Cricket World Cup 2015 - Who's Hot, Who's Not
The last time a World Cup was played down under, colored clothing and day-night matches took everyone’s imagination by storm.
Cricket was never the same again.
Since then, the game has gone through numerous up and downs, trials, errors and tribulations, innovations and improvisations. One can only wonder about the novelties, 2015’s World Cup is going to bring.
For starters, the tournament features Afghanistan, the darling of many cricket fans, inspired at the young cricketing nation’s meteoric rise in the cricket world through sheer will and enthusiasm amidst chaos, rubble, lack of finances and lack of a decent support system. The cricketing world will erupt if Afghanistan manages to cause even a single upset and isn’t that something to look forward to, especially after the brand of cricket Ireland brought in 2011?
This is a very interesting World Cup in many ways. The opener on 14th February in Christchurch will be an emotional tale itself, recovering from grief and loss after the devastating earthquake that struck the city. It is a young World Cup in terms of age, with only two teams, Sri Lanka and UAE, with an average age of over 30 - Bangladesh and Afghanistan having the lowest average of 25.
While the top eight teams all have plenty of experience in aggregate ODIs played by the squad, Sri Lanka is a cut above the rest, crossing the 2000 mark, Pakistan with the next highest aggregate of 1314.
Sri Lanka will be the team to watch out for because of many reasons, most importantly, the World Cup being the swansong for three of their legendary players - Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Dilshan Tillekaratne - all of who have suffered the pain of 2007 and 2011 final losses, the T20 World Cup crown offering a small consolation.
Sri Lanka has a settled squad, but would see their performance against New Zealand as a great indicator of how they will fare in the World Cup.
Cricket World Cup 2015
United Arab Emirates
New Zealand, continue to be the dark horses at the back of a wonderful 2014 and a talismanic skipper in Brendon McCullum. Corey Anderson breaking Shahid Afridi’s record and players like Kane Willamson coming to the fore, make New Zealand, the co-hosts, a dangerous opponent especially in their own backyards.
Australia, India and South Africa, the top three ODI teams, with very little separating them have the most settled look about their sides, considering the bench strength options their national selectors had.
India, the defending champion will come into the tournament with one of the best batting line-ups, while South Africa and Australia will boast of something India lacks – firepower in bowling. Indian pacers are exciting but lack experience and their young batting side will look to shield them as much as possible.
Australia is an exciting side with pacers like Mitchell Johnson, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, along with batsmen of Glenn Maxwell’s calibre, a man who could make this tournament his own.
India, with batsmen like Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and record-holder for the highest ODI score, Rohit Sharma will be quietly confident of piling the runs too.
South Africa is easily the most balanced side, a mixture of good batting in AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, David Miller, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy and bowling strength aced with Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Wayne Parnell.
Two teams with problems to deal with include West Indies, under a young captain Jason Holder and Pakistan. West Indies, in spite of the batting strength offered by Marlon Samuels and Chris Gayle will miss the presence of two world-beaters in Dwayne Bravo and Keiron Pollard, omissions that came under plenty of fire from the outspoken Gayle himself.
A lot will depend on how fiery but volatile players like Dwayne Smith, Darren Sammy and Andre Russell will perform to support superstars like Sunil Narine.
Pakistan under Misbah’s watch will miss Saeed Ajmal but continue to boast of a pace battery, including the much-feared Mohammed Irfan. Their usually brittle batting line-up will be strengthened by Younus Khan another veteran along with Mohammed Hafeez and Umar Akmal, all members of the team that reached the semi-finals in 2011, before bowing out to India at Mohali.
While Bangladesh and Afghanistan are very young teams, a few upsets could give the crowd much to cheer, although the format has been so designed that it pretty much leaves out any scope of the big teams missing out from the knock-out rounds.
Mominul Haque, Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal and skipper Mashrafe Mortaza will continue to be Bangladesh’s star players.
Cricket World Cup squads
The one team that will be an eternal enigma is England. The squad has a very settled look. What else can explain the squad being picked on 20th December, before any other team? The names are there – Skipper Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, James Anderson, etc.
England can spring surprises on their day and yet, their under-achievements have always drawn criticism about how much they lack in the ODI format. England’s woes lie more in their mind than in their players’ temperaments and the English fans will hope that the new skipper with a very modern outlook will bring a more aggressive and fresh approach to the World Cup.
It is a World Cup that is not short of talent. Batsmen like AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli can really make this tournament their own while bowlers like Dale Steyn and Mitchell Johnson, can push the speed clocks to the limit, on fast, bouncy wickets.
Having said that, there are some turning tracks and slower pitches on offer, ensuring the Narines and Ashwins have something to work with.
Bigger boundaries, bigger bashes, more colours and more beer - this could be a World Cup much different from the 2011 - and yet, if it matches the intensity and support of 2011, cricket fans will be thankful.
© Cricket World 2015