Sri Lankan captain Dasun Shanaka shakes hands with Pakistan's captain...

Sri Lankan captain Dasun Shanaka shakes hands with Pakistan's captain Babar Azam after their two wickets win in the Asia Cup cricket match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Thursday, Sept.14, 2023. Credit: AP/Eranga Jayawardena

The Cricket World Cup will be staged in India from Oct. 5 to Nov. 19. The Associated Press takes a look at five players to watch during the 6 1/2-week tournament:

Babar Azam, Pakistan

Is the No. 1-ranked batter in the ODI format and a crucial anchor in Pakistan’s top order. A disciplined, balanced and well-poised right-hander, he averages better than 58 and a strike rate of close to 90. He is dangerous against pace or spin bowling. He was the fastest batter to accumulate 5,000 ODI runs, reaching the milestone in his 97th innings — 17 innings quicker than Virat Kohli and Viv Richards and 18 quicker than David Warner. He scored two centuries and six half-centuries in his first 11 innings of 2023, demonstrating his ability to post one big innings after another.

At his only previous World Cup, in 2019, he averaged 67.71 and posted an unbeaten century and three half-centuries. His only scores below 45 were his 22 on debut and 30 against Australia.

Since that World Cup, he’s averaging almost 68. He’s the only batter in the top five in all three formats of the game and was the International Cricket Council's ODI player of the year in 2021 and ’22.

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Mitchell Starc, Australia

Australia's Mitchell Starc bowls in the nets ahead of their...

Australia's Mitchell Starc bowls in the nets ahead of their first one-day international match with India in Mohali, India, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. Credit: AP/Altaf Qadri

The tall left-arm paceman’s role in the white ball formats is to bowl full, at the stumps and swing it late at the start of the powerplays. It's intended to bring all modes of dismissal into play. Among his key early breakthroughs for Australia was the critical wicket of Brendon McCullum with the third ball of the 2015 World Cup final. He finished player of the tournament with 22 wickets when Australia won the title on home soil eight years ago.

Starc, 33, backed that up 27 wickets in England four years ago, before Australia’s title defense ended in the semifinals. His 49 wickets in 18 World Cup games have come at an average of 14.8.

He’s taken four or more wickets in six World Cup innings, with best figures of 6-28. It’s a method that can cost runs if he strays off his line, but it can be very effective in Indian conditions — as he demonstrated in March when he took 5-53 in Australia’s 10-wicket win over India during a 2-1 series win. He was included in Australia’s 15-man squad despite a recent injury and a lack of one-day cricket since those three games in March.

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Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan plays a shot during the Asia...

Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan plays a shot during the Asia Cup cricket match between Bangladesh and India in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, Sept.15, 2023. Credit: AP/Eranga Jayawardena

Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh

The 36-year-old allrounder will be playing his fifth World Cup and is still the premier short format player in his country, despite several brushes with cricketing authorities.

He's the No. 1 allrounder in international ODI cricket with more than 7,300 runs batting mostly in the middle order and collecting more than 300 wickets with his slow left-arm orthodox bowling. Combative with bat and ball, he’s only the third cricketer — after Sanath Jayasuriya and Shahid Afridi — to go past 7,000 runs and 300 wickets.

At the last World Cup, he was third on the scoring list with 606 runs at an average above 86.5 after posting two centuries and five half-centuries. He was suspended in October 2019 for 12 months for failing to report approaches from bookmakers in the Indian Premier League.

His batting average in the World Cup, at almost 46, is significantly higher than his career average and his career-best bowling figures of 5-29 were in a World Cup game against Afghanistan four years ago. His back-to-back centuries in the last World Cup against England and West Indies were his last in international ODI cricket. He scored 80 runs and took a wicket in a player-of-the-match performance in a narrow win over eventual champion India in the Asia Cup, and believes the ODI format is his country's best chance of success in international cricket.

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Virat Kohli, India

One of India's finest and most competitive cricketers, Kohli will be wanting to replicate the outcome of the great Sachin Tendulkar's World Cup appearance on home soil in 2011.

He's the only active player who features in any of the ICC’s all-time top 10 lists. He's No. 6 in the batting rankings and has a massive following in the world's most populous nation. The former team captain will turn 35 during the tournament on Nov. 5.

His unbeaten 122 in the big win over Pakistan in the Super 4 stage of the Asian Cup on Sept. 11 was his 47th century in the format, and took him well beyond 13,000 runs in one-day cricket — the fastest of five players to achieve that mark, coming in 267 innings dating to 2008.

He was already an established top-order batter when he made his ODI World Cup debut in 2011, when Tendulkar capped his remarkable career with a first world title in the format.

In his three World Cups, Kohli has played 26 games and scored two centuries, averaging 46.81. His return in England in 2019 was his tournament best, with 443 runs coming at 55.37.

In India, he has posted 21 centuries in 110 ODIs and averaged 57.94.

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Bas de Leede, Netherlands.

One of the players from the so-called Associate nations to watch. His 5-52 bowling pace and 123 off 92 deliveries batting at No. 4 against Scotland in the qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe helped usher Netherlands into the World Cup and put him in rarified air in ODI cricket. Viv Richards is one of the only three previous players to achieve that — scoring a century and taking five wickets — in a one-day international. The 23-year-old allrounder has cricketing pedigree, too. His father, Tim, played in three World Cups and claimed the huge wicket of Tendulkar among his 4-35 against India in 2003. He also took the wickets of Australian great Matt Hayden — in 2003 and in 2007 — and Pakistan skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq, for a duck, in World Cup games. The younger de Leede, 23, took 15 wickets in the qualifying tournament, including 41 runs and bowling figures of 3-42 against 1996 World Cup champion Sri Lanka.

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