It is World Cup season and the buzz in world cricket is escalating with each count down.
As all the top 10 nations take to the pitch and battle it out for the title of worlds best.
As a keen cricket supporter, I have taken admiration of how the game of cricket has evolved over the past 15 years due to the T20 format.
Statistics suggest that the impact of T20 cricket has resulted in much higher run rates, in all formats. Higher strike rates and overall an attacking based game. Less obvious factors include contributing factors such as bigger and thicker bats and more flat pitches have played a part as well.
Bowlers have, in general, taken a tap all over the world. From bowling legends to so-called white ball specialists. The one-sided nature of the bat dominating, has resulted in many bowling attacks taking cover and having to rethink how to regain the balance again.
Spin bowling and accurate effective death bowling have been the only answer that bowlers, all around the world, have and could provide to this batting onslaught.
In particular precise wrist spin bowling. It has proved to be highly effective in stemming runs, giving the bowling captain some form of control and ascendancy in the field.
The wrist spin evolution in one day cricket has it's roots traced back to legendary spin bowlers in red ball cricket, such as Shane Warne, Anil Kumble and Muralitharan.
However since 2010 when batting strike rates and averages exploded. The one day format became purely a batsmens game. The likes of Shahid Afridi and Imran Tahir lead the spin revolution.
And since the world cup in 2015 many top tier teams have opted to lean towards the direction of leg spinners, over typical traditional finger spin.
It is also worth noting that the re-emergence of leg spin in one day cricket did not necessarily correlate with improved impact of leg spinners in test cricket (where control an consistency are gold). Finger spinners are still an ace in red ball cricket.
A quality unerring wrist spinner offers two critical aspects to their captain. Mystery and uncertainty in the batsmans mind. Which makes them genuine wicket takers.
And on the fast bowling side of things. Pace is always key. Yet we see slower ball variations doing the job in recent years.
The problem with pace, is that much like leg spin you need control and accuracy.
Pace or wrist spin without accuracy is conversly like offering a 5-star buffet for batsmen on the crease. The problem is not the pace but rather the length.
The most effective delivery in the '80s, and '90s was a fast inswinging yorker as often was displayed by the contemporary Pakistan duo Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram.
Since there is nothing new under the sun and we should not fix or change what is not broken. The yorker still remains the most potent weapon to any fast bowlers (and to even slow bowlers) armory.
Looking at the top 5 nations (as one would assume the winner will come from the top crop).
All boast atleast one quality leg spinner, India and South Africa even take it further, to having a left and right arm wrist spinner each respectively.
This suggests that spin will be key in the middle overs of the innings. Top tier teams aim to bowl out opposition teams around the late 30th or early 40th overs and if possible preferably earlier.
The World Cup will be in England and Wales. Traditionally, English conditions suggest spin is always a factor.
Despite the ICC standardization of flat pitches in ICC tournaments, wrist spinners offer deception in flight, wrist position, change of pace and dual spin rotational trajectory. They all seem to come equipped with a wrong one or googly in addition to the traditional leg breaks and top spinners nowadays.
With all that said in my educated opinion the top 5-6 nations are pretty much level in reinforced solid batting line ups. Each side has atleast two match winners on their respective day with bat in hand.
The major distinguishing factor will come down to the bowling line ups, in particular the spin and death bowling departments.
Up to this point the Indian attack ticks those boxes best. Followed closely by bitter rivals and the old foes Pakistan.
South Africa's reluctance to play more than one spinner, even on turning pitches, should be a concern alongside their continual obsession with banging the ball on the pitch expecting it to misbehave all the time.
Besides the occasional yorker or full toss attempt, Kagiso Rabada seems to be the only thinking fast bowler with an ounce of willingless to try the toe crusher, the recent super over in IPL bowled by KG was enough evidence for my argument. Sadly I cannot say the same about his peers.
Think back to the 2015 semi final against New Zealand, where Dale Steyn provided length balls (in the slot) to Elliott in the final over.
The failure to bowl yorkers in pressure death overs will mount the pressure on South Africa's batting line up to score over 350s each time they bat to compensate for the leak of runs in the death.
My obvious pick for the World Cup winner are India (despite their recent loss against Australia) and secondly Pakistan (in assumption that their batting woes will be corrected). However in World cup knock out stages, strange things happen all the time and what would an ICC Cricket World Cup be without the odd upset.
Seeing as the topic of the team selection is trending on social media. I am tempted to join in the question posed by SuperSport broadcaster Mike Heysman, in helping the Proteas selectors with my pick of the 15 to go to England.
1. Quinton de Kock,
2. Hashim Amla,
3. faf du Plessis (c)
4. Rassie v.d Dussen,
8. Kagiso Rabada
9. L. Ngidi
11. T. Shamsi
12. H. Klassen
13. D. Pretorius
14. Anrich Norje
15. R. Hendricks
My omission of Markram is purely based on his inability to play quality spin (sadly our domestic cup competition does not have many quality mystery spinners). And we have seen Klassen expertly take care of Chahal and Kuldeep in 2017 against India.
Dale can swing the ball but in flat ICC standard pitches. Length balls will fly and he has only bowled about five Yorkers in his career.
Not only will the official final 15 stir some ill-comments and leave some with unease. It will also see several players in contention having their hopes shattered, more so with a last minute return of stalwarts like Duminy and Amla.
The new two group system the ICC have reintroduced is more inclusive to the lower teams and allows the top guys to flex their muscle. To work through their combinations just in time for the semis.
Nonetheless, weather permitting, it is bound to be an epic showdown of world crickets best on display, fiercely at it for the coveted trophy.
The reworked format and scale of the event is sure to create a spectacle as all top ten nations converge in the UK. For what will surely be an unmissable scorching summer in the UK (literally and figuratively).
Let the games begin!