With the Cricket World Cup just a little over a month away, the preparations are well and truly underway. Set to kick off on Valentine’s Day, that is, 14th February, with Sri Lanka taking on the hosts New Zealand at Christchurch.
Kiwis and Kangaroos are jointly hosting the competition for the first time since 1992 and are looking good for strong performances, but other teams are gearing up as well to put fierce challenge in front of them. Let’s take a look at the teams, their form, key players and their chances of winning the world cup.
The Aussie ODI line-up is always formidable while playing at home. Furthermore, they have the likes of Finch, Maxwell and Faulkner to add icing on the cake. The advantage of playing in familiar conditions will certainly improve their chances.
They have a decent bowling attack with Starc, Johnson and Faulkner contributing here as well. Shane Watson has proved himself in the past and would be an important pillar in the team. Smith’s recent performance in the test series against India have raised eyebrows of many and he can singlehandedly guide the team home if he continues to play like he is doing.
Michael Clarke’s injury is surely a matter of concern as it has raised doubts over captaincy. In case of his unavailability, George Bailey is likely to fill into his shoes as a captain. Regardless, the Kangaroos have a fine side which can really go the distance especially in home conditions.
Players to watch out for: Glenn Maxwell, Steven Smith, David Warner, Shane Watson.
Outright Win Odds: 3.50 @ Bet365
Afghanistan has jumped leaps and bounds since their arrival at the international scene. They’ve now become a better team and can topple the more established teams on their day. Under the captaincy of experienced Mohammad Nabi, they have good mixture of experience and youth. Mohammad Nabi is an experienced campaigner and is well supported by Asghar Stanikzai and Nawroz Mangal. Shapoor Zadran is a fast bowler who can bowl well ad put opposition batsmen in trouble.
Afghanistan, however, are not expected of putting any dent in opposition’s armour in this World Cup.
Players to watch out for: Asghar Stanikzai, Mohammad Nabi, Shapoor Zadran.
Outright Win Odds: 1001.00 @ Bet365
Bangladesh has gone through lots of changes in last few years and has evolved as a better team. Captaincy now rests on the shoulders of Mashrafe Mortaza who happens to be the most experienced player of the team as well. Team relies heavily on all-round skills of Shakib al Hasan and finishing skills of Mushfiqur Rahim. Tamim Iqbal’s role will be vital at the top of the order.
The Bangladeshi side is highlighted by their army of left-arm spin bowlers. Their spin bowlers, however, might not be as effective in Australian conditions as they are in subcontinent.
Bangladesh may not have big names in their squad, but they certainly do have enough to challenge big teams and spoil their chances in the competition.
Players to watch out for: Shakib al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim.
Outright Win Odds: 101.00 @ Bet365
England has been criticized heavily because of their poor performance in this version of the game and they’d love to change things around. Eoin Morgan will be leading the side as Alastair Cook is sacked from the ODI team.
The team is fairly young with James Tredwell being the oldest player who will celebrate his 33rd birthday during the World Cup. Despite full of youth, this English squad is well acquainted to this format of the game. Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Finn will carry the responsibility of bowling. Youngster James Taylor has been brilliant in last few ODIs and so has Joe Root. Gary Ballance can roll his arm along with hitting the ball out of the park. Moeen Ali too can be mighty effective with the ball as he showed against Indians in sub-helpful conditions.
This side is a young, energetic and a therefore a great fielding unit. If they manage to hold their nerve in close encounters, they can really go the distance.
Players to watch out for: Eoin Morgan, James Taylor, Ravi Bopara.
Outright Win Odds: 13.00 @ Bet365
The journey for the defending champions won’t be as easy as the last time in this World Cup. They’ll be playing in relatively alien conditions and have not been successful in the longest format of the game away. However, the short version of the game might just be the tonic the players need to perform.
Kohli has been in fine touch and his performance will be crucial if India has to repeat the WC11 performance. Their bowling would be under the pump after their dreadful performance in Australian test series. Bhuvneshwar Kumar will play a key role with his bowling upfront. Their batting however is pretty strong which usually does compensate for the bowling. Kohli is in superb touch and MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina are counted as one of the best finishers of the game. If they are able to overcome their Achilles heel, it won’t be surprising if they go all the way in the tournament.
Players to watch out for: Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Bhuwneshwar Kumar.
Outright Win Odds: 6.00 @ Bet365
Ireland has a nice history of spoiling the chances of other teams in the World Cup. They knocked Pakistan out of ’07 WC and then toppled England after miraculously chasing a huge target. Arguably one of the best associate nations, Ireland winning the World Cup is an extremely remote possibility. However, they can really cause some big upsets.
George Dockrell is a fine young left-arm spinner who has played a key role in their bowling department over the past few years. Their batting rests upon the shoulders of Paul Stirling, Niall ‘O Brian and skipper William Porterfield. Ireland features a nice blend of youth and experience and like they’ve done in the past, we expect some table-turning fireworks from them this year as well.
Players to watch out for: Paul Stirling, Kevin ‘O Brian, George Dockrell.
Outright Win Odds: 501.00 @ Bet365
New Zealand has started to display their skills as the tournament is getting closer. They were fantastic in the Test series against Sri Lanka and started their ODI campaign with a victory.
Brendon McCullum has been instrumental in their recent success. Kane Williamson has been their star batsmen ably supported by Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson and Ben Watling at times. Southee and Boult have bowled brilliantly well and can bowl Yorkers in death overs. Experience might be a thing where this team might struggle, otherwise this talent side, in the home conditions, will be a tough team to face.
Players to watch out for: Kane Williamson, Corey Anderson, Brendon McCullum.
Outright Win Odds: 8.00 @ Bet365
Pakistan’s stay at the World Cup has always been entertaining. They have many young and talented players along with the likes of Misbah ul Haq, Shahid Afridi and Younis Khan who will be itching to perfom at the big stage.
They have a decent pace battery consisting of tall Irfan Khan, Junaid Khan and sharp Wahab Riaz who can really cause some trouble in pace-friendly conditions. Spin department too is well equipped with Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez. Younis Khan and skipper Misbah ul Haq bring calmness to the batting order with exuberance from Ahmed Shahzad and Umar Akmal capable of lighting the stage on fire. Shahid Afridi’s recent ODI batting performances has surely spiked their chances in the competition and despite playing in unknown conditions; they will be a tough team to deal with, like they’ve always been.
Players to watch out for: Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmad Shahzad, Junaid Khan.
Outright Win Odds: 11.00 @ Bet365
Scotland, playing under the captaincy of Preston Mommson is a good associate team and can at least put other associate nations in trouble with their game, if not the full ones. Kyle Coetzer, a regular performer at domestic level will be expected to perform here as well. Matt Machan has done exceedingly well in the domestic circuit in the shorter versions of the game. Ian Wardlaw is a good bowler and has performed decently for Yorkshire in the recent past.
Scotland is pretty unlikely to present major problems to major teams, but cricket is often known as the game of uncertainty.
Players to watch out for: Kyle Coetzer, Matt Machan.
Outright Win Odds: 2001.00 @ Bet365
The Proteas, historically, have more often than not started the World Cup as one of the favourites and ended up being on the receiving end of luck. With AB de Villiers as skipper and stalwart of batting lineup which comprises of Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, David Miller and young Quinton de Kock, the South African team can make a mockery of any score on their day.
Their bowling department is led by Dale Steyn ably supported by Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell and Kyle Abbot and Imran Tahir. They’ve always known to be an excellent fielding side and it’s no different this time as well. They would have to match their performance with the team they have on paper, if they have to remove the ‘Chokers’ tag associated with them. Should they manage to do so, going all the way in the tournament might be like a walk in the park for them.
Players to watch out for: AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla, David Miller.
Outright Win Odds: 5.00 @ Bet365
The world will be bidding farewell to the two Sri Lankan legends of the game: Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene post this ICC event and Sri Lanka would love to gift the trophy to them.
Angelo Matthews will be leading the side with absolutely no shortage of experience at his disposal. Having aforementioned legends along with Dilshan will be of great help. Lasith Malinga has the ability to destroy any batting line-up by his lethal toe crushers. Rangana Herath can trap the batsmen with his turning deliveries. The all-round skills of Thisara Perera and skipper himself can come in handy whether it is bowling or batting with both more than capable with the bat to clear big boundaries.
Sri Lanka is a well-balanced side, although a little weak as far as bowling is concerned, but still a strong enough contender for the trophy.
Players to watch out for: Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Angello Matthews, Lasith Malinga.
Outright Win Odds: 10.00 @ Bet365
United Arab Emirates managed to qualify for the World Cup and there will be a lot to learn for them. Playing under the leadership of Mahammad Tauqir, UAE will be looking to make a mark in this tournament. Khurram Khan is another experienced campaigner in the squad who has participated in some of the ICC events before. While winning the cup is certainly not a realistic possibility for them, they surely are capable of putting up a fight. They can certainly fancy their chances against the weaker teams in the competition and maybe they can make a mark.
Players to watch out for: Khurram Khan, Mohammad Tauqir.
Outright Win Odds: 3001.00 @ Bet365
One of the most energetic teams around, West Indies is a fun to watch playing kind of team. Not only energy, they are just as clinical when it comes to the job. In the recently played series against South Africa, they won the first two games rather easily, making a mockery of South African bowlers.
Chris Gayle always poses a threat, no matter the surface or the opposition and Marlon Samuels is just as useful. Dwayne Smith has showed his skill in the past, especially in the IPL. Although they will miss the experience of Bravo and Pollard, they have the side that can cause some serious damage. Sunil Narine has always been difficult to put away and he will be instrumental if West Indies does well in the bowling department.
West Indies is a little inexperienced and unpredictable side and they might be tagged as underdogs, but they can prove to be dark horses in this tournament.
Players to watch out for: Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Sunil Narine, Darren Sammy.
Outright Win Odds: 15.00 @ Bet365
Zimbabwe may not be at the pinnacle of their game, they are slowly but surely improving with time and this ICC event might just be the catalyst they need. The team has done well under the leadership of Elton Chigumbura who himself has contributed much to the team’s success. Brendan Taylor is one of the most experienced blokes in the team and his batting performance would be crucial at the top of the order. Team will have to perform well collectively in all departments to challenge major players in the competition.
Players to watch out for: Brendan Taylor, Prosper Utseya.
Outright Win Odds: 501.00 @ Bet365
The Cricket World Cup is a big event, both in terms of stature and duration and winning it is not going to be easy task for any team. Although there are no clear favourites, there are sides that look better than the rest.
Australia and New Zealand will have the home advantage in addition to the balanced squads they already have. India is a decent team and they look and perform completely differently in the coloured outfit. Sri Lanka is a good side, but might struggle in Australian conditions.
I think India, Australia and South Africa stand a fair chance to win the cup. However, Cricket can be anyone’s game, especially the shorter versions, so it’s pretty hard to choose between the sides, but considering the squads on paper, I’ll place my money on South Africa to take the cup home and if they can hold there nerve in tough situations, it is certainly a big possibility.