Just as football fans rejoiced last year, now it is the turn of cricket fans to roar for the World Cup in Australia & New Zealand starting from 14th Feb. There are only a couple of weeks left for the tournament to start and all the teams would be raring to have another chance at the top prize in One Day cricket. It is the one tournament that features the top eight teams and associates who look to make a mark in front of the whole world. The last edition of the World Cup in India was a big hit and more can be expected this time around as well.
Teams and Player Analysis
Starting with the current World Champions India, there are few doubts as to who will be a part of the final 15 member squad on account of injuries to fast bowlers Ishant Sharma and possible Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. India came to Australia a couple of months back and has not won a single match during their entire tour. Injuries to players have only increased their problems going into the World Cup. Rohit Sharma looked in great form as he scored a century in the first ODI but has been out since due to a hamstring injury, same injury that threatens Ishant Sharma’s chances of playing in the World Cup. None of the bowlers have fared too well in the recently concluded tri-series and the batsmen have not looked in good form either. The opening match between India and Pakistan has been advertised as a blockbuster but it remains to be seen how well India can do on Australian pitches. The batsmen namely Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Rahane will have to do the bulk of the scoring to take India past the top 8 stage. India’s chances to win the world cup remain slim despite of being the defending champions. However, they can reach the semi-finals if their batsmen play well.
Sri Lanka was the other finalist of the 2011 World Cup but their chances of making it to the semi-finals are not too good. Senanayeke has faced a ban and can be called again during the World Cup. Malinga is not in the best form as well. Both their pace and spin bowling do not seem a good fit for the conditions in New Zealand as seen in the recently concluded One Day series against New Zealand. Their batting relies heavily on the pair of Sangakkara and Jayawardene with Dilshan providing the occasional lending hand. Sri Lanka does not look strong for this World Cup despite being in the finals of the last two editions of the World Cup.
Two other teams from Asia are Pakistan and Bangladesh and they have had several problems in the recent past to come up as strong contenders for the World Cup throne. Pakistan will be better off by playing their first match against India, an opponent they are yet to beat in World Cup cricket. They will be under less pressure once they are done with this match. However, they will be playing without the services of their premiere spinner Ajmal and even Hafeez will not be bowling in the tournament. Their fate depends on quite a lot of youngster who do not have much experience of playing in the World Cup. Afrdi will be a key player with the ball in the absence of Ajmal while Misbah , Hafeez and Younis Khan have to score the runs for the team.
Bangladesh will be going in with Mashrafe Mortaza a as their captain and are most likely to miss out on reaching the quarter-final from Group A. Their only chance is surprise Sri Lanka in the group stages but it seems unlikely. Not much is expected from this side due to the format of the World Cup.
New Zeland is one of the host nations and they have always been the dark horses in any World Cup. However, they have reached the knockout stage more than even Australia in World Cup history. New Zealand is riding on a high after the drubbing they gave to Sri Lanka and is one of the favorites to make it to at least the top 4. They have the bowlers for the conditions and their batsmen like McCullum, Kane Williamson and even Ronchi are in great form. Corey Anderson will be the surprise package of the tournament and will play a crucial role to take his team all the way. New Zealand has enough experience with the likes of Vettori, Grant Elliot and Ross Taylor to face any situation and come out of it on the victorious side. They will be the one of the most dangerous sides of the tournament if they play to their potential.
The other host nation, Australia has one of the best compositions comprising of fast bowlers, all-rounders and stroke players. They are expected to make the finals of the tournament with the likes of Warner, Smith and Finch striking form. Watson and Maxwell are two of the most dangerous batsmen in the world as they can win a match completely on their own. Both can bowl well as well with Watson having the capability to win the match with his bowling as well. Michael Clarke is still an uncertainty to play in the World Cup as he is struggling to get fit in time. The bowling however, is one of the best in the tournament with Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc leading the pack. Hazelwood has been impressive as well in recent times and Doherty has been a reliable spinner in domestic cricket when it comes to the shorter forms of the game. The only worry for Australia will be James Faulkner who picked up an injury in the final of the Carlton Mid series. He is good death overs bowler and one of the best finishers at present in World cricket. He will be missed by the team if he does not get fit in time which seems to be the case at the moment. His replacement would be Henriques or Shaun Marsh, both talented players. Australia is the frontrunner to win the World Cup for the fifth time.
South Africa has never won a cricket World Cup, some due to bad luck and some due to their own doing. They have choked at crucial moments and have not won the tournament despite looking like the best team at times. Once again, they have a formidable team with Du Plessis and De Villiers in the form of their life. Amla has been prolific with his run making while David Miller down the order has been brutal. They have a bowling lineup that can destroy any team on a given day with Dale Steyn in good form. Morkel, Philander have the tendency to keep attacking at all times and Imran Tahir is unplayable at times. The spinner might easily win a couple of games for the side. However, luck has historically not favored the side. They have to break free from the chokers tag as they have the best chance of winning the World Cup this time.
Like South Africa, another team to never win the World Cup is England. England were good in some areas during the Carlton Mid Series but were easily outplayed by Australia throughout the tournament. They do not have the much help in the batting except Root, Bell and Morgan. Their bowling is good in patches and this is not a team that can lift the World Cup.
One of the weakest Test playing country in this edition of the World Cup is West Indies. They have dropped Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard from the squad, a move that almost sends across a message that they do not want to win the World Cup. With Narine opting out of the World Cup as well to fix his bowling action, the chances of the team is almost nil. Gayle and Samuels have looked good but their bowling does not look good. It will take a miracle for West Indies to lift the World Cup.
Apart from these teams, there is not much to talk about as the associate teams and Zimbabwe make up the list of countries participating in the World Cup. Ireland may spring a surprise or too by beating a weakened West Indies. But, there is not much hope for any of the other teams like Afghanistan, Scotland and UAE (playing the World Cup after 20 years). None of these teams will have much of an impact in the tournament but they will play their hearts out no doubt.
ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Predictions
None of the Asian countries will fare well in this World Cup as their bowling is weak. The teams with the best bowling attack are Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. These teams should get to the semi-finals along with India or England. New Zealand has never won a World Cup and can surprise South Africa and Australia to take the Cup on this occasion. With New Zealand placed at odds of 6.50 (third favorites to win the CUP) at Bet365 , it seems a good choice. They are playing at home and have that extra advantage that can help them prevail and conquer the rest in ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.