The 2015 edition of one of cricket's oldest rivalries, The Ashes, is underway. With both the teams well-matched, a close contest is expected on the cards. Here's our pick of five players, who could make a major difference to the fortunes of their respective sides.
David Warner: The swashbuckling buckling Aussie will be key to the team's chances since he would be setting the tone, batting at the top of the order. Opening the innings, Warner has put his team into a winning position a number of times. Australia would be looking for big scores from him, something which he is eminently capable of. The advantage with the left-hander is that when he scores runs, he does so at such a quick pace that it, more often than not, puts the side in command.
Joe Root: He is being viewed as the most important cog in England's wheel. Root has had a spectacular time with the bat of late. He has scored bucketful of runs in recent Tests. And, even when England have been struggling, Root has continued to deliver. It would, however, be more pertinent to observe that Root has been one of the key reasons for England's resurrection. Root has the ability to play the long innings, and everytime he does so, he looks among the best in the world.
Steven Smith: If you are an Indian bowler, the very sight of Smith would depress you. In the four-match series played in Australia, the Indians just could not get him out cheaply, no matter what they tried. Forget about getting him out, they never managed to put him in any sort of trouble as well. Smith continued his brilliant form in the World Cup as well against the same opponent, with a century in the semis. Those who saw Smith during the early days of his career would be shocked with Smith's rise. He is undoubtedly among the best today.
Ben Stokes: If Stokes performs upto potential, this Ashes could do to him what the 2005 edition did for Andrew Flintoff's career. There has never been any doubt over Stokes' talent, but his performances have been mixed. In the recently concluded series against New Zealand, Stokes delivered with both bat and ball. His aggressive strokeplay, in particular, was impressive. Stokes would be keen to carry on the good work in the Ashes. But, with all due respect to New Zealand, Stokes could find things tougher against Australia. A massive challenge in store for sure.
Mitchell Starc: England would be hounded by the presence of Mitchell Johnson, who bounced them out two seasons back in Australia. But now, they will also have to contend with another Mitchell, Starc. The left-arm seamer was in superlative form during the World Cup, and will be keen to continue his great form. With pace, bounce and movement, Starc has all the attributes to trouble the Englishmen. His presence would definitely bolster a strong pace attack, consisting of Johnson, Josh Hazelwood and the underrated Peter Siddle.
--By A Cricket Analyst