Another year of cricket is at an end, but 2014 is here with the promise of more exciting Test, One-Day International and Twenty20 matches across the world.
There is also the tantalising prospect of the World Twenty20 in March and April, featuring 16 teams comprised of the 10 ICC Full Members and six Associate Members who qualified through this year’s ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier.
With that in mind, let’s look ahead and predict who will be the players who light up 2014, comprised both of individuals who are already shining on the international stage and those who have the potential to make the step up to the big stage.
Now the leading bowler in Test matches according to the ICC Rankings, Vernon Philander looks set to have a productive 2014 after a superb 2013.
He reached 100 Test wickets in South Africa’s recent series against India—won 1-0 by the Proteas—and promises much in the coming year.
The man Philander displaced atop the ICC Rankings, Dale Steyn, will also be worth watching in 2014.
Having spent 186 matches atop the rankings before being overtaken, Steyn still represents one of the greatest seam bowling threats in world cricket with his combination of swing, seam movement and pace.
His tandem threat with Philander will be one of the most potent, especially with the new ball.
Look for Gul to re-assert himself as a leader of the Pakistan bowling attack and make up for the time he lost on the sidelines.
Out of the wreckage of England’s disastrous Ashes series against Australia comes one bright spark—the emergence of all-rounder Ben Stokes.
Showing grit with the bat and potential with the ball in spite of a dominant Baggy Green opposition, Stokes has displayed the ability to succeed in international cricket and will want to use 2014 to solidify his place in England’s team.
An enormously promising Test series for the West Indies against New Zealand shows that off-spinner Sunil Narine is primed to make a Test place his own having impressed in the shorter forms of the game previously.
With Shane Shillingford suspended by the ICC for an illegal bowling action, Narine is in a superb position to become the West Indies’ primary spinner.
Next year will be India’s first without the retired Sachin Tendulkar in their middle order, and one of the individuals who will be tasked with replacing him is Rohit Sharma.
Well-established in limited-overs cricket, the time is now for Sharma to step up and make a Test place his own, something he is in a good position to do after a solid start at the end of last year.
A young left-handed batsman from Sri Lanka, Lahiru Thirimanne will look to take advantage of his undoubted talent.
He may have struggled recently, per Andrew Fidel Fernando of ESPNcricinfo, but next year he should make good on his promise and become a key member of their batting lineup.
A debutant from 2013, Indian seamer Mohammed Shami has the potential to be a dominant bowler for his country next year.
Only 23 but showing tremendous ability in limited showings, look for Shami to take on the role of primary seamer with Zaheer Khan’s career coming to an end.
New Zealand left-armer Trent Boult will point to 2013 as the year he stepped up to become a crucial part of the Black Caps’ bowling attack, and he will look to improve even further.
Alongside Tim Southee with the new ball, Boult has the potential to enjoy great success on the international stage, and at just 24 years old he has plenty of time to achieve greatness.
Another who made his international bow in 2013 was West Indies fast bowler Jason Holder, and it was quite an impressive show from the Barbadian.
His new-ball pairing with Ravi Rampaul in the ODIs against New Zealand was productive, while his 14 runs in an over with the bat to tie the third game of the series against Pakistan showed a great deal of resolve under pressure.
If he can stay fit and consistent, West Indians will see him flourish on the world stage in 2014.
Seemingly by virtue of his not being selected for any of England’s matches in their awful Ashes series against Australia, Gary Ballance’s stock is on the rise and he could find himself pressed into action in 2014.
Another to have shown good form in limited opportunities Down Under, the Yorkshire left-hander may well find himself in England’s middle order this summer.
An all-rounder who made both his ODI and Test debuts in 2013, Australian all-rounder James Faulkner will see 2014 as a year filled with opportunities.
Not just a hard-hitting bowling all-rounder, Faulkner shows enormous promise and could be crucial for his country in the ICC World Twenty20.
Perhaps the best-equipped batsman to help fill the void left by Sachin Tendulkar is the extremely talented Virat Kohli.
Growing in maturity with every game, Kohli will see 2014 as the perfect time to step up and grow into the role of senior batsman.
An accurate spin bowler who is one of the best in world cricket, 2014 could be the year that Ravindra Jadeja becomes one of India’s most indispensable players in all formats.
Having impressed in his relatively short stint in Test cricket and as a regular in the shorter forms, Jadeja is the future of Indian spin bowling and has the potential to dominate.
A young Australian with plenty of potential, Steven Smith began to deliver on his promise in 2013 and should do the same in 2014.
Showing greater maturity and resolve with the bat, which has become his dominant suit over his leg-spin bowling, Smith has the ability to become a key part of Australia’s middle order over the next 12 months.
Despite a difficult Ashes tour, like all his teammates, Joe Root of England has the ability to bounce back in 2014 and dazzle once again on the world stage.
Having been shunted around the batting order this year from No. 6 to opening and then to No. 3, all Root needs is consistent time in one position and he will surely deliver for his side.
In India’s top order, Cheteshwar Pujara enjoyed a superb end to 2013 and will look to carry that through to 2014.
Showing great consistency at the difficult No. 3 position in South Africa to top India’s batting averages in the Tests, per ESPNcricinfo, Pujara now needs to kick on and continue to convert starts into big scores.
Perhaps South Africa’s most promising wicketkeeper since Mark Boucher, look for de Kock to continue his form at the top of the batting order and perhaps even make the step up to Test level.
A young opening batsman who has already shown plenty of potential in limited-overs cricket, Ahmed Shehzad of Pakistan started to live up to that late in 2013 with some superb performances.
It is always difficult to open against the best new-ball bowlers in the world, but Shehzad showed a great deal of character and may find himself playing a more pivotal role for his country this year.
A middle order batsman and medium-pacer, Corey Anderson made his ODI and Test debuts for the Black Caps this year and looked comfortable despite being just 23 years old.
He has played just 18 international matches across all three formats since his Twenty20 debut in 2012, but he has great potential and will be confident of stepping up further in 2014.
Having battled injuries for much of his international career, the recall of James Pattinson to Australia’s ODI squad for the upcoming series against England is a good sign.
If he can stay fit and firing and take care of his brittle body, he has the potential to be one of Australia’s more potent seam bowlers in the coming year.
With the ICC World Twenty20 coming up in March, 20-year-old Rahmat Shah is one player sparking excitement in Afghanistan cricket.
Showing great ability in the Dhaka Premier League, per ESPNcricinfo, as well as for his country, Shah may well find himself thrust into the spotlight as the Afghans look to spring a surprise at the World Twenty20 tournament.
The man who captained Nepal to their first ever full ICC event, Paras Khadka is a name sure to be heard when the Nepalese take the field in Bangladesh.
As they push for full ODI status and greater recognition, they will be led by Khadka, who has shown the ability to get the most out of his players and ensure they work as hard as possible for success.