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Cricket’s biggest carnival

As the top ten cricket teams face each other for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England, Patriot analyses the strengths and weaknesses of each team, and who will likely lift the trophy on July 14 at Lord’s

India

The team that we will look forward to most are Virat Kohli’s men in blue. This will be Kohli’s first World Cup as captain, as the team gears up for their third World Cup trophy after the 1983 and 2011 triumphs. After finishing semi-finalists in 2015, India will look to go one step ahead and win the trophy this time.

Strengths: For the first time India is going into the World Cup with one of the best pace bowling line ups in the world. While Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami have been in great form in the past year, Jasprit Bumrah is the main man for them. Chahal and Yadav too form a great spin bowling duo. India have a solid top order and a good lower middle order.

Weaknesses: The middle order is a cause of concern for the men in blue, especially the number four position. They have selected KL Rahul and Vijay Shankar for the position, but they have no solid frontrunner for the position. So, they have to chop and change as the tournament progresses.

Key Players: Jasprit Bumrah, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya

Probable finish:  Finalists/ Champions

England

Currently the number one side in the ICC ODI rankings, England have been on a roll recently. Since 2016, they lost just four ODI matches at home. Being led by Eoin Morgan, England will be looking to win their first ever ODI World Cup — that too on home soil. The past two World Cups have both been won by the host countries — India in 2011 and Australia in 2015. Can the English make it three in a row for their home teams?

Strengths: England are the best batting unit in the world right now. Right from Johnny Bairstow to Mark Wood, the lions bat right till number 11. Their batting performances have been extraordinary. Since the 2015 World cup England have crossed 400 runs no less than 38 times. In the recent series against Pakistan, they have consistently chased down 350+ scores in all the matches. Jofra Archer is now in the England setup after his citizenship issues, and his death bowling coupled with his tonking abilities will provide them with the perfect all-rounder.

Weaknesses: England with an economy rate of 5.75 are the worst performing bowling unit since the 2015 World Cup. Their batsmen have performed so outstandingly for the past few seasons that their bowling weaknesses have been overshadowed. Their pace attack is inconsistent, and their main spinner Adil Rashid too is returning from an injury.

Key Players: Jos Buttler, Johnny Bairstow, Jofra Archer, Joe Root

Probable Finish: Finalists/Champions

Australia

Australia come to the tournament for the first time since 1999 not as the favourites. The defending champions, the men in yellow have dominated the history of this tournament having won it a record five teams. However, the kangaroos have been going through a rough patch off late owing to the whole sandpaper controversy last year. They have however been boosted by the returning David Warner and Steve Smith, while Mitchell Starc too has returned after a career threatening injury.

Strengths: The returning duo of Warner and Smith have both been in blazing form, and will certainly provide a huge boost to their batting. These two, coupled with an in-form Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja provide a solid top four. This will be followed by the trailblazing Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis. So they have their all round options open as well. The trio of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter — Nile give a solid pace bowling combination

Weaknesses: Warner, Smith and Starc just haven’t played enough international cricket in the past year, and performing straightaway in a high-pressure tournament like the World Cup will certainly be difficult for them. They don’t have any backup all-round options. So once either Stoinis or Maxwell can’t play, either their batting or bowling options will be cut down.

Key Players: Steve Smith, David Warner, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Starc

Probable Finish: Semifinalists

South Africa

Labelled the perennial chokers, South Africa have always underperformed, having failed to win even one knockout game. With key players like Hashim Amla and Faf Du Plessis playing their final World Cup and star man AB De Villiers retired from international cricket, can South Africa go ahead and win their maiden trophy in England?

Strengths: Apart from India, the Proteas have the best bowling attack in the world right now. They have three solid pacers including Kagiso Rabda, Dale Steyn and Lungli Ngidi. In the spin department too, they are equipped with the wily old Imran Tahir. Quinton De Kock has been in sensational form and will provide the perfect start to the South African batting followed by a solid middle order in the form of Du Plessis , Duminy and Miller.

Weaknesses:  The Proteas do not possess a quality all rounder in their ranks – the likes of Kallis or Klusener. Andy Phulkaweyo is there, but his abilities raises serious questions. Also, Hashim Amla has been in worrying form. In addition to this their form has been inconsistent for the past year or so.The retirement of AB De Villiers too has created a huge gap in their batting quality, which they still  have not been able to fill up

Key Players: Quinton De Kock, Faf Du Plessis, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir

Predicted finish: Semifinalists / 5th place

New Zealand

The finalists last year, the Black Caps are coming in to the tournament without their star man Brendon McCullum since he retired. And though they look a comparatively weaker side than the likes of England or India, they have always managed to punch above their weight in past World Cups. They are six-time semi-finalists and one-time finalists. But can they go the extra mile in 2019?

Strengths: They have a strong top order with an explosive combination of Guptill and Munro opening the innings followed by the stability of Kane Williamson and a rejuvenated Ross Taylor. They also have a strong lower middle order in the form of Tom Latham and the ever-explosive Jimmy Neesham. Neesham and Munro also provide bowling options for the Kiwis.

Weaknesses: New Zealand have a poor away record in the past year having won just around 30% of their matches. Their bowling unit too is heavily dependent on Trent Boult and certainly lack the sting that India or South Africa possess.

Key Players: Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Trent Boult

Probable Finish: Semifinalists/ 5th place

Pakistan

Its been long since Pakistan won their first and only World Cup in 1992. In fact their World Cup winning captain is now the country’s prime minister. This is a new look for the Pakistan side, captained by Sarfaraz Ahmed that will come into this World Cup after a disappointing ODI run since their monumental Champions Trophy win in 2017. In fact, they have won just nine matches out of 32 in the past two years. We have to wait and see if they shrug off this disappointing run of form in this tournament.

Strengths: Pakistan have a variety in their batting line-up. Their top three openers -—Babar Azam and Imam Ul Haq, and Fakhar Zaman at no. 3 — can give them a solid start to the innings. This is followed by the experience of Shoaib Malik and Mohammed Hafeez followed by Sarfaraz Khan. They also have strong hitters of the ball in the form of Asif Ali, Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan who can boost the run rate in the slog overs.

Weaknesses: For the first time in their history, the world in not fearful of the Pakistan fast bowling line up. The pace battery has performed average a best with the likes of Mohammed Amir, Mohd Hasnain and Shahin Afridi all showing promise but not converting them into performances. Their spin bowling department too lacks the quality.

Key Players: Imam Ul Haq, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Shoaib Malik

Probable Finish: 6th

West Indies

The men from the Caribbean have over the years established themselves as a formidable T20 side with a variety of players playing in the different T20 leagues across the world. But when it comes to the longer formats of the game the side does not pack enough punch. Led by Jason Holder, the team does look promising this time around, but not even close enough to the likes of India or England. However, they have it in them to just spring a surprise.

Strengths:  The batting order looks formidable and explosive. Chris Gayle and Evan Lewis are excellent for the top order, with the likes of Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmeyer and Andre Russell providing firepower at the latter stages of the innings. Their pace battery consisting of Kemar Roach, Sheldon Cottrell and Jason Holder himself looks promising.

Weaknesses: The biggest weakness is that the batting order lacks stability. They do not have a batsman that can anchor the innings and play throughout the 50 overs. These are all T20 specialisits, but not suited for the long form f the game. Their spin bowling too lack depth with Ashley Nurse being the only notable spinner in the side

Key Players: Chris Gayle, Shai Hope, Andre Russell, Sheldon Cottrell

Probable Finish: 7th

Bangladesh

From being minnows in 2003, to a solid international team, Bangladesh have come a long way in cricket. They are a force to be reckoned with in the sub-continent. But the tigers do not roar that much in matches outside their familiar conditions. They have a win percentage of a mere 28% since the World Cup 2015 away from home. However, they are a solid group of players led by Mashrafe Mortaza, and can spring a surprise or two at this year’s tournament.

Strengths: Bangladesh have got experienced players in their side. The likes of Tamim Iqbal, Mashrafe Mortaza and Shakib Al Hasan know how to play in the big stage at crucial moments. In the form of Shakib, Mahmudullah and Mehdy Hasan, they have got good all-round options.

Weaknesses: Bangladesh just don’t have the firepower in their batting to propel them to consisten 300+ scores in English conditions, and that will prove to be their weakest link. Also, apart from Shakib they don’t really have too many spin bowling options.

Key Players:  Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mustafizur Rahman

Probable Finish: 8th

Afghanistan

The way the war torn country of Afghanistan has risen through the ranks in world cricket and achieved Test playing status has been nothing short of remarkable. The fact that they are entering this World Cup is an achievement in itself. And they are certainly no pushovers. Expect a few surprise upset victories from the Afghans

Strengths: Afghanistan possess one of the best spin bowling attacks in the world. Led by world no. 1 spinner Rashid Khan, the attack consists of the likes of Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi. Their openers, Mohammed Shahzad and Hazratullah Zazai will provide an explosive start the innings with their hitting abilities.

Weaknesses: A weak pace bowling unit could prove costly for the Afghans. Their captain, Gulbuddin Naib is not the most experienced, and certainly a questionable choice for the leader of the side. Their middle order too lacks the batting quality to capitalize on the start that the openers will give.

Key Players: Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Mohammad Shehzad

Probable Finish: 9th

Sri Lanka

The men from the island nation are nowhere close to the golden generation of cricketers that played the game when they reached consecutive World Cup finals in 2007 and 2011. Since their 2016 T20 World Cup victory, Sri Lankan cricket has fallen from grace, and looking at their squad this year, they seem to be the weakest team of the tournament

Strengths: Sri Lanka’s middle order with the likes of Kusal Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne and Angelo Mathews look good on paper. The return to form of Thisara Perera and a rejuvenated and experienced Lasith Malinga can prove handy for the islanders.

Weaknesses: The Sri Lankan team lacks stability. Since 2015 they have had 57 players don the national jersey and the captaincy has been rotated seven times. Players who have not been part of the national setup for years now have suddenly been called into the team like Jeevan Mendis and even their captain Dimuth Karunaratne. Be it batting or bowling, this team is just not strong enough to handle the firepower of the top teams.

Key Players: Thisara Perera, Kusal Perera, Angelo Mathews, Lasith Malinga

Probable Finish: 10th