As the highly anticipated ICC ODI World Cup 2023 in India draws near, cricket enthusiasts and experts are beginning to share their insights and favorites for the tournament. Among them, former Australia women cricketer Lisa Sthalekar, a two-time World Cup winner (2005 and 2013) and a respected commentator, has unveiled the first five players she would choose for her Dream ODI XI. Her selections span across batting and bowling, reflecting her keen understanding of the modern-day game.

Jasprit Bumrah – The Opening Bowler (No.1)

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Sthalekar’s Dream ODI XI begins with Indian pace sensation Jasprit Bumrah. She highlighted Bumrah’s ability to make an impact in all three crucial phases of the game – the initial overs, middle overs, and death overs. Sthalekar praised his versatility and considered him a valuable asset in any ODI lineup.

“I have to go Jasprit Bumrah at No.1. An opening bowler is very important as you need to pick up wickets early, but then also be able to bowl at the death when the players are going hard. He is someone that can be used in the middle overs as well, so is a handy bowler across all the three different phases,” stated Sthalekar as quoted by ICC.

Also READ: Sourav Ganguly picks three key players for India at the ODI World Cup 2023

Virat Kohli – The Big-Stage Performer (No.2)

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Sthalekar’s second choice is none other than Indian cricket’s poster boy, Virat Kohli. She emphasized Kohli’s exceptional performances on the grand stage and expressed hope for him to shine in front of his home crowd during this World Cup. Sthalekar sees it as an opportunity for Kohli to bid farewell to ODIs with a memorable victory for India.

“From a batting point of view, I am going to go with Virat Kohli at No.2. On the big stage in front of his home crowd, he is someone you would bank on getting runs and lifting [the trophy], as it will probably be his last World Cup. A chance for him to say farewell and to also do India proud,” added Sthalekar.

Babar Azam – The Glue of Pakistan’s Batting Line-Up (No.3)

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In the third spot, Sthalekar named Pakistan’s skipper Babar Azam. She predicted that Babar would be a standout performer, amassing runs during the World Cup. Sthalekar highlighted Babar’s ability to lead from the front and described him as the linchpin of Pakistan’s batting order.

“I think he (Babar) will score a lot of runs (at the World Cup). The conditions and the way the 50-over format is played will suit him. He is the type of guy that likes to lead from the front as well, and he is almost the glue to that Pakistan batting line-up,” said Sthalekar.

Steve Smith – The Versatile Batter (No.4)

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Sthalekar’s fourth pick is former Australia skipper Steve Smith. She commended Smith’s adaptability to various conditions and his proficiency against spin, which she considers vital in the Indian subcontinent. Sthalekar believes Smith’s presence in the middle overs can be instrumental in controlling the innings.

“He is someone who has adapted his style to all types of conditions. He is a good player of spin, which I think will be important in those middle overs, and he will be able to control the innings from there,” explained Sthalekar.

Also READ: West Indies legend Viv Richards predicts the leading wicket-taker in ODI World Cup 2023

Shaheen Afridi – Pakistan Pace Sensation (No.5)

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For the final slot in her dream ODI XI, Sthalekar chose Pakistan’s left-arm quick, Shaheen Afridi. She described Afridi as a menacing bowler capable of wreaking havoc with his pace and movement. She also noted his effectiveness in the death overs, honed through experience in T20 cricket.

“My last player will be left-arm quick from Pakistan, Shaheen Afridi. He is so damaging with the ball. What he can do with his pace and if he gets a bit of movement. Again, [he is] that type of bowler who can bowl at the death. T20 cricket has helped him, and he will have a huge impact at the 50-over World Cup,” concluded Sthalekar.

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