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ICC World Cup Preview

With the World Cup now just days away, I’ve decided its time to take a closer look at the tournament, and each of the teams.

Luckily this time around there is no massively lengthy and unnecessary ‘Super Sixes’ or ‘Super Eights’ part to the tournament, with the draw aligned to ensure that the big teams are there come quarter finals time. With a straight knockout structure following the group stage, there should be some very interesting cricket come the finals. I’m going to group all the teams into four categories: the favourites, the dark horses, the underachievers, and the also-rans.

Firstly the FAVOURITES

India

The co-hosts deserve favouritism in this tournament, despite sitting second on the ICC rankings. Their form in the warm-up matches has been impressive, other than a feeble top order batting performance  against Australia, and at home they will be a major problem for all teams. Any team with Sachin Tendulkar will be a threat at this tournament, and the spinning qualities of Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla will provide India with a real edge on what look to be Bunsens all around India. There is also Dhoni in form, and the power of Yuvraj and Raina in the middle order, along with Sehwag at the top, which pretty much means India could be unstoppable. On the other side though, they have been known to fall apart under pressure in this tournament, but the structure of it should see them at least make the final.

Sri Lanka

Much like India, co-hosting the tournament gives the Sri Lankans a major edge over the competition. They have come into it in great form, with an away victory over Australia earlier in the summer. Their top order is all class, with Sangakkara, Jayawardene and Dilshan all highly ranked in the ODI batting lists. They also have talented all rounder Angelo Mathews, and the second greatest spinner in history playing his final major tournament in Murali, which makes them an even bigger threat on big turning pitches. The last time the World Cup was in the sub-continent, Sri Lanka won….will history repeat?

Australia

Although this may seem a bit biased after the warm-up matches, the triple defending champions can never be counted out. Australia, amazingly, enter the tournament as the number one ranked ODI side in the world, buoyed by a 6-1 thrashing of England at home. Despite the lack of an experienced spinner, they do have the man I regard as the best in the country in Krejza, and a host of part timers all capable of turning a game. Ricky Ponting looks to have overcome his finger injury, performing well in the two warm-up clashes, and with a four-pronged pace attack including Lee, Tait, Johnson and Bollinger, supported admirably by Hastings, Australia could blow some teams out of the park. They also possess arguably the in-form all rounder in the world at the moment in two-time Allan Border Medalist Shane Watson. Semi finals is a minimum.

The DARK HORSES

England

Whilst their ODI form is patchy, they haven’t played at full strength for some time and have probably the best tactical captain in the tournament in Strauss. England can be a danger, with many players taking Ashes form into one-day arena, and with the best spinner in the world, Swann, and a pace attack which can move the ball around both in the air and off the pitch, they will cause many problems for opposition batsman throughout the tournament. There are some question marks over their batting, but if Bell or Strauss go well at the top, they have the fire-power of Pietersen and Morgan to take the game away from their rivals.

West Indies

This will probably be ridiculed by many, but stay with me here. The West Indies are the biggest ‘dark horses’ of any side in the tournament. Despite an, at times, mediocre bowling attack, and team possessing Chris Gayle, Keiran Pollard and Dwayne Bravo needs to be taken seriously. They have a very talented batting line up, also including Sawarn and Chanderpaul, and the emerging Kemar Roach could be a handful with the ball. I don’t know exactly what it is with them, I just like the look of the side. If they get to the latter stages of the tournament, whoever stands in their way needs to watch out.

Bangladesh

Again, another side who don’t look challenging on paper, but the third co-hosts of the World Cup need to be taken seriously at home. Shakib ul-Hasan is their captain, and also the number one ranked all rounder in ODI cricket, averaging 32 with the bat and 23 with the ball in 2010 against England, Pakistan and New Zealand. Their series win over New Zealand showed everyone in the world they are capable, and now is their time to step up and be counted. They made it past the group stages last time, and I see no reason why they can’t accomplish that again this time, and prove a nuisance to the big guns later on.

The UNDERACHIEVERS

South Africa

Once again its World Cup time, for both the Rugby Union and the Cricket. This means that South Africa and New Zealand have their best chance in 4 years to claim the trophy. But alas, another choke will cost them. South Africa possess the best fast bowler in the world, and some destructive, but ageing, batsman. They will make it to the semi-finals, but I’m not convinced that their spinners can get them over the line, even after destroying Australia’s middle order in their warm-up clash. And there is also that little fine detail about them choking EVERY time. But if St George Illawarra and Collingwood can get over it, surely the Proteas and All Blacks can. Is it the time they lose the chokers tag?

New Zealand

The Black Caps are really struggling at the moment after a humiliating series loss to Bangladesh. Daniel Vettori has already announced that he is stepping down as captain after the World Cup, so this could cause some instability within an already fragile squad. They have some big trump cards in Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor and Tim Southee, however the remainder of their squad haven’t really been consistent enough to warrant serious contention. With Vettori on the way out they probably lack the quality leadership to go very far.

Pakistan

There is much controversy standing over Pakistan at the moment, and this could either galvanize the side and bring the best out of them, or, like it has done so far, destroy their chances altogether. Shahid Afridi has the ability to destroy an attack on his day, and the pitches will certainly suit his bowling, but I can’t see a whole lot of support for him. Umar Akmal will be a key in the middle order, as will Umar Gul with the ball, but there are also a few players past it, including Younis Khan and Shoaib Ahktar. Could cause a few problems, but surely they can’t have a World Cup worse than 2007, can they?

The ALSO RANS

Ireland

The Irish have a few quality players, including Ed Joyce, Niall O’Brien and Trent Johnston, and will cause some problems for the top sides. Unfortunately I can’t see them replicating their heroics of 2007, mainly because they have a weak bowling attack and not enough depth to perform consistently.

Kenya

Semi-finalists in 2003, Kenya have fallen away a bit since then. They were expected to go onto bigger and better things, but have dropped off the radar. Their star from that effort, Steve Tikolo, is still around at 39, but unfortunately I can’t see them causing any problems for any of the top sides.

Canada

A growing cricket region, the Canadians have shown some good form in the ICC Cricket League tournaments recently. They include Australians John Davidson and Karl Watham, but are made up mostly of local players from various regions of the world. They did cause some problems for England in their final warm-up game, but I can’t see them doing too much in the tournament.

Netherlands

The Dutch have become a regular in the major tournaments, and are another growing cricket region, with many players in the English County Competition. They have called up West Australian youngster Micheal Swart as a last minute replacement, so it would be interesting to see if he gets some game time. Other than that, South Australian Tom Cooper, Alexei Kerveeze and Ryan ten Doeschate will see them finish over some other lightweights, but I can’t see them challenging the top sides.

Zimbabwe

Have been challenged recently by Pakistan for the most controversy racked side. They have some good young talent, but politics have robbed this side of any real chance, including the loss of Sean Ervine, who pulled out last month. Could cause an upset of two, but I can’t see them exiting the group.

So thats it for the World Cup preview. I hope everyone enjoys this one, which will be easier to do as it won’t drag on like the last one. I’m tipping INDIA to win it, but there should be some great cricket in the knockout games. Let us know your thoughts on this World Cup, either by commenting below, sending us an email at whosplayingwho@gmail.com, or visiting our Facebook page at facebook.com/whosplayingwho.

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