The atmosphere at home, on the streets and at the stadiums in England and Wales are about to get a lot more vociferous. And we all know why because on 30th May the ICC Cricket World Cup is back. Fans, and even the ones who don’t come under the ‘cricket freak’ bracket, are super excited about this mega or should I say, blockbuster event. While the whole world awaits this grand showdown, I’m pretty sure people have already made their predictions on who will be crowned champions of the world on 14th July. And so have I, I have made my predictions too. So, here you go.
Predicting semi-finalists are tough, but I’ve somehow managed to get my four. Many of you may not agree with a couple of my picks, but hey, this is MY prediction, right? Well, without further delay, let me begin.
First and foremost, you cannot look beyond the host country England. They are undoubtedly the team to beat and have arguably the best 15 member squad at the world cup. No matter what the total is, they seem to be chasing anything or everything. Even when batting first, they are setting daunting targets to their opponents. With the form that they are in, I’m sure every person has England in their top 4; and so do I. It’s so so hard to look past them. Eoin Morgan and co. are firm favourites to not only make the top 4, but win the cup as well. They are so pleasing to the eyes, especially their batting.
Player to Watch Out For: Jofra Archer
The men in blue haven’t had a great outing the last time they were in national colours. Australia had beaten them in an ODI series, that too in their own backyard. But every team goes through these lean patches and India will hope they can turn their fortunes around. Boasting of arguably the best batter (Virat Kohli) and best death bowler (Jasprit Bumrah) in their ranks, India have a formidable line-up. With MSD in prime form, and Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan (man of ICC tournaments) in good nick too, India are certain top 4 finishers. If Kohli and Bumrah are at their best (on most days they are), they could give England a run for their money. Furthermore, Bumrah will be desperate to make things right, especially after that no-ball debacle in England vs Pakistan a couple of years ago.
Player to Watch Out For: Jasprit Bumrah
If you asked me a few months ago, I wouldn’t have had Australia in my Dark Horses list, let alone top 4. But their spectacular recent form against India and Pakistan (whitewashing them 5-0 in UAE) proves that the 5-time world champions, can never be overlooked. They know how to get themselves in form when the mega event gets closer. Also, with the returning of David Warner and Steve Smith, Australia look a much more stronger unit. And of course, last world cup’s man of the tournament Mitchell Starc will be raring to repeat his heroics. Australia are in form and there’s no reason why this team can pocket a record 6th title.
Player to Watch Out For: David Warner
This team, over the past few world cups has always had a strong squad; but more often than not disappointed their fans and has been called “chokers” for stumbling at the wrong time. But this is a fresh year, and with fresh new hope, South Africa has another solid team led by a gun player in Faf du Plessis. Enough firepower with both bat and ball, South Africa would want nothing else than a silverware at the end of the event. But for that, their key and in-form players (Kagiso Rabada, Quinton De Kock, and Imran Tahir) will have to perform.
Player to Watch Out For: Kagiso Rabada
Perhaps even tougher than predicting the semi-finalists are predicting the dark horses of the tournament. I’ve picked three teams who can potentially sneak into the top four.
The year 2019 hasn’t be kind to Pakistan cricket with just two ODI victories to their name and that too way way back in January (vs South Africa). Despite their poor lull in form, Pakistan are still a force to be reckoned with. Who can forget their famous Champions Trophy 2017 triumph (that too in England), and that too when nobody give them a chance. Hence, you cannot rule them out and despite their recent series loss to England (0-4 loss), their batting seems to be in great form. They’re certainly the dark horses for the World Cup.
Player to Watch Out For: Babar Azam
Another team who can rub shoulders with the best is New Zealand. The Kiwis enter the World Cup on the back of two ODI series whitewash of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Though the team they have beaten aren’t that threatening, their warm-up match win against India certainly gives us reasons to believe that this Kane Williamson-led side cannot be taken lightly. Besides that, with Trent Boult in form and Williamson at his best (as always), New Zealand are definitely one of the dark horses.
Player to Watch Out For: Trent Boult
The entertainers of cricket, the West Indies cannot be overlooked even for a wee bit because a team boasting of numerous power hitters, can demolish any given attack on their day. Though the format is not T20 cricket, Windies can never be ruled out in the limited overs format. With many in form especially Andre Russell, Chris Gayle and upcoming young talents in Shimron Hetmyer and Keemo Paul, West Indies are heading to the world cup to emulate the heroics of 1975 and 1979. But will they be successful? Only time shall tell.
Player to Watch Out For: Andre Russell
Nobody likes to enter a tournament as being tagged as the least favourites to win the world cup. And tbh, even I don’t think it is fair to keep a section like this. But then, someone will be finishing as the wooden spooners and hence, this segment.
This Afghanistan team has enjoyed immense success in the past 12 to 18 months and they continue to head upwards. With top players like Mohammad Shahzad, Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Hazratullah Zazai in their ranks, they can spring a surprise or two. But despite all that, it is hard to expect Afghanistan to win games on the bounce. Another thing that goes against them is a big change at the helm. With Gulabin Naib being named skipper prior to the start of the world cup puts immense pressure on him. And not having enough experience of captaining a side at the international level, gives me second thoughts about this team having a decent campaign.
Player to Watch Out For: Rashid Khan
I’m sure people will be surprised to see me pick Bangladesh as one of the favourites to finish last at the world cup, especially after their emphatic tri-series win over Ireland and West Indies. As a team Bangladesh have grown in leaps and bounds, no doubt. And even look strong with the likes Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al-Hasan, Tamim Iqbal in top form. But the world cup pressure is a different ball game, and personally, I don’t see Bangladesh coping up with the pressure especially in English conditions.
Player to Watch Out For: Shakib Al-Hasan
A team who has always entered a world cup with plenty of hope, enter the 2019 world cup with barely any hope of even winning a single match. With ODI whitewashes in South Africa and New Zealand, Sri Lanka picked up their solitary ODI win of the year just recently, while playing against a team like Scotland. Even before the world cup commences, Sri Lanka look down and out and are hot favourites to end up as the wooden spooners (I hope they prove me wrong). But will they end up there; perhaps only time will tell.
Player to Watch Out For: Thisara Perera
And that’s a wrap. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
While the biggest carnival in sports is COMING, I just cannot wait for the action to unfold. Moreover, I’m super excited to see how this new round-robin league format will work out. Are you excited as well?