can bet he will not disappoint.
#2 Lokesh Rahul
Rahul won the Man of the Match award in India’s spectacular win at Bengaluru against Australia recently. In doing so, he showed why he is rated highly by Virat Kohli and Anil Kumble. The Karnataka player has 1089 runs in 26 innings from 16 Tests, scored at 41.88 with a strike-rate of 56.51.
Interestingly, he has four centuries and five half-centuries, which means he fires once every three innings. One of those centuries was in Australia, one in West Indies and a third was scored in Sri Lanka. The lone ton in India was a score of 199. He is elegant and has all the shots in the book along with a defence, that after the initial jitters, is water-tight.
Rahul’s comfort against seam bowling makes him a good prospect for away tours as well and he seems all set to be a good, if not a like for like, replacement to the inimitable Virender Sehwag. Rahul can also keep wickets making him even more useful for the team as a backup.
#3 Peter Handscomb
Steven Smith’s understudy, a batsman who has a similar, ungainly method as his skipper, is effective with the bat and is supremely consistent. Handscomb saved Australia in the third Test against India at Ranchi with a brilliant and skilful rear-guard action, scoring his first half-century on the tour.
In 7 Tests and 13 innings, Handscomb already has two centuries and three half-centuries and he almost always gets a start. He has scored 571 runs at 63.44 and is a long-time prospect for Australia, which was overhauled after the disastrous Sri Lanka tour.
Handscomb, who plays for Victoria, hasn’t had a good start in ODIs, but has flourished in the longer form of the game. He currently bats at No. 5 in Tests for Australia and is also a wicket-keeper who gives Australia extra options if required, especially in the shorter format.
#4 Matt Renshaw
Renshaw reminds many of Matthew Hayden thanks to his height and a similar stance. Like Handscomb, Renshaw, who’ll turn 21 in a week, was drafted into the side to build Smith’s team.
As an opener, he has been exceptional so far in all the opportunities given. The baby-faced batsman is an epitome of concentration and calmness, averaging 48.9 so far in 12 innings from 7 Tests.
He has a century and three half-centuries to show for his efforts, but more than those, his stability at the crease makes him a certainty in the Australian team for many years to come. Renshaw has been terrific under tough conditions in India, getting starts regularly and spending a lot of time at the crease.
#5 Kusal Mendis
Mendis could make it to this list on the basis of one innings of his alone, his 176 against Australia. He averages a meagre 35.67 in 32 innings and 16 Tests, having scored 1106 runs at a strike-rate of 58.8.
The 22-year old, who has two centuries and three half-centuries, set the tone for Sri Lanka’s 3-0 whitewash of Australia 6 months back. In the first Test of that series, Sri Lanka started their second innings on a tough pitch with an 86-run deficit. They were 6 for 2 when he arrived at the wicket. He scored 176 in just 254 balls taking them to 274 by the time he departed. Sri Lanka piled on 353 setting Australia a target of 268 runs. Australia were 161 all out and Mendis was awarded the Player of the Match.
Mendis also scored a colossal 194 against Bangladesh recently in a winning cause. With Sri Lanka having serious batting problems, they’ll look for their young ‘ Mr. Dependable’ to give them stability in the coming years.