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A guide to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

May 25, 2019

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Illustration by Muhammad Faizan
Illustration by Muhammad Faizan

Every four years, the best cricketing nations in the world battle for the coveted ICC Cricket World Cup. This time round, it is going to be a little different as only the top 10 teams will go down fighting for the 12th edition of the mega event in England, starting from 30 May and ending on 14 July 2019.

Unlike the previous editions where teams were divided into multiple pools, this World Cup will see the return of the Round Robin League – the same format in which Pakistan won the World Cup way back in 1992.

This time round, each team will play nine matches — one against every other team — and the four sides that end up on top of the points table will qualify for the semi-finals, from where the best two teams will reach the grand finale that will decide the winner and the runner-up.

But which team has the best chance to win the event? Will Australia be able to defend the title and take the trophy back for the record sixth time? Will Pakistan be able to repeat their ICC Champions Trophy performance and stun all teams for a place in the final? Will England finally break the jinx and play their best cricket to emerge victorious?

Let’s analyse all teams participating in the event and find out which has the best chance to qualify for the last four and which team is knock-out material.

Pakistan

Captain: Sarfaraz Ahmed

Coach: Mickey Arthur

Most valuable batsman: Babar Azam

Most valuable bowler: Hasan Ali

All-rounder to watch out for: Shadab Khan

Previous best: Winners in 1992

Prediction: Semi-finals

Analysis: Although their recent performance has been poor, especially against Australia in the UAE and in England against the hosts, the Men in Green have done usually well in ICC events played in England. They reached the semi-final of the 1979 and 1983 World Cups played in England and were runners-up in 1999 against Australia.

Two years back, they beat all odds to win the ICC Champions Trophy, so there is no reason why they can’t do well in the mega event where the venue suits them, the format suits them and, above all, the tag of being unpredictable suits them.

Australia

Captain: Aaron Finch

Coach: Justin Langer

Most valuable batsman: David Warner

Most valuable bowler: Mitchell Starc

All-rounder to watch out for: Glenn Maxwell

Previous best: Winners in 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015

Prediction: Semi-finals

Analysis: The Australian cricket team seems to keep the best performance for the biggest event. No team has won more titles than the Aussies who just missed two finals (1992, 2011) since Allan Border lifted the Cup in 1987. They have also been elevated to the ‘favourites’ tag after David Warner and Steve Smith joined them after serving out their respective bans for tampering with the ball in 2018.

Then there is Glenn Maxwell, who can change the course of the match with his lusty hitting, while Mitchell Starc’s accuracy might prove to be lethal for the opposition in seam-friendly conditions.

India

Captain: Virat Kohli

Coach: Ravi Shastri

Most valuable batsman: Virat Kohli

Most valuable bowler: Jasprit Bumrah

All-rounder to watch out for: Hardik Pandya

Previous best: Winners in 1983, 2011

Prediction: Semi-finals

Analysis: Thanks to one of the best domestic structures in the world, regular international tours and, above all, the Indian Premier League, India is all set to make its mark in the upcoming event. Not only do they have the most prolific scorers in the side — Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan — they also have the daddy of all wicket-keepers MS Dhoni, and right arm medium pacers who would take to English conditions like a fish takes to water.

They were unlucky to lose the ICC Champions Trophy final to Pakistan in 2017, but since then have bettered the art of winning limited-overs internationals, something they will try to perfect in the mega event.

West Indies

Captain: Jason Holder

Coach: Floyd Reifer

Most valuable batsman: Chris Gayle

Most valuable bowler: Kemar Roach

All-rounder to watch out for: Jason Holder

Previous best: Winners in 1975, 1979

Prediction: Group stage exit

Analysis: One side that has been even more unpredictable than Pakistan is the West Indies. They are capable of beating the world champions on their day, while they could lose to minnows as if they were newcomers to international cricket.

For the first time since the inception of the World Cup, they had to qualify for the mega event, such has been their performance in the last few years.

However, with the inclusion of Chris Gayle, Andre Russell and a few youngsters who can score quickly, the men from the Caribbean might surprise a few teams with their aggressive, unpredictable cricket. After all, they are returning to the country where they won the first two World Cups, qualified for the grand finale of the third and won the ICC Champions Trophy in 2004.

England

Captain: Eoin Morgan

Coach: Trevor Bayliss

Most valuable batsman: Jos Buttler

Most valuable

bowler: Chris Woakes

All-rounder to watch out for: Ben Stokes

Previous best: Runners-up in 1979, 1987 and 1992

Prediction: Semi-finals

Analysis: Probably the unluckiest of teams in world cricket, England has hosted the World Cup four times, but never managed to win it. In fact, they last qualified for the semi-finals way back in 1992 and since then have faltered at the mega event.

Since the last event, they have been trying hard to come up with a perfect team combination and the one that won the ODI series against Pakistan is as good as it gets. They have batsmen in their line-up who can chase 400 runs comfortably, bowlers that can defend any total no matter how small or big, and all-rounders who can score quick runs even against the best bowlers in the world. The way they have played against Pakistan in the recently concluded series, England is my favourite to clinch the cup and create history.

New Zealand

Captain: Kane Williamson

Coach: Gary Stead

Most valuable batsman: Ross Taylor

Most valuable bowler: Trent Boult

All-rounder to watch out for: Colin de Grandhomme

Previous best: Runners-up in 2015

Prediction: Group stage exit

Analysis: They are undoubtedly one of the most hardworking teams in world cricket. They qualified for the semi-finals of the 1975 and 1979 World Cups that were played in England, narrowly missed the cup in 1992, were ousted from the quarter-finals in 1996, fell to a better Pakistan side in 1999 and qualified for back-to-back semi-finals in 2007 and 2011, only to lose to the eventual finalists.

Four years ago, they made it to the final of the event but were toppled by arch-rivals Australia. With Kane Williamson as captain, Ross Taylor as the top-ranked batsman, Trent Boult and Tim Southee leading the pace attack, the Kiwis have all the chances in the world to break the jinx this time around.

South Africa

Captain: Faf du Plessis

Coach: Ottis Gibson

Most valuable batsman: Quentin de Kock

Most valuable bowler: Imran Tahir

All-rounder to watch out for: David Miller

Previous best: Semi-finalists in 1992, 1999, 2007 and 2011

Prediction: Group stage exit

Analysis: If Kiwis are hardworking, the Proteas have been unlucky ever since they re-entered the world of cricket. They were asked to chase 22 runs off one ball in the infamous semi-final in 1992 after rain disrupted the play; an out-of-form Brian Lara dispatched them to all parts of the National Stadium four years later in the quarter-final; Allan Donald’s run-out halted their progress in 1999; and they found themselves out of the mega-event in 2003, once again due to rain.

They did reach the last four in 2007 and 2015, but couldn’t reach the final despite having a good batting line-up, wicket-taking bowlers and fielders that can give any batting side a run for their money. Let’s hope they manage to break the jinx this time round with a team chock-full of ODI specialists, and a few senior players.

Sri Lanka

Captain: Dimuth Karunaratne

Coach: Chandika Hathurusingha

Most valuable batsman: Angelo Matthews

Most valuable bowler: Lasith Malinga

All-rounder to watch out for: Thisara Perera

Previous best: Winners in 1996

Prediction: Group Stage Exit

Analysis: Ever since winning the World Cup in 1996, fans of the game have wanted Sri Lanka to do well in the mega-event and they have reached the finals twice, once in 2007 and once in 2011. However, they have been unlucky and unable to repeat the heroics of Arjuna Ranatunga and would be hoping to do well this time round.

However, in the absence of world-class cricketers such as Kumar Sangakkara, Rangana Herath and others, they are least likely to reach the semi-final stage. It would be a miracle if old horses like Angelo Matthews and Lasith Malinga steer their side into the knock-out stage on the basis of their experience.

Bangladesh

Captain: Mashrafe Mortaza

Coach: Steve Rhodes

Most valuable batsman: Mushfiqur Rahim

Most valuable bowler: Mustafizur Rahman

All-rounder to watch out for: Shakib Al Hasan

Previous best: Super 8 in 2007, quarter-finals in 2015

Prediction: Group stage exit

Analysis: Another team that has no chance to reach the semi-finals, despite being composed of talented cricketers, is Bangladesh. Had the World Cup been played in Asia, they might have had a chance, but in a round-robin league format where the top four teams on the points table will qualify for the next stage, Bangladesh’s qualification is highly unlikely.

If they do something like Sri Lanka did in 1996, they might have a chance, but that’s highly unlikely in the current scenario.

Afghanistan

Captain: Gulbadin Naib

Coach: Phil Simmons

Most valuable batsman: Mohammad Shahzad

Most valuable bowler: Mujeeb ur Rehman

All-rounder to watch out for: Rashid Khan

Previous best: Group Stage in 2011

Prediction: Group stage exit

Analysis: Just before the start of the World Cup, the Afghanistan coach Phil Simmons announced he was stepping down from the position. The team will have nothing to lose as they will want to give their coach a befitting farewell, and are likely to play as if there is no tomorrow. They will prove to be tough opponents for every team out there and one hopes to see this Asian side do well so that the supporters from this part of the world have another team to cheer for besides Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. They might not reach the semi-finals, but might cause a few upsets to make an impact about who goes in, and who stays out of them.

Published in Dawn, Young World, May 25th, 2019