World Cup 2019 Preview

World Cup is coming. This phrase may just sound familiar since the popular television show Game of Thrones kept foreshadowing the event called The Great War by reiterating one of their famous lines ‘Winter is coming’. This year’s World Cup is nothing short of a Great War where 10 teams battle it out with bat and ball in the 50 over format in England. The tournament will feature England, Australia, India, South Africa, West Indies, Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The format used in this year’s ICC World Cup 2019 is similar to the 1992 World Cup featuring a complete round robin schedule where each contestant will meet all the other contestants in turn. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for us.

ENGLAND

England completely changed their approach in the white ball format after their horrible run in the 2015 World Cup, getting knocked out by a resurgent Bangladesh and failing to qualify for Quarter-finals. They started developing an aggressive brand of cricket since that period. It all began with New Zealand’s tour of England when they started to hit the 300 run mark almost every Odi in that series. And that has been the norm since the 2015 showpiece event as they also hold the record of highest total set by a team posting 481 against their arch rivals Australia. On top of the order, Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow have been constantly giving good starts for England clocking at over 6 runs per over in the first 10 overs. And then they have one of their best batsman at 3 – Joe Root who has scored 3498 runs at an average of 58 since 2015 World Cup. Eoin Morgan has also been prolific in the middle order providing sustainability in the middle overs only to set it up for the big hitter like Jos Buttler and all-rounders Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali who have been outstanding in the death overs. Without any doubts, England have the best batting line up going into this year’s World Cup as the stats reflect their performances. But as they say bowlers win matches, and this is the department where England will be slightly wary of. Chris Woakes is their best bowler in that lineup but other bowlers like Mark Wood, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett will have to step up. Tom Curran has also been impressive in the past year or so for England and with the inclusion of Jofra Archer, as seen during the Pakistan series, England start off as favorites.

AUSTRALIA

Surprisingly Australia, having won the 2015 World Cup, have a very low winning percentage in the past 4 years. They have lost twice against India, twice against South Africa, twice against New Zealand, and twice against England during this period. But they will be confident going into the World Cup after winning the Odi series in India, beating them comprehensively in the last three Odi’s after being 0-2 down. They also whitewashed Pakistan during their UAE tour 5-0 and with the likes of David Warner and Steve Smith’s inclusion in the squad, their batting certainly looks solid on paper. Skipper Aaron Finch wasn’t in the best of form since the past 1 year but his knocks against India and Pakistan will help him boost his confidence and can be explosive on top of the order with David Warner. Middle overs will be handled by Smith, Shaun Marsh and particularly Usman Khawaja who has been brilliant in the past couple of months and has been an important player for Australia’s turnaround in the last two series. Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis are also valuable players for Australia as they will be hoping to get some quick runs from their bat and do a good job with ball in the middle overs. Australia’s bowling looks experienced as well with the likes of Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Pat Cummins and coupled with youngsters – Jason Behrendorff, Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson. One cannot write off Australia specially during the ICC events where they have been playing wonderful cricket over the last 20 years winning 5 out of 12 World Cup editions.

INDIA

The biggest change in Indian Cricket over the past 4 years has been in the bowling department particularly the pace bowlers. The introduction of Jasprit Bumrah (who ranks No. 1 in Odi) in the white ball format has been the most successful one. And not just Bumrah but other bowlers like Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya have also stepped up. After the Champions Trophy 2017, spin twins Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have been exceptional as well but this will be their first appearance in the World Cup. With the bat, the three time double centurion Rohit Sharma with Shikhar Dhawan have done wonders for India and have been constantly opening the innings since the 2013 Champions Trophy. And then comes the greatest batsman in the One day format after Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, who has played like a beast since the 2015 World Cup as he is the top run getter since that period scoring a mammoth 4306 runs with an average of 78. MS Dhoni, KL Rahul, Vijay Shankar can rotate the strike in the middle overs with Hardik Pandya and Kedhar Jadhav as finishers. Pandya has been in good form in the IPL and Jadhav’s bowling may come in handy as well during middle overs. India have won Odi series in West Indies, South Africa, Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand and will be very confident going into this tournament. This will be Virat Kohli’s first World Cup as a captain and could be MS Dhoni’s last World Cup.

SOUTH AFRICA

If India have strong bowling line up – Bumrah and Shami, one other team that can give competition to them is South Africa. With the most experienced and legendary fast bowler Dale Steyn in the side, along with Kagiso Rabada who instills fear in the batsmen and the youngster Lungi Ngidi who has been phenomenal as well, this South African bowling attack can win matches if the batsmen have an off day. Add Imrah Tahir and they have all the bases covered including the celebration. What remains to be seen is the opening combination with Quinton De Kock, Hashim Amla has lost momentum in the past couple of years and Aiden Markram is new to the side, Faf Du Plesis is a wonderful batsman who can rotate the strike as well take the bowlers for cleaners and JP Duminy can play the same job as well, David Miller has always been in and around the team but hasn’t performed at his best yet. Miller will hope for a change in fortunes and look to finish the matches well for the team. Out of all the top playing cricketing countries, South Africa will be the least hyped nation in terms of pressure and expectations going into this World Cup.

WEST INDIES

Underdogs? Yes. Ability to lift the trophy? Definitely. West Indies are a team that may not perform well during a bilateral series, but during the big stages, they become a completely different team. Universe Boss, who is all set to retire from the international cricket, will be more focused than ever and with Evin Lewis’s support at the other end, West Indies can expect explosive starts during the first powerplay. Shai Hope is another fine player averaging almost 50 and can work the ball around in the middle overs. Then they have three destructive batsmen to follow – Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran, and Andre Russel who has been in excellent form in the IPL for Kolkata Knight Riders. Jason Holder has done well as a captain and as a bowler but the bowling will be a concern for this team. Oshane Thomas is a tall right arm fast bowler but has limited experience in this format, Kemar Roach’s experience will come in handy and Ashley Nurse has really done well as a spinner, but the main question is can they defend any total that their explosive batsmen put up?

PAKISTAN

We all were astonished when Pakistan won the Champions Trophy final in 2017 defeating their arch rivals India. Everyone wrote them off before the start of the tournament specially after losing against India, which was the only match they lost. Fakhar Zaman lays the foundation beautifully early on in the innings along with Imam Ul Haq who has started off well in his international career scoring 6 centuries in the 28 games he has played. And then they have Babar Azam, who is regarded by a lot of people as the next Virat Kohli, who rotates the strike well in the middle overs and can change gears when the team wants to. Shoaib Malik, also retiring after this World Cup, will look to exit from international career on a high note. The likes of Asif Ali, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Imad Wasim will look to take the bowlers on in the death overs. There have been many speculations on how their bowlers will fare after a poor series against England conceding 340+ runs everytime they bowled. The inclusion of Mohammed Amir and Wahab Riaz will just ease the pressure as they can be lethal early on but they are both out of form and that will be a huge worry for Pakistan. Young Shaheen Afridi has been impressive and spinner Shadab Khan will look to contain the batsmen and pick up wickets in the middle overs. Pakistan perform best when they were the ‘underdogs’ title. While they hate the ‘unpredictable’ tag, they are a team that can lose against a weaker opposition but can defeat any strong opposition on their day.

NEW ZEALAND

Out of all the top cricketing countries, New Zealand are the most underrated team. They have players who can win matches, and have a strong bowling attack that can skittle any opposition lineup. Starting from Martin Guptill, who scored a double ton in the 2015 World Cup, along with Colin Munro will look to be explosive in the start. Mr Consistent Kane Williamson can steady the ship in the middle overs with Ross Taylor at the other end, the only issue they might face is finishing the game with the likes of Colin De Grandhomme, James Neesham and Mitchell Santner. Their middle and lower middle order could be vulnerable if there is a collapse from the top order batsmen. Tom Latham, who is currently injured will look to get fit as soon as possible to provide stability in the middle order. Familiar bowling duo Trent Bolt and Tim Southee have been exceptional in the start and spinners Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner will be key in the middle overs. New Zealand were one step too far from getting their hands on the trophy during the last World Cup when they lost to Australia in the finals, but they will look to replicate their 2015 World Cup form going into 2019 World Cup.

SRI LANKA

Things haven’t gone well for Sri Lanka since the conclusion of 2015 World Cup. They haven’t found replacements yet for the greats that left the game – Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tilakaratne Dilshan. They have been struggling for consistency, lack experience specially during big events and have had very little momentum during these 4 years. Their best batsman Dimuth Karunaratne will be looking to provide crucial runs on top of the order along with youngster Avishka Fernando. Former skipper Angelo Mathews, who has been in and out of the squad due to injuries will be vital in the middle order along with Kusal Mensis and big hitters Thisara Perera and Dhananjaya De Silva will look to finish well. Lasith Malinga will be extremely handy for the team with all the experience that he has and will look to open and close the innings with the ball for Sri Lanka. Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep have some experience as well with the ball but will have to step up and make use of the conditions. They also have a leggie Jeevan Mendis but he has been in and out of side as well and therefore his form will also be a concern. Sri Lanka have beaten India during the 2017 Champions Trophy in England and they will take that confidence and positives going into the World Cup.

BANGLADESH

Don’t be surprised if Bangladesh end up in the Semi-finals of this year’s World Cup. They have played some outstanding cricket over the past 8 years and have done well in the last showpiece event too knocking out England in the group stages to qualify for the Quarter-finals. They definitely have it in them to qualify and having won a multi-national tournament for the first time ever, defeating West Indies in the tri-series, it will be a tremendous boost for them going into World Cup. The main reason for Bangladesh doing so well is because of experience. Likes of Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Sabbir Rahman, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hassan have been playing for a long time and have loads of experience behind them. And most of the pitches expected to be a flat-deck, they have the ability to score 300+ run mark on a regular basis. They have experience in the bowling lineup as well with Mashrafe Mortaza, Rubel Hossain and Mustafizur Rahman who has been terrific lately. Bangladesh are a side that have continuosly improved as the years have progressed and their cricket has been getting better and better. They are definitely a team to watch out for.

AFGHANISTAN

Afghanistan, like Bangladesh, have also evolved and improved their cricket. They still have a long way to go but they have played some good cricket and very deservedly are the 10th in the rankings. They already have star players Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and latest spin sensation Mujeeb Ur Rehman in their squad. They can knock any side under 250 but whether they have the ability to chase that many still remains to be a concern. Their performances in the recently concluded Asia Cup have been outstanding as they came extremely close to defeating India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Mohammad Shahzad has been explosive at the start and can demolish the opening bowlers and batsmen like Rahmat Shah and Asghar Afghan can bat around him. They have been playing decent cricket over the last year or so and playing under pressure in front of packed crowds will be challenging. They won’t win the World Cup, but major upsets may come during the 9 matches they will play.

This year’s World Cup is certainly the most challenging one due to the round-robin schedule, there won’t be any room for complacency by any team whatsoever. This 46 days event is expected to be filled with nonstop entertainment as new records will be set, old records will be broken, maybe we will witness a double century, we may event witness a 500+ total, young players will stand up for their respective teams, Old players will bid farewell, heartbreaks are meant to happen in such big tournaments but the team with the best bowling lineup and best field placements will win the title and ultimately the best captain will be the one sitting on the iron throne. ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 is set to commence from 30th May with England and South Africa in the opening match. Live coverage will be telecasted exclusively on Star Sports and Hotstar with day matches at 3 pm and day and night matches at 6 pm.

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