Jake Fraser-McGurk hasn’t played a T20I yet, but is making a resounding case to be a part of the World Cup that closely follows the ongoing IPL.

Jake Fraser-McGurk was always meant to be a star. Four years ago, at the U19 World Cup in South Africa, he was one of the players to look out for. Aged 17, he was already dubbed a sensation for Victoria, having smashed a fifty on his Sheffield Shield debut, and then in the One-Day Cup. A BBL contract was already in his kitty.

At the U19 World Cup, he did smash Australia’s highest tournament score, but had to return prematurely after a bizarre accident in which he was scratched by a monkey, during a team outing in a Kimberley nature reserve.

Four years later, a World Cup of a very different kind approaches, and Fraser-McGurk is making waves once again.

Playing his debut IPL, Fraser-McGurk has been imposing at the top for Delhi Capitals: he currently has the highest tournament strike rate for anyone who has faced at least 40 deliveries – 238. In five innings, he has smashed three fifties, two of which came in just 15 balls, an IPL 2024 record. 

The latest of those was a bruising attack on the Mumbai Indians in a day game: a 27-ball 84 headlined yet another 250-plus total. By the sixth-over mark, he had the third-most runs ever by a batter in an IPL powerplay: at one point, it looked like he might eclipse the existing 30-ball T20 record for the fastest hundred.

The day began with 14 runs off the first three balls, against Luke Wood, as he teed off, bludgeoning anything that came in sight. His ability to sight the length early was evident throughout, especially when he welcomed Jasprit Bumrah with a six off a slower ball. The golf-like swings could become a regular fixture on screens.

The fifty came off 15 balls, slog-sweeping Piyush Chawla deep into the stands. By the time the powerplay ended, he was on 78 off 24, six sixes included.

It was just last week that Fraser-McGurk had tonked an 18-ball 65, keeping the Capitals in the hunt to chase an improbable 267 against SRH. There was little support at the other end, which prompted Delhi to push him to open in the next match. The collateral damage was the out-of-form David Warner, nursing a hand injury, edged out of the XI and possibly from the IPL.

Fraser-McGurk’s promotion could have far-reaching consequences, rather than just a tweak to Capitals’ lineup. In a few days, Australia are expected to announce their squad for the T20 World Cup. It’s a format they have arguably underperformed at, and one they could do some experimenting with. With Travis Head and Warner the likely opening duo, and Mitchell Marsh the No.3, they’ve got a top three as experienced as any. But that could change. 

Some would consider it a bold move to throw Fraser-McGurk – yet to debut in T20Is, and two ODIs old – into the deep end in the USA and the Caribbean, but his latest IPL assault would have forced head-scratching in the Australian selectors’ camp. In theory, BBL star Matt Short is ahead of him in the pecking order: since the start of 2023, Australia have tried eight T20I openers, of whom Short has the highest strike rate (187). 

Cam Green, with more international experience, currently averages 22 at a strike rate of 128 in this IPL, and hasn’t played T20Is since the end of 2022 – and anyway, at this point, Cricket Australia wants him to focus on the Test series against India.

Before he was sidelined, Warner had not quite looked his best, striking at 135 from seven innings with one fifty. 

With Glenn Maxwell in woeful form and opting out of the playing XI for RCB, the top four don’t look as strong on paper. To add to that, Marsh left IPL midway due to a hamstring injury. 

Fraser-McGurk’s current IPL isn’t the only evidence of his fierce hitting. Last year, he smashed AB de Villiers’ record to hammer the fastest List A hundred, off 29 balls for Tasmania, and struck at 159 in the last BBL. 

In 2009, David Warner was picked out of relative obscurity to play for the Delhi franchise, and fast-tracked into the Australia T20I XI, playing a T20 World Cup the same year. Fifteen years later, another young prodigy is aggressively competing with him for the same spot.

“My role is to go out there and score as many as possible in the first six,” he said after the innings in Delhi. “If I go on, I go on. If I get ones and twos, it’s only either because I’ve mis-hit it or maybe it’s the last ball of the over!”

Sanjay Manjrekar called him a “tornado”, Daren Ganga a “sledgehammer”: adjectives will keep pouring in for him over the summer. If anyone had a doubt, his latest innings is evidence enough that Fraser-McGurk is here for the long haul, and it could begin with breaking into the starting XI at the World Cup. No monkey business this time.