Cricket is littered with world-class performers in all corners of the world.
Whether it’s evergreen James Anderson performing at an incredibly high level heading towards his 40s, or Marnus Labuschange who looks set to dominate Test batting for the next decade.
For every Jasprit Bumrah there’s a Joe Root ready to combat him. Cricket is all about the battle between bat and ball and the greats fighting it out on the grandest stages, looking to cement themselves into the sport’s history books.
Here at The Sportsman, we have devised a list of players to watch in 2022:
No5 – Matt Parkinson
The Lancashire leg-spinner has been chronically overlooked by the national selectors. Just nine white-ball appearances is sacrilege for the talent the 25-year-old possesses. The Bolton-born leggie has taken over 100 first-class wickets at an impressive average of 23.35 on pitches not conducive to his craft. You could produce a quality highlights reel from his wickets last summer. And playing five sets of County Championship fixtures in June and July next year will give Parkinson the perfect opportunity to stake his claim for a Test spot — and let’s face it, England are crying out for something special in the spin stakes.
No4 – Naseem Shah
The talented Pakistani teenager has bags of potential. The fast bowler made his Test debut in Australia aged just 16. And he became the youngest bowler in history to take a Test hat-trick when he achieved the feat against Bangladesh six days shy of his 17th birthday. An average of over 42 in Test cricket, from his nine games, is far from spectacular, but the 18-year-old is learning on the job and has home tours against Australia, England, and New Zealand to look forward to next year.
No3 – Saqib Mahmood
Saqib Mahmood is tipped to become a mainstay of England’s bowling attack for years to come. The 24-year-old speedster regularly bowls around the coveted 90mph mark and has been compared to Pakistan legend Waqar Younis for his ability to reverse swing the ball and bowl toe-crunching yorkers. He has been in and around the England Test squad for the past couple of years without getting a chance to showcase his skills. Mahmood has been on a fast-bowling development deal for the past few years and impressed in his Big Bash debut when he took 4/22 for Sydney Thunder – sparking calls for him to be jettisoned into the failing Ashes side.
No2 – Mayank Agarwal
Mayank Agarwal is relatively new to international cricket despite turning 31 next February. But he has impressed during his 17 Tests to date. Like many Indian batters, he was tipped for a huge future at an early age. Agarwal was his side’s top scorer during the 2010 U19s World Cup, but it took him another eight years to make his international bow. The opener has made contributions away from home but has saved his best for home soil. Agarwal averages a phenomenal 93.22 at home, and expect him to pile on the runs next year with series against Sri Lanka, Australia, and Bangladesh in the sub-continent.
No1 – Lungi Ngidi
Lungi Ngidi ended 2021 with a bang as he took 6/71 to bowl India out in the first Test at Centurion. The tall quick made his Test debut back in 2018 and has been in and out of the Proteas side ever since. But at the age of 25, he is heading into his prime as a fast bowler. Ngidi is a proven performer in all three formats of the game. He averages 21.5 in Tests, just over 24 in ODIs, and a shade under 20 in T20I. Those are world-class stats. Expect a fruitful year from the imposing Ngidi. He will start 2022 with two more home Tests against India before heading to Australia and then New Zealand. He will get a crack at England’s fragile batting line-up in helpful conditions next summer, before the West Indies tour South Africa. He is someone the Proteas can build their bowling attack around, alongside Kagiso Rabada, for many years to come.