Dark horses who could spring a World Cup surprise
The squads have been announced, and in just a few short weeks, the ICC World Cup will get underway when the hosts take on South Africa in the first group match at The Oval on 30 May. England will go into that match as narrow tournament favourites ahead of India, while many believe Australia will be a force to be reckoned with, particularly with Steve Smith and David Warner back in the fold.
However, funny things can happen on the biggest stage. When the tournament reaches the knockout phase, picking a winner becomes similar to playing roulette online and it comes down to bottle as much as talent in the middle. Here are three dark horse teams that could pull off a surprise.
Make no mistake, the current West Indies team is still nowhere close to the unit that dominated cricket in the 1970s and 80s. However, recent performances against England have shown a level of belief, which combined with the burgeoning talent of players like Shai Hope and Oshane Thomas, suggests a brighter future. Jason Holder has become one of the most respected captains in world cricket, and then, of course, there is the Chis Gayle factor. This will be the fifth World Cup for the Universe Boss, and a win would give the 39 year old the fairytale end to an astonishing career. At 18/1, the West Indies will be among the most heavily backed of the dark horses.
Every time a major tournament comes around, New Zealand is touted as a dark horse. But they have proved time and again that when it comes to the World Cup they can up their game and compete with anyone. Taylor, Latham, Williamson and Nicholls is as solid a middle order as you could wish for and Colin de Grandhomme has come of age as a formidable strike bowler. Here’s a team that will quietly do its thing and could easily make the top four. They are 7/2 to make the final and 10/1 to win it. Given their record of six semi-finals and one final, those odds will look very tempting to the neutral observer.
A little like the Argentina football team, Pakistan can captivate and frustrate in equal measure. In 1992, they got off to the worst possible start, winning only one of the first four games, before scraping into the knockout stage and ultimately winning a thrilling final against England. They pulled off a similar feat in the Champions Trophy two years ago. When it comes to the Men in Green, studying form is an irrelevance. If the stars are in the right alignment, and the players got out of bed on the right side, this is a team that can blow away any opposition. They are also more than capable of being bundled out at the group stage. The bookmakers are as perplexed as the rest of us and have them at 12/1 to repeat the heroics of 1992.
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