CRICKET WORLD CUP 2015 PREVIEW:
Pool A: England, Australia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Afghanistan, Scotland.
England: After 3 world cup final appearance from first five, England’s performance in next 5 world cup can be termed as “Miserable”. England selectors were brave enough to left out their test captain, Alistair Cook and the star – Kevin Pietersen. Brits return though with four experienced players from 2011 world cup: James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara and their captain Eoin Morgan. England has a very balanced side with mix of youth and experience in both bowling and batting department.
I.Bell, M.Ali, J.Taylor, J.Root, E.Morgan, R.Bopara, J.Buttler, C.Woakes, S.Broad, J.Anderson, S.Finn
• Balance and Hales may be used if J.Taylor keeps failing.
• Tredwell may be inserted in turning track and if Moeen Ali fails.
• C.Jordan may come in if Woakes and Finn fails.
• Strong Bowling Unit: Anderson along with M.Johnson and D.Steyn is among the Top 3 fast bowlers, followed up with Broad and Finn and spin of Moeen Ali.
• Reliable lower middle order of Root-Morgan and good batting depth with Bopara-Buttler.
• Depth Bowling: Gives away too many runs in last 10 overs.
• Erratic Top Order: Moeen Ali, Taylor
Prediction: Will win against Minnows (Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Scotland) but struggle against New Zealand, Sri Lanka (close game) and Australia (close game). End up qualifying for next round as fourth team.
They have won 4 world cups and came in six world cup finals out of 10, which makes them the number 1 team in the World Cup. However, only world cup that got played in Australia, they did not even make it in the Semi-Finals. Can History repeat again? Depends upon Captain Clarke’s injury report. Clarke, M.Johnson, B.Haddin, Watson returns from 2011 world cup squad along with curious case of S.Smith, who was upcoming leg spinner and now Australia’s number 1 batsman. Hussey brothers are replaced by Marsh & Maxwell.
D.Warner, A.Finch, S.Watson – M.Clarke, S.Smith, G.Bailey, G.Maxwell, M.Marsh, B.Haddin, J.Faulkner, M.Johnson, M.Starc
• If Clarke and M.Marsh are fit, Shane Watson will be out of squad.
• Starc or Johnson (if injured) can be replaced by Hazelwood and Cummins.
• If pitch favors spin, Doherty may sneak in place of any of the pace bowler.
• If Finch struggles and Watson does not (with Clarke-M.Marsh fit), we may see two w’s opening.
• Strong and in form batting top order
• Excellent fielding unit
• Winning momentum, playing at home
• 3 Left arm quick bowlers – M.Johnson with pace; Starc’s wicket taking ability and Faulkner’s depth bowling.
• Lack of quality spin bowler
• In-experience lower middle order in batting
• Pressure of playing at home in front of crowd which expects nothing less than winning the tournament
Prediction: Will win mostly all the Pool A matches and rank at number 1 for next round; will win Quarter Final as well (mostly against West Indies); may lose in Semi-Final or Finals.
Sri Lanka has lost two back to back World Cup Finals (2007 and 2011); will they be lucky third time? They have to be extremely lucky to actually reach to the World cup finals this time. As many as 8 players return from the 2011 World Cup Squad in 2015, makes them the most experienced side of this world cup. After 5 great world cups, Sri Lanka will miss the services of their all time best off spinner: M.Murlitharan.
D.Karunaratne, T.Dilshan, K.Sangakkara, M.Jayawardene, A.Mathews, L.Thirimanne, J.Mendis, T.Perera, N.Kulasekara, L.Malinga, R.Herath
• If Karunaratne fails, Thirimanne or Jayawardene will be asked to open and Chandimal will get in the middle order.
• If bowling unit looks thin, then T.Perera or J.Mendis will be replaced by either Lakmal or Prasad.
• Herath and Senanayake will be switched depending upon opposition has more right handers or left handers in the middle order.
• Experienced top order of Dilshan-Sangakkara & Jayawardene
• World’s best all rounder – A.Mathews, plus back up all rounders makes it very long batting order.
• Two excellent spin bowlers.
• Lethal and experienced depth bowling of L.Malinga.
• Entering world cup with two back to back losing tours of S.Africa & New Zealand.
• Few old legs in the fielding department
• Lack of wicket-taking bowlers at the top of the inning.
Prediction: Will win mostly all the Pool A matches except against Australia and New Zealand. Mostly will rank number 2 or 3 depending upon New Zealand game at the end of round 1. Their qualification to Semi-Final will depend upon whom they are being placed against (India or Pakistan).
They created an upset in 1999 World cup to win against Pakistan and repeated it in 2007 to win against India. However after that it was a downward path. Sehwag’s 175 in 2011 ensured Bangladesh was going nowhere but out of the world cup. 2015 is going to be even tougher with bouncy pitches. Bangladesh has played 12 ODI matches all together in Australia and New Zealand and has never won a game. Perhaps that will change when they face Afghanistan and Scotland.
T.Iqbal, A.Haque, S.Sarkar, Mahmudullah, S.A.Hassan, M.Rahim, S.Rahman, A.Hossain, M.Mortaza, T.Islam, R.Hossain
• N.Hossain may replace S.Rahman in case opposition has too many lefties.
• T.Ahmed may get in to have four man pace attack for bouncy pitch.
• M.Haque may get in if T.Islam in-experience needs to be replaced.
• A.Sunny will be very lucky to get a game.
• Sakib Al Hassan – The only all-rounder in the history of game to rank number 1 in ICC in all format of the game.
• T.Iqbal, Mahmudullah and M.Rahim can provide good support in batting.
• Game against England is in Adelaide, where pitch may offer some spin. Bangladesh will have minimum of 3 spinners in the side and that could be handy.
• Un-reliable batting order
• Lackluster pace attack
• Struggle against bouncy pitches, bad record in Australia-New Zealand.
Will win against Scotland. First game will be cracker against Afghanistan. May hope to create upset against England but most likely they will win just 1 game.
Always regarded as the “Underdog” team of the tournament, New Zealand is yet to play in World Cup Finals. Couple of years ago, they were so much down and out, that while forming the group for world cup, they were ranked number 9 team (behind Bangladesh). Brendon McCullum took over the captainship and his form with the help of Kane Williamson. Currently, along with S.Africa and Australia, New Zealand is regarded as one of the favorite to win this World Cup. As many as seven players return from 2011 World cup squad (1 less than Sri Lanka) makes it very experienced unit as well.
M.Guptill, B.McCullum, K.Williamson, R.Taylor, G.Elliott, C.Anderson, L.Ronchi, D.Vettori, T.Southee, M.McClenaghan, T.Boult
• A.Milne and K.Mills may replace any of the three pace bowlers from the probable XI, depending upon pitch, opposition and their current form.
• T.Latham may replace B.McCullum at the top of the order, if McCullum feels lower order needs some experience and hence Elliott or C.Anderson may miss out.
• N.McCullum may come in for D.Vettori due to form or injury.
• They will play at Home and hence favorable conditions till Final.
• Very well balanced and in form team. Top 4 batsmen in good form (McCullum) & Class (Williamson), lower order of Elliott-Anderson-Ronchi are good hitters, tail enders can bat as well.
• Excellent fielding unit (as always)
• Plenty of options with the ball with 6 regular bowlers; 3 pacers, 2 medium pacers and a spinner, including left arm options.
• Decent bowlers but none of them are match winning bowlers.
• Top order batting unit may struggle against good bowling attack on a bowler friendly pitch.
Prediction: New Zealand will win most of the group A matches except against Australia. Quarter Final match, they may play against Pakistan and win it as well (revenge of 1992 Semi Final). Semi-Final and Final performance depends upon form of opposition.
Pool B: S.Africa, India, Pakistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland and UAE.
S.Africa: They almost reached final in 92 and rain took it away. They almost tried to reach semi-final in 96 and Brian Lara took it away. They almost reached final in 1999 and Klusener choked. They did not made it in the semi final even when they played at home in 2003. Tried it six times, almost always the best team in every world cup, but in the end they just find a way to lose. S.Africa along with New Zealand have never played in world cup finals (yet) and hence have lot of sympathy from the well-wishers to be there in 2015 World cup finals. Their and World’s best all rounder Jacques Kallis retired from all format just last year, letting go his world cup dream. S.Africans will be delighted to give Kallis gift of world cup and World’s best batsman A.B.DeVillers deserves a champion tag associated with him. Just like Sri Lanka as many as 8 players return from 2011 World Cup Squad in 2015.
Q. De Kock, H.Amla, F.Du Plessis, A.B.DeVillers, D.Miller, J.P.Duminy, F.Behardien, D.Steyn, M.Morkel, V.Philander, I.Tahir
• R.Rossouw may get in the place of Q.De Kock if he is struggling.
• W.Parnell may get in the place of Behardien or Philander, if left arm option is required.
• K.Abott may not make it in the playing XI.
• A.B.DeVillers is World’s best batsman, especially unstoppable in last few overs.
• Long batting order with Amla-Du Plessis in the top order, Miller-Duminy in lower order and DeVillers controlling at number 4.
• World’s best pair of fast bowlers (Steyn-Morkel), with two spinners (Tahir, Duminy) and two other medium pacers.
• Very Athletic fielding side
• In-experienced and unreliable lower batting order
• Fifth bowler struggle
• Choking effect (pressure) in crunch games
• Retirement of world class all rounder Kallis’s absence
Although universally regarded as the best team in this world cup along with Australia, we may see S.Africa struggling to make it to the Finals (and even Semi Final) due to the format and their choking behavior. In group stage, they may lose a game at least (India or Pakistan) and could be slated to play against England in Quarter Final (which may be difficult).
Defending World Cup champions have won it twice (83, 2011) and lost once in the World cup Final (2003). After six world cups, India will be without master blaster Sachin Tendulkar. Dhoni, a proven leader will try to imitate C.Lloyd and R.Ponting to win back to back world cups. Only 4 squad members (Dhoni, Kohli, Raina and Ashwin) returns from 2011 to 2015, as selectors backed young guns compare to experienced available players such as Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj, Harbhajan & Zaheer Khan.
S.Dhawan, R.Sharma, A.Rahane, V.Kohli, S.Raina, M S Dhoni, S.Binny, R.Ashwin, B.Kumar, M.Shami, U.Yadav.
• Rayudu may join in place of Dhawan (promoting Rahane to open the inning) or S.Raina (if he struggles with the bat)
• R.Jadeja might be preferred over S.Binny and may replace R.Ashwin if he struggles.
• M.Sharma may replace B.Kumar or U.Yadav.
• Virat Kohli is second best batsman in the world (after A.B.DeVillers).
• M.S.Dhoni’s experience as leader and in the closing (tight) games as batsman.
• Excellent fielding side, good spin options.
• Struggling S.Dhawan at the top of the order and Raina in the lower order.
• Last 10 overs: Gives away too many runs and score not many while batting.
• Winless previous tour (last few months), hence lack of confidence.
Prediction: It’s an easy group with struggling West Indies and two minnows (Zimbabwe-Ireland) hence qualifying to quarter final is expected. If they manage to avoid either Australia or New Zealand in Quarter Final, India shall qualify for Semi-Finals. It will be very optimistic approach to count them as finalist, but if they do, considering the ability to perform under pressure of Dhoni-Kohli, they may win it too.
Only world cup that got played in Australia was won by Pakistan, which makes them put in the bracket of favorites. Historically, Pakistan has remained always a team of uncertainty (hence exciting) and unknowns. Pakistan’s ultimate strength always has been their bowling unit from Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Mustaq Ahmed, Saqlain Mushtaq and so on, but 2015 World cup squad has highly in-experienced bowling unit (except ever young Shahid Afridi). Misbah Ul Haq is literally carrying this team since last three years and it will be nothing short of miracle if he helps them win this World cup.
A.Shehzad, N.Jamshed, Younis Khan, S.Maqsood, Misbah Ul Haq, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, W.Riaz, Yasir Shah, Mohd. Irfan, Sohail Khan
• Sarfaraz Ahmed may get in place of N.Jamshed to open the inning or S.Maqsood
• Rahat ali (who has not played ODI yet) may get in if either W.Riaz or Mohd Irfan (two other left armers) are not doing good.
• Ehsan Adil or H.Sohail may get in place of Sohail Khan
• Shahid Afridi has ability to turn the game with bat and ball in the matter of few overs.
• Batting unit is very settled with A.Shehzad’s explosive batting at the top of the order, middle overs are controlled by Y.Khan and Misbah and Umar Akmal-Afridi doing damage in depth.
• Two Leg Spinners (Afridi and Yasir Shah), makes them threatening bowling unit in the middle overs.
• Two good left arm pace bowlers: Mohd Irfan and W.Riaz (wicket taking).
• Absence of Saeed Ajmal: World’s best spinner in the playing squad.
• Highly inexperienced bowling unit.
• Unreliable opening batsman to start the inning
Prediction: If the mid-way squad changes (Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal) do happen then it may enforce their bowling unit and then Pakistan could be a team to be afraid of. Pakistan will qualify for the next round. Whether they go through to the Semi Final or not, depends upon their first game against India. If they win, they may play England or Sri Lanka in Quarters and hence easy victory to go through till Semi Final.
After winning first two world cups, things have went bad to worst and now horrible for west indies. Board troubles, lack of quality from players and now selection issues, put west indies in big trouble. With no Narine, D.Bravo and lack of reliable batsman, it will be a tough task for highly inexperienced 23 year old Holder to lead the side and drive them to victory.
C.Gayle, D.Smith, D.Bravo, M.Samuels, L.Simmons, D.Ramdin, D.Sammy, S.Benn, J.Taylor, J.Holder, K.Roach
• A.Russell can replace D.Sammy
• N.Miller can replace S.Benn
• S. Cottrell, J.Carter can replace J.Taylor and K.Roach in case of injury or bad form.
• In form C.Gayle can destroy bowling attacks and win matches single handedly.
• Samuels and L.Simmons are reliable in the middle overs
• Lower order can bat a bit and hit few boundaries in final overs.
• Batting top order is unreliable and inconsistent.
• In experienced captain and bowling attack.
• Weak fielding side.
Prediction: If Zimbabwe and Ireland play to their potential, they have a chance to go through to the next round in place of West Indies. It’s highly doubtful for West Indies to qualify for quarter final but even if they do, that will be the end of road for them.
1983 Zimbabwe had their best team with D.Fletcher as captain, D.Houghton, G.Hick, Pycroft, Traicos, K.Curran etc, but Kapil’s 175 destroyed them. They bounced back with Flower brothers, Neil Johnson etc in 1999, but then it took them a while to re-group. Brendon Taylor – their captain is the best thing happened to Zimbabwe cricket in last decade or so, but can one man drive them to the next round?
Ireland was the only non-test playing nation, which looked threatening in 2011 to make it to the next round. Similar and more experienced squad in 2015 (and struggling West Indies team) may just be what doctor’s ordered for them to go through. Format will not make it easy for them, but they will give a lot of fight in almost all games. O’Brien brothers are the key for their success but they have reliable top batting order (lead by Porterfield, Joyce, Stirling), followed up by O’brien brothers and Wilson. Dockrell and Mooney are impressive in the bowling department.
Afghanistan, UAE & Scotland:
In previous world cups, we had Netherlands and Kenya qualified for World Cup, and this year we have Afghanistan, Scotland and UAE. Neither of these 3 is going to create any impact in this World Cup. Afghanistan at least has a chance to register one world cup win against Scotland, but otherwise, none of these associate teams will have any impact whatsoever.
Due to the format, big eight may just go through to the next round. Australia, S.Africa and New Zealand remain favorites to make it through to the semi-final. There should be good fight for the fourth spot between India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and England. World Cups always give surprisingly results and underdogs like West Indies and minnows like Zimbabwe, Ireland, may just hope to shake things up a bit. Let the fun begin!!!