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Cricket Web’s World Cup 2015 Preview

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The 2015 World Cup will be only the second to be played in Australasia. The first in 1992 produced one of the most exciting World Cups ever staged. If the current World Cup can generate half of the controversy and innovations of the first then we can expect a classic and the eventual winner will be the toast of the cricketing world.

In this article Archie Mac and Martin Chandler examine all of the combatants and make predictions as to which country Cricket Web believes will hold aloft the Holy Grail of cricket on 29 March 2015. If we are wrong then please treat the following as a bit of fun. If we are right; then remember you heard it here first.

Australia

Odds: 3/1
CW predicts: Winner
Strength: Batting Depth
Weakness: Favourite Tag

Just as in 1992, Australia will enter the 2015 World Cup as clear favourites. Hopefully for them they will not find the favourite tag as much of a weight as their 1992 predecessors. Back then Allan Border’s band were unable to handle the pressure and played without freedom, eventually finishing a disappointing fifth.

This time around the Aussie team has two concerns. The first is their captain’s – Michael Clarke –dodgy hammies. This; ‘will he or won’t he’ when added to the sniping over his captaincy by ex internationals may be a telling distraction. Perhaps of more significance is the injury to James Faulkner. Such is his reputation as a finisher that, if unfit to bowl, there must be a temptation to play him just as a batsman.

The Aussies recent form has been hard to fault. Batting deeper than a black hole, speed men who can intimidate and comfortable recent wins over South Africa, England and defending champions India, justify the favourite tag but as Billy Joel sang ‘you’ll have to deal with pressure’.

Squad: George Bailey, Michael Clarke (capt), Patrick Cummins, Xavier Doherty, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin (wk), Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson.

South Africa

Odds: 4/1
CW predicts: Semi Finalist
Strength: Hunger
Weakness: Baggage

There is a horse betting system in which, if your fancied horse loses you double your bet on that horse next time it races. I am not sure many punters would have enough in their kitty to keep backing the Proteas. Every World Cup they front up as one of, if not the favourite and then manage to find a new way to crash and burn.

On paper the South African side of 2015 appears to have it all. Fast bowlers, including the best in the World (the rankings will tell you that he’s No. 3 but we all know he is numero uno) Dale Steyn, the best batsman in A.B. de Villiers, not to mention No. 2 in Amla, and as fine a fielding team as there is in the World Cup.

Games are rarely played on paper, otherwise South Africa would have won at least two World Cups instead of the empty trophy cabinet they deservedly own. On past performances they will start coughing before reaching for their throats at around the semi final stage, but if you have the money punt on them, surely their time is nigh.

Squad: Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock (wk), AB de Villiers (capt & wk), JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Vernon Philander, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir.

New Zealand

Odds: 6.5/1
CW predicts: Runner Up
Strength: No ‘I’ in Team
Weakness: Depth

Back in 1992, as joint host, New Zealand were innovative, regularly opening their bowling with off-spinner, Dipak Patel. This tactic plus the outstanding form of then captain Martin Crowe meant they entered the semi finals as favourites for the title. Alas, as in previous World Cups, they failed to reach the final.

This time New Zealand won’t be a surprise packet and shouldn’t need to invent a shock tactic to give them a chance. With Mills and Southee both capable of ripping a batting line up apart and Williamson and Taylor potentially able to take a game away from any team, they deserve to be third favourites.
It all sounds positive, BUT, overall the depth is not quite there and if they lose one or two quality players they may experience the same fate as 1992. That is semi finalists. Make no mistake, in 2015 they are good enough to make the final, or perhaps……….

Squad: Brendon McCullum (captain), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Adam Milne, Luke Ronchi (wkt), Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Daniel Vettori, Kane Williamson.

India

Odds: 9/1
CW predicts: Quarter Finalist
Strength: Batting Class
Weakness: Home Sick

It seemed like a good idea. Arrive in Australia; play a few Tests, followed by a ODI series, some more practice matches and then once acclimatised to the conditions defend their World Cup title.

Unfortunately a Test series played on flat pitches appears to have left their batsman, and even more so their bowlers, jaded. Even that fine batsman Virat Kohli, after a great Test series has lost his mojo and in the recent tri series gifted his wicket to surprised but grateful bowlers.

It’s not all doom and gloom. Any team which can leave out Yuvraj Singh must be a quality batting side as confirmed by India having four players ranked in the top 13 batsman in ODI. The batting talent should paper over an average bowling line up, with India’s best bowler, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, ranked 13th.
The defending champions will be hungry, after all only three of their side remain from the last World Cup. Unfortunately unless their batsman can find the spark to give a weak bowling attack runs to bowl at, they will be headed home for what, by the look of them, will be some much needed R & R.

Squad: Ravichandran Ashwin, Stuart Binny, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Akshar Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Mohammed Shami, Mohit Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav.

England

Odds: 11/1
CW predicts: Semi Finalist
Strength: Underdog Tag
Weakness: No KP

England sacked their captain, Alastair Cook just prior to the World Cup. It was a decision that was probably made 12 months too late and begs the question whether new captain Eoin Morgan has enough time to stamp his hegemony on the team.

Morgan made a few mistakes in the recent tri series in Australia and seemed bereft of ideas once the Australia batsmen were on top. To his credit the morale was strong as demonstrated by the desperation of the England players in the field.

The elephant in the room though, is why didn’t Morgan bring back his old mate and one of the best batsmen in the world, Kevin Pietersen. The presence of KP to support Ian Bell would have given this team a balance and depth that may have made them the surprise packet of the tournament. Instead Bell will need to be the batsman of the World Cup for them to make the semi finals.

If the batting is fragile the bowling looks strong. Anderson is miserly, Broad dangerous and the support bowlers capable. If Morgan can lead with confidence and Bell plays out of his skin, beware of the underdogs or should that read beware of the bulldogs.

Squad: Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler (wk), Steven Finn, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Eoin Morgan (capt), Joe Root, James Taylor, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes.

Sri Lanka

Odds: 11/1
CW predicts: Quarter Finalist
Strength: Batting
Weakness: Bowling

Historically whether it’s Test cricket or ODI, Sri Lanka’s problem is the lack of quality bowlers and in 2015 World Cup nothing has changed. With Sangakkara, Dilshan and Jaywardene, the Lankans should score plenty of runs and this proved the case in the recent series loss in New Zealand. Worryingly it was the three batsmen named that scored all the runs and of no surprise the bowlers were cannon fodder to the powerful Kiwi team.

Warming up in New Zealand will be advantageous to Sri Lanka with three of their first four matches in the land of the Shaky Isle. The first match will provide a genuine test when they play the Kiwis who are firming as favourites faster than Nadal on clay.

Having lost the last two World Cup finals, Sri Lanka’s veterans (the three previously named batsman), will know that this may well be their last chance to hold the World Cup aloft. With their bowling attack that chance will past them by.

Squad: Dushmantha Chameera, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Mahela Jayawardene, Dimuth Karunaratne, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews (capt), Jeevan Mendis, Thisara Perera, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Sachithra Senanayake, Lahiru Thirimanne.

Pakistan

Odds: 17/1
CW predicts: No finals
Strength: Cornered Tiger Dreams
Weakness: Pussycat Reality

A fun drinking game for the World Cup, will be to skull every time the commentators mention the name of Imran Khan or Pakistan’s efforts in the 1992 World Cup played in Australasia. They won the 1992 World Cup not just because of the inspiring captaincy of Imran Khan, there was the devastating bowling of Wasim Akram.

In 2015 they have two fine bowlers in Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez. Oh wait a minute neither of these two will play in the World Cup. The best chance for Pakistan may be their opening game against their out of form rivals India. A win first up and perhaps some confidence and the Cornered Tigers may built some momentum.
Who are we kidding? No batsman or bowlers ranked in the top ten, best to wait for a mention of 1992 and drown your sorrows. Of course with our Muslim friends that will most likely be with a non alcoholic beverage but will still be fun.

Squad: Ahmed Shehzad, Ehsan Adil, Haris Sohail, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Irfan, *Rahat Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Shahid Afridi, Sohaib Maqsood, Sohail Khan, Umar Akmal (wk), Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Younus Khan.

West Indies

Odds: 26/1
CW predicts: No finals
Strength: Brutal Batsmen
Weakness: Threadbare Bowling

No team whose batting line-up includes Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo can be treated with anything other than the greatest of respect, but no one expects the current incarnation of the West Indies to rekindle memories of the sides from the Caribbean who dominated the early World Cups.

It is their bowling where the Windies look vulnerable. They have a pretty rapid opening attack in Kemar Roach and Jerome Taylor, but after that unless Nikita Miller can finally bring his remarkable domestic First Class form into the international arena they are going to struggle to contain the top sides.

All in all it is difficult to see the Windies progressing beyond the quarter finals with this side. It might have been different were explosive batsman Kieron Pollard, experienced all-rounder Dwayne Bravo and mystery spinner Sunil Narine all available for selection, but for varying reasons all three are absent.

Squad: Sulieman Benn, Darren Bravo, Jonathan Carter, Sheldon Cottrell, Chris Gayle, Jason Holder (capt), *Nikita Miller, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Kemar Roach, Andre Russell, Darren Sammy, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Smith, Jerome Taylor.

Bangladesh

Odds: 101/1
CW predicts: Quarter Finalist
Strength: Shakib Al-Hasan
Weakness: History

It is almost fifteen years since Bangladesh made their bow in Test cricket yet they have yet to make any real progress towards losing the “minnows” tag that has dogged them throughout. Might the 2015 World Cup be the time they finally throw off the shackles and give their fellow full members a real battle?

No pundit will answer that question in the affirmative with any confidence but this might just be their time. Tamim Iqbal is an explosive opener and, amazingly, still only 25. And what about Mominul Haque? Second only to Mr 99.94 in the all time Test match batting standings. Then there is the mighty Shakib Al-Hasan, an all-rounder out of the top drawer, and there are others who are capable of scoring big.

With the ball the great sadness of Bangladeshi cricket has been the inability of skipper Mashrafe Mortaza to steer clear of injury, and he has never fulfilled his potential. But Mortaza is still a decent bowler, and with 19 year old Taskin Ahmed looking like a quality pace bowler in the making it may be that with that bit of quality that Shakib the bowler will bring that the Tigers will finally bear their teeth and give their country’s 156 million souls a big scalp or two to celebrate.

Squad: Al-Amin Hossain, Anamul Haque, Arafat Sunny, Mahmudullah, Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), Mominul Haque, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Nasir Hossain, Rubel Hossain, Sabbir Rahman, Shakib Al Hasan, Soumya Sarkar, Taijul Islam, Tamim Iqbal, Taskin Ahmed.

Zimbabwe

Odds: 501/1
CW predicts: Quarter Finalist
Strength: Batting
Weakness: Pace Attack

Their priority will be to successfully negotiate their first round games against associates Ireland and UAE, but for anyone looking for an outside bet for a quarter final berth Zimbabwe are the team. In recent months they have shown they can compete with Australia and South Africa, and last week recorded a hugely impressive seven wicket win over Sri Lanka in the warm ups, overhauling 279 with more than four overs to spare.

The Zimbabweans strength is their batting. Brendan Taylor is a good player on any definition and Hamilton Masakadza scored a fine ton against the Lankans. The bowling is less impressive but all-rounders Elton Chigumbura and Sean Williams are reliable. Prosper Utseya’s often parsimonious orthodox left arm spin will be sadly missed. Utseya is in the squad, but due to concerns over his action will be bowling medium pace. The man who will empty the bars is Melbourne Renegades’ Solomon Mire – he has a limited pedigree and may not come off, but if he does…

Squad: Regis Chakabva (wk), Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura (capt), Craig Ervine, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Hamilton Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Solomon Mire, Tawanda Mupariwa, Tinashe Panyangara, Sikandar Raza, Brendan Taylor (wk), Prosper Utseya, Sean Williams.

Ireland

Odds: 501/1
CW predicts: No finals
Strength: Decent Batting
Weakness: Lack of penetrative bowling

The Irish feel they should be close to Test status, and previous performances in World Cups suggest that they ought to be a good outside bet to produce a shock or two in the tournament. They have batsmen who are capable of scoring big, and at speed. Ed Joyce is probably their most reliable performer, the O’Brien brothers perhaps the most dangerous.

It may therefore be that Ireland will post the odd decent total, but they don’t look capable of applying pressure in the field by taking clutches of wickets, so will be reliant on their bowlers successfully containing the opposition. Whether they will have the confidence to do that after their unexpected heavy drubbing at the hands of their fellow Celts in the warm up must be doubtful.

Squad: Andrew Balbirnie, Peter Chase, Alex Cusack, George Dockrell, Ed Joyce, Andrew McBrine, John Mooney, Kevin O’Brien, Niall O’Brien (wk), William Porterfield (capt), *Max Sorensen, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Gary Wilson (wk), Craig Young.

Afghanistan

Odds: 1001/1
CW predicts: No finals
Strength: Popular appeal
Weakness: Unfamiliar Conditions

There has rarely been a sporting story as uplifting as the Afghans fifteen year journey from complete unknowns to World Cup outsiders. They will take the field with the goodwill of the entire cricket world following them and willing them to record a major upset.

The Afghans have some decent players too, and the workload will be shared around the whole side. All-rounder and captain Mohammad Nabi will be the man who holds them together. But there is much more. In Hamid Hassan they have a bowler who is distinctly sharp and can move the ball both ways. Realistically they are the only Associate likely to reduce a Test side to 12-3.

Men like Nawroz Mangal and Najibullah Zadran are more than competent with the bat, but the beauty of the Afghan squad is that any one of them is capable of stepping up to the plate. They probably aren’t good enough yet to beat a Test nation, but I suspect that at least one of them is going to have an uneasy few overs before the tournament ends.

Squad: Afsar Zazai (wk), Aftab Alam, Asghar Stanekzai, Dawlat Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Hamid Hassan, Javed Ahmadi, Merwais Ashraf, Mohammad Nabi (capt), Najibullah Zadran, Nasir Jamal, Nawroz Mangal, Samiullah Shinwari, Shapoor Zadran, Usman Ghani.

Scotland

Odds: 2001/1
CW predicts: No finals
Strength: Impetus
Weakness: Opening attack

Comfortably the weakest of the three strong British contingent, or so we thought. A victory against the Irish by 179 runs last week has sent the neutrals scurrying for more information about the Scottish World Cup squad.

There are no real stars here, but there are men who might cause an upset. Kyle Coetzer is a solid batsman, and Matt Machan, century maker against Ireland, is young and promising. New skipper Preston Mommsen is one of the more interesting members of the side, and was named ICC Associate and Affiliate Cricketer of the Year for 2014.

But a few runs is never good enough of itself to slay a giant and if Scotland are to give the Test nations problems they are going to have to bowl well. Like the other associates the seam attack looks steady rather than spectacular, but experienced off spinner Majid Haq is a good bowler, and just maybe he can be to WC 2015 what the Kenyan slow left armer Aasif Karim was to the 2003 edition.

Squad: Richie Berrington, Kyle Coetzer (vice-capt), Freddie Coleman, Matthew Cross (wk), Josh Davey, Alasdair Evans, Hamish Gardiner, Majid Haq, Michael Leask, Matt Machan, Calum MacLeod, Preston Mommsen (capt), Safyaan Sharif, Rob Taylor, Iain Wardlaw.

United Arab Emirates

Odds: 3001/1
CW predicts: No finals
Strength: Opponents may be over-confident
Weakness: Opponents may not be over-confident

It is 19 years since the UAE only previous appearance in the World Cup, and the abiding memory of that is the unequal struggle between their skipper Sultan Zarawani and South African pace ace Alan Donald. Zarawani, the only native Emirati in the side, went out without a helmet and was struck on the head.
His bravery matched only by his foolishness he refused the offer of a helmet even then.

This time around the side, coached by former Pakistani fast bowler Aqib Javed, will be better prepared but at the end of the day all are amateurs and it is difficult to see them causing the Test nations any trouble. That said there may be a cameo performance or two, particularly from Khurram Khan, a 43 year old airline purser who last November became their first ODI centurion.

Squad: Amjad Ali, Amjad Javed, Andri Berenger, Fahad Alhashmi, Kamran Shahzad, Khurram Khan, Krishna Chandran, Manjula Guruge, Mohammed Tauqir (capt), Mohammad Naveed, Nasir Aziz, Rohan Mustafa, Saqlain Haider, Shaiman Anwar, Swapnil Patil(wk).

Comments

Brilliant. Not so sure about England’s semifinal berth (hindsight is watching writing after they have lost two games) but still brilliant. Love the write up on Pakistan’s chances.

Comment by Swaranjeet | 3:17am BST 21 February 2015

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