ICC World Cup 2019: No Toddler Among Big Fish
There is no big fish and no toddler among the 10 teams that will play in the ICC World Cup cricket 2019 in England and Wales. All teams are so equally equipped and balanced that any team winning against the other would not be considered a major upset.
Having discussed seven of the ten teams in earlier segments of the write up, let us discuss about West Indies, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Any of the three on their day have weapons to win against any of other seven teams.
West Indies and Sri Lanka have experience of winning the cup. While Afghanistan with some impact players of international class is just blooming from the buds. There are no reasons for considering them as toddlers among the big fishes.
West Indies were unbeatable team through out 1970s and 1980s. The likes of Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Lawrence Rowe, Alvin Kallicharan, Vivian Richards, Clive Lloyd, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, D Murray, Vanburn Holder led the team winning the first two world cups ( then called Prudential World Cup ) very comfortably.
They were on their way to win the third consecutive trophy in 1983. But Kapil Dev led India surprised them at Lords causing a major upset in the final. Since then, West Indies lost their way so much that for the present World Cup, they had to earn their berth playing in the qualification round with the ICC associates and other three bottom ranked ICC full member countries.
Though not considered hot favorites in recent times in ODI cricket global tournaments, West Indian players dominate T20 franchise leagues round the globe. They are also a formidable team in T20.
The likes of CH Gayle, Pollard, Narine, Russell, and Bravo are the top stars of franchise cricket. Though a second string cricket team in the recent Tri-Nation tournament in Ireland featuring alongside host Ireland and winner Bangladesh proved ordinary yet the main squad has the potential to run deep into the tournament and even surprising the top teams of the tournament.
But like Pakistan, West Indies are another unpredictable side. But nevertheless they are one of the most entertaining cricket teams and the players enjoy their cricket.
West Indies Squad for ICC World Cup Cricket 2019:
Jason Holder , C H Gayle , Elvin Lewis , Daren Bravo , Shai Hope, Simron Hetmyer , Nicolas Pooran , Ashley Nurse , Andre Russel, Fabian Allen, Carlos Braithwaite ,Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Oshana Thomas and Sheldon Cottrell.
Universe Boss CH Gayle, in limited over cricket requires no introduction. He along with blaster Lewis can blast any attack on their day anywhere of the world. No bowler of any quality feel comfortable bowling to them when they are in full flow.
Young Hope and Hetmyer are also growing as world class batmen. Darren Bravo considered as proto type of great Brian Lara is just getting back to his stride from a long layoff.
Captain Holder and great all rounder Russell can also blast the attack in the middle and late order. West Indies may be missing Sunil Narine and Pollard a lot on days when top order may not fire.
The fast bowlers Gabriel, Roach, Holder and Cottrell and Oshane Thomas would cause headache for many. Russell is also a very good wicket taking bowler.
The only problem these days is fielding smartly and taking their chances. But with great resources West Indies may be a surprise package of the tournament.
Sri Lanka Can Not Be Ruled Out:
Although not of the same vein as they used to be young Sri Lankan team would not be a mere push over. One must not forget that players like Jayasuriya, De Silva in the past, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Muralitharan brought the concept of explosive cricket in world cricket. They won the cup once and finished second to dominant Australia twice in 2007 and 2011.
The present team is in the process of reorganization with several young quality players maturing into world level. They may not have great success off late But World cup cricket is a different ball game where all qualified teams have reasonable weapons in their arsenal for not being taken lightly.
Sri Lanka Squad for ICC World Cup Cricket 2019:
Dimuth Karunaratne, Aviska Fernando, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kaushal Mendis , Angelo Matthews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera, Isuru Udana, Jeevan Mendis, Milinda Siriwardana, Kaushal Perera, Jaffrey Vandersay, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep
Present Lankan team does not have Sangakkara and Jayawardene type world class players or mega star like Muralitharan. Following their retirement the team is in the process of rebuilding. The very strong domestic infrastructure of domestic cricket helps them producing quality young players.
But some issues of controversy in Lankan cricket stuttered the progress a bit. In recent time a very sad terrorist act in Sri Lanka attracted world attention. Lot of people having admiration for Lankan cricket would wish them well. Players would also be motivated for doing well.
Young batsmen like Kusall Mendis, Kusal Perera, Karunaratne, Fernando can bat the team to comfort zone for try and win matches. Mathews and Thisara Perera are experienced all-rounders of class.
Slinger Malinga is still a class act with his bowling. Lakmal and Pradeep will also enjoy bowling in English condition. But Sri Lanka have won very few matches off late. It will be great achievement for them if they can compete well against major oppositions.
Rookie Afghanistan May Cause Few Upsets.
A country where suicide attacks killing people, IED blowing cars and convoys on the street are routine affairs as fall out global and regional politics, a group of brave Afghans learning their cricket from camps in Peshawar and making India as their home have done wonderfully well recent time in world cricket.
They have hardly any domestic infrastructure. Yet producing world class players like Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Mohammad Nabi, Mohammad Shehzad, and Hazratullah Zazai is great achievement.
Afghans like to win and have great commitment for that. They qualified above Zimbabwe and Ireland alongside West Indies. If Afghanistan can score 270 -280 runs somehow teams would struggle against very high quality spin attack of Rashid, Mujeeb and Nabi.
Pace attack and batting are their relative weak links. But Shahzad, Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Najibullah Zadran, Aftab Alam, Nabi are good batsman. If they adjust to English wickets scoring runs should not be that difficult for them.
Rashid Khan, Mujeeb and Nabi are sought after players in T20 franchise world wide. Until recently Rashid was the top all rounder in ODI before losing crown to Shakib Al Hasan. He is the best leg spinner in world cricket now.
Mujeeb is a mystery bowler and can confuse many. Nabi is a good steady bowler. Afghans can have 30 of the 50 overs of quality bowling attack. Dawlat Zadran and Hamid Hasan have to bowl well leaking as less runs as possible. Afghans will definitely win few matches and may upset few title aspirants.
Afghanistan Squad for ICC World Cup Cricket 2019:
Gulbadin Naib (c), Mohammad Shahzad (wk.), Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
Bookies rank England, India and Australia among the top favorites and consider any of the four from New Zealand, Bangladesh, West Indies and Pakistan joining them. We cannot rule out West Indies as well. It depends how the team adjusts and show commitment.
Sri Lanka and Afghanistan may win few matches but cannot be considered going deep. Bangladesh are the most experienced team of the lot. They are also playing good cricket.
But this year the format is very different. Within few days teams have to play nine matches. Playing consistently well against top teams require quality, skill, commitment and mental toughness. We have no doubt about England and Australia having all these.
India may need some players other than Kohli and Dhoni shining. New Zealand has to prove that they play well outside their comfort zone at home. South Africa minus Kalis and de Villiers may not tweet.
Pakistan has great possibility of forcing their way into the top four with horses for the courses players. My choice for top four is England, Australia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
We must bear in mind that in every world cup soccer Brazil, Argentina and Germany are tipped by all. But other teams pip them for the post. It may not be that different for cricket though.
Bangladesh with their golden generation and quality new players may out pace others into business round.