The ICC World Cup 2019 is going to be played between 10 teams. The top-7 plus the host qualify automatically and the remaining two spots are going to be decided the World Cup Qualifiers. We are not sure whether reducing the number of teams in the World Cup was the best idea but having a clear path to the World Cup for the Associate (and lower ranked ODI nations) is a definite plus.
10 teams including the West Indies, Ireland, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Scotland, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, UAE, Nepal, and Hong Kong are going to be fighting for a chance to go to the United Kingdom and play the World Cup 2019.
Let’s take a look at some of these teams as well as the chances that they have to qualify:
If there is one team that will be under pressure to qualify for the World Cup then it is the West Indies. They have slid down the ICC rankings and even though they tried to play a few matches to try and sneak in through automatic qualification, they were unable to win enough matches.
The past history of West Indies cricket and the fact their players dominate T20 leagues around the world has caused them to be looked at the favorites in this competition. We do not agree. While they are definitely among the stronger teams in this competition and have put together the best possible team, their record in ODI cricket does not make you too confident.
The West Indies have won just 1 out of their last 14 ODI matches. They played an ODI series against Afghanistan at home which they could just draw 1-1. The West Indies also took part in a tri-series with Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe where they tied one match against Zimbabwe and lost another one.
A positive for the West Indies is the presence of some of their most experienced players. Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, and Kemar Roach are all going to be available to play for the West Indies. They also have some very exciting players like Evin Lewis, Shai Hope, and Rovman Powell to look out for.
The West Indies should be one of the teams to make it through to the World Cup. Unfortunately for them, we can easily see them crumbling under pressure and falling prey to some of the hungrier teams around them.
If there is a team that will have neutral supporters around the world cheering for them then it is Afghanistan. The war-ravaged nation has taken to cricket as its national sport very quickly. They have produced cricketers of real quality and are our favorites to go through to the World Cup 2019.
Afghanistan has been playing its cricket for much of its existence against the same teams which it has been pit against. In fact, there was probably a time when Ireland, Netherland, and even Scotland would have been considered better teams than Afghanistan.
That time is past now and Afghanistan is no one’s whipping boy anymore.
Asghar Stanikzai, the captain of the Afghanistan cricket team, has been ruled out of action for the first round of matches in the tournament. This means that the hugely impressive Rashid Khan will be leading Afghanistan for the first time in his career.
Rashid Khan is the top-ranked bowler in ODI cricket and T20 cricket right now. He also had a very successful season in the BBL, made a name for himself in the IPL last year, and is definitely one of the most wanted cricketers around the world.
How the pressure of captaincy will affect him remains to be seen, though.
Mohammad Nabi is another player that has been successful around the world and will be a key player for Afghanistan. 16 year old, Mujeeb Ur Rahman will be someone to keep an eye on thanks to his mystery spin, while Mohammad Shahzad returning from a doping ban will be another player to catch the eye.
Afghanistan is going to attack opponents with quality spin but needs to ensure its own batting does not let it down in key moments.
Afghanistan beat Zimbabwe 4-1 in the UAE just before the World Cup Qualifiers, lost to Ireland 2-1 in the UE, drew a series against the West Indies, and beat Ireland 2-1 in India as well. They just need to keep calm and they should book a berth in the ICC World Cup 2019.
The ICC World Cup Qualifiers 2018 are being played in Zimbabwe and that should give an extra edge to the home team. Zimbabwe will be the best acquainted with the conditions and can possibly influence the kind of pitches they are served up as well.
Zimbabwe has seen a resurgence in their fortunes over the last 18 months or so. Players like Sikandar Raza have spoken about the positive influence Tatenda Taibu and Heath Streak have had on the team.
Led by Graeme Cremer, Zimbabwe is no longer a team that is content to make up the numbers. This ‘band of brothers’ is going into to win and we believe they have an excellent shot at meeting their objective.
The return of Kyle Jarvis and Brendan Taylor to the ODI setup is a huge boost for Zimbabwe but they know that they cannot rely on just a couple of the players to get them through. Players like Hamilton Masakadza, Sean Williams, Craig Ervine, Sikandar Raza, and Solomon Mire have tasted success at the international stage.
They have the experience that is needed to perform under pressure and seem to be extremely motivated as well.
A few concerns about the Zimbabwe team would their inconsistent bowling as well as their fallibility against spin. Their performances also vary wildly from series to series and so you never know which Zimbabwe is going to turn up.
Over the last year or so, Zimbabwe has done well against the West Indies, Sri Lanka, and even Bangladesh. They have suffered massively at the hands of Afghanistan and even registered a shock defeat to Scotland.
Their biggest success would have to be making the final of tri-nation cup in Sri Lanka as well as winning the ODI series in Sri Lanka 3-2. We love the stability that Zimbabwe has afforded its players off-late and think they are going to be one of the tougher teams to face in home conditions.
We keep hearing how Ireland needed opportunities like the ones they are getting now a decade back. That was the time when Ireland was consistently producing world class players and could have possibly dominated a competition like this. Unfortunately for them, this tournament is not being played in the past.
Ireland is bringing the most experienced squad to the tournament. Most of the players have played over a 100 ODI internationals and will know exactly what they need to do to win a tournament like this. The players to watch out from Ireland include former England internationals Ed Joyce and Boyd Rankin, Kevin O’Brien (the architect of their most famous World Cup victory ever), Niall O'Brien, and a whole host of players that play on the English county circuit.
Paul Stirling is probably the one player that is going to be feared by opponents. If he can get some early form going in the tournament then he could well be the player around which Ireland can rally.
Ireland would also have received a huge boost by beating Afghanistan 2-1 in a series they played just before these qualifiers but their record has been very spotty in the last 12 months or so.
We worry that Ireland is playing an aging team not just because of experience but because of a lack of options. They have players that have played multiple world cups but they have also been around long enough for opponents to know their tricks.
Like most lower ranked ODI teams, batting is a bit of problem for Ireland. They are also very vulnerable to spin, something that they are going to face plenty of in Zimbabwe. The Irish bowling is in better shape and hopefully, their experienced players can keep things tight enough to compensate for their weakness in batting.
After the four favorites for the two spots up for grabs, Scotland and Netherlands would probably consider themselves somewhere in the middle of the pack. They are a run below the four favorites in terms of quality but a definite rung above the four remaining teams in the competition.
Scotland is the defending champion from the last World Cup Qualifier, although, that tournament was not contested by 4 test playing nations. Scotland will be one of the teams that the other teams will be wary of.
They are inconsistent on the best of days but do have the talent to upset some of the bigger teams in the competition. A lot will depend on Kyle Coetzer with the bat. He is the captain and the senior most player in the Scotland side. He also has the experience of being able to play big innings on the big stage but the current format requires consistent performances.
Scotland is a little light on batting and their spinners are not the kind that will threaten the other teams as well. Their pace bowling, though, is a quite decent thanks to players like Brad Wheal, Safyaan Sharif, Alasdair Evans, and Stuart Whittingham.
The Netherlands comes into the qualifiers knowing fully well that they will need a lot of luck to be able to reach the finals. They are missing their highest wicket taker from the WCL Championship, and medium pacer Logan van Beek.
Ryan Ten Doeschate will be the gun batsman that is expected to lead them forward while captain Peter Borren, Stephan Myburgh, Timm van der Guten, and Roelof van der Merwe will be the other key players.
Van der Merwe and Ten Doeschate have the experience of playing T20 cricket around the world and that should come in very handy as well. Realistically, though, we think the Netherlands should beat teams like Nepal, Papua New Guinea, and Hong Kong quite easily but will struggle to beat the favorites in this tournament.
These are the four teams that will realistically be weeded out during the group stages of the format. The story of Nepal making the qualifiers is one that a movie can be made about although people might find it too unrealistic!
Nepal and UAE are the two teams that are expected to provide some semblance of a challenge to the other teams. They have both improved considerably in recent times and have some decent fan support back at home. In fact, in the case of Nepal, cricket is the most popular sport in the country and its players are looked at as absolute heroes.
Hong Kong will be disappointed that Mark Chapman is not going to be available for the qualifiers but it is clear that his career now lies with New Zealand. Babar Hayat will lead the Hong Kong team and will hope his players have gained from the experience of playing in the Hong Kong T20 Blitz.
Papua New Guinea is another team that comes from a region where cricket is extremely popular but they do not quite have the cricketing structure in place to be able to produce world class players at the moment.
The best that these four teams can hope for is to beat their competitors and maybe pull off an upset against the favorites for this tournament.
The difference in strength between most of these teams should be apparant, although we do foresee potential for upsets. For example, we think that West Indies might end up not even qualifying for the 2019 Cricket World Cup. Although, just enough of a chance that we will bet on it.
We predict that Afghanistan will take it all and have them followed closely by Zimbabwe and West Indies. Ireland might be able to pull close here, with Scotland and Netherlands pulling the occasional upset, but we still think the top is too strong for them at the moment.