The ICC World Cup 2019 commences in London today (May 30) with hosts England taking on South Africa. Over the next six weeks, 10 teams will battle it out for the coveted trophy. Here’s a look at all the teams in fray
London: A day before the first game of the 2019 ODI World Cup, dark clouds had descended on the Oval. England and South Africa finished their training sessions early, even as the opening ceremony began in front of Buckingham Palace under slight drizzle. It wasn’t enough to dampen spirits – the biggest extravaganza in world cricket is here!
Also read: Your complete guide to World Cup 2019
Here’s a look at the 10 teams in fray as they joust over the next six weeks (May 30 to July 14) in a bid to get their hands on the trophy.
England: Hosts, No 1 ODI side and favourites
That’s how they start this fifth World Cup, and playing at home gives them an absolute advantage. Over the last four years, England have reinvented their approach to ODI cricket and it can be seen in how they have managed to cross 300 with alarming consistency – 38 times in 88 innings since the 2015 ODI World Cup (Australia/New Zealand).
No target is tall enough and no bowling attack daunting, for the likes of Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali. They are the cleanest hitters in world cricket at the moment, backed up by a versatile attack that is happy to do the horse work in tough bowling conditions. Using this ploy, they have been very successful in the past two years, last losing a bilateral ODI contest in January 2017 (to India away 2-1).
They are gunning for the Champions tag, one that eludes any and every English team until now. Is this their moment?
Perennial favourites, the Men in Blue come to the tournament this summer as the world’s second-best ODI side. They have only lost two bilateral series since 2017 – to England away last summer and to Australia at home in March. They even finished runners’ up in the 2017 Champions Trophy, a dress rehearsal for this event.
In Virat Kohli, they boast the finest batsman in world cricket today. Along with Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, he forges the best top-order in ODIs at present. Together, the trio scored 54% of India’s ODI runs since that Champions Trophy. This is their main strength, as also a glaring weakness. For beyond this top three, the middle order is a big worry.
India have been unable to find a stable number four option for a long time, while MS Dhoni’s batting prowess is on the wane. How often this half-heartedly assembled middle-order is called upon for duty will decide India’s fate.
The five-time champions come into tournament with a bit of bother. They lost seven consecutive ODI series since January 2017, home and away. Then, they faced turbulent times with the yearlong bans of David Warner and Steve Smith. Their recovery and team building process just started in recent months, when they beat India and Pakistan in sub-continental conditions before arriving in England.
Their ability to fight, on the front and back foot, makes them dangerous as ever. Warner and Smith have a point to prove. Coach Justin Langer and assistant coach Ricky Ponting have won three out of Australia’s five World Cups between them. They possess a brilliant bowling attack, starring Pat Cummins. They know how to win – it’s a matter of replicating it on the field.
It is an unfamiliar build-up for the Proteas this summer. For the first time since 1992, they do not enter an ODI World Cup as rank favourites. Perhaps it is to do with their long history of failure under pressure. Even so, it is not as if they are completely devoid of top stars – Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock, Aiden Markram and David Miller possess enough firepower between them.
Also read: All the 10 squads for World Cup 2019
Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi are a ferocious pace attack. Apart from India, they are the only side capable of fielding two wrist spinners in the same playing eleven – Imran Tahir and Tabraiz Shamsi. All the components are there, it just has to come together for them. Maybe, they will benefit from having a quiet start to the tournament. Simmering down expectations might just help them un-choke the past.
They are everyone’s second favourite side. Yet, they are lacking the charisma that Brendon McCullum possessed and indeed imbibed in this team four years ago. That was a mercurial side, capable of overcoming adversity. Kane Williamson leads a softer team in comparison, one that is too dependent on conditions at times. They do possess a good bowling attack, which on seam-friendly surfaces will cause trouble to any batting line-up. Ross Taylor, playing his last World Cup, could define how far they go into the tournament. They will be in the mix for that fourth semi-final spot, albeit it remains to be seen just how far they can push through.
They already possess the title of most entertaining side in the competition. Sadly, no trophies are handed out for that. And thus, they will have to string together some consistent performances to get on a roll. It is easier said than done, of course, for a rag-tag bunch of T20 professionals who have come together in the garb of an ODI side. This is team that can score 400 on its day, or alternately can sink without a trace. They possess some of the most fearsome hitters this game has ever seen – Chris Gayle and Andre Russell, with the likes of Shemron Hetmyer and Shai Hope gaining prominence with every opportunity. Yet, it feels like their anchoring batsmen, Darren Bravo and Jason Holder, have a greater role to play in their fortunes at this tournament. If they can get on a roll, they will hurt a few sides and probably dent their run-rate beyond repair. Anything more will be a bonus.
The last time a 10-team World Cup happened, back in 1992, Imran Khan led his bunch to the title. They had started slow, and then gained momentum through a long tournament, rising in belief that they could win. It won’t be surprising if history repeats itself, although not many consider Sarfaraz Ahmed to be half as inspiring as their current prime minister. Their batting has weakened over time too, and there are aspersions cast on the fitness and form of their bowling line-up. So much so, they have lost their last ten ODIs as well as a warm-up game to Afghanistan. One fine day over the next six weeks, Pakistan will wake up and realize they are playing a World Cup. Until then, expect them to sleep tight.
From champions in 1996, to consecutive runners-up in 2007 and 2011, this tournament is expected to be a hard fall from grace for the Lankans. Quite simply, this team lacks any sense of direction whatsoever. It is seen from the simple fact that their captain Dimuth Karunaratne last played ODI cricket two years ago. Even then, his record his nothing to write home about. It has incensed their experienced pacer Lasith Malinga, who could be playing his final World Cup, whilst there is a leadership hole with the likes of Angelo Mathews and Kusal Perera going missing at vital junctures. They could struggle to win a game in tough English conditions, and that is a despondent prediction for the once mighty islanders.
The Tigers are back to the land where it all began for them. Beating Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup – last held in England – paved the way for their Test status a year later. For a while they made strides, including beating India at the 2007 ODI World Cup. But their progress has stymied and there is certain stagnation about their direction now. Sure, they boast a big bunch of experienced players in Shakib al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mashrafe Mortaza. A statement victory is yet to come from this collective unit though, and it is tough to envisage one this summer either. With their batting and bowling dependent on flatter, slower conditions, they will struggle in the first half of the tournament, particularly as fielding is their poorest trait.
They could be the surprise package of this summer’s World Cup. While their batting is inexperienced and suspect, their bowling packs a punch, particularly in spin-friendly conditions. In dry, sunny conditions, they could be a handful especially if their batsmen show enough wherewithal to put on decent totals with consistency. With the likes of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman gaining widespread international exposure in T20 leagues across the world, there is no dearth of talent. But they might be lacking in experience necessary to make their presence felt.
Even so, they are not representing their country alone – instead, they are participating for the likes of Ireland, Zimbabwe and other nations, who missed out on the chance of qualifying for this tournament given its round-robin format. Even a single upset would showcase that the ICC were wrong in adopting a restrictive approach to the ODI World Cup.
Last Updated May 30, 2019, 10:00 AM IST