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ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 : Dr. Nilesh D. Mehta : Final Four predictions
ICC 2019 CWC Predictions:
Dr. Nilesh D. Mehta
With the twelfth edition of 2019 Indian Premier League behind us, all attention will now be focused on the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup across England and Wales. A total of ten participating teams will be battling it out at 11 venues for this marquee event which is held every four years. Every team plays every other team with the top four getting in semi-finals.
Based on the current ODI rankings published by the ICC, England and India are ranked number one and two in the world respectively. While India has been the recipient of this prestigious trophy twice since its inception, England despite having come close, have not been able to win it once.
Who are the top four favorites?
The host nation has come short on previous occasions in the ICC World Cup. Will 2019 be the year for England to turn its fortunes? One name that comes to mind rather immediately is Barbados-born, Sussex star pace bowler Jofra Archer. He has been left out of the original squad announced for the England team. At the present time, pace options for Eoin Morgan, the England captain, are Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes, David Willy, Tom Curran and Ben Stokes. Pakistan and England are playing ODIs at the present time and it is widely speculated that Jofra Archer’s performances will be evaluated prior to his ultimate inclusion in the team. His inclusion in the team could be the X-factor for England this year. Former England skipper, Michael Vaughan, showered significant praises on Jofra Archer. England justifiably hold the ODI number one rank and based on their team composition, they might be the favorites at their 12th attempt at the coveted World Cup. It is surprising that England has not won the World Cup. England batting looks solid with their key performers peaking just prior to this tournament. England will miss Alex Hales after he failed a drug test having tested positive for a recreational drug. In addition to the obvious top four, presence of Jos Buttler is a big key for England with his ability to be a game changer, not to forget Ben Stokes. England’s team balance is excellent and if they maintain their consistency in this tournament, they might have their name imprinted on the trophy in 2019.
The Australian Cricket team will be entering the World Cup with 8 consecutive ODI wins and 2 consecutive series wins in India (3-2) followed by a humiliating whitewash of Pakistan in their adopted home of UAE. After having placed the sandpaper gate behind them, Aussie stalwarts David Warner and Steven Smith, will be huge factors for their team’s resurgence. Warner’s recent IPL exploits have again reaffirmed his class and match winning potential. Glenn Maxwell will be the X-factor for their team and along with their top six of Aaron Finch, David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marcus Stoinis, and Steven Smith, will remain one of the top favorites of this summer cricket extravaganza. One of the most crucial factors for this Aussie team is their history in this event which would instill some degree of self-belief despite their recent turmoil, both administratively and at personnel levels. Their bowling department provides a winning variety of bowlers in Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff. They will be mindful of their premature exit from the World Cup in 1992 in Ahmedabad and would certainly want to get into the finals this year. More importantly, Australia has the ability of their lower-order players to bat and produce some quick runs in winning situations.
- India :
India’s obvious strength is their top batting order with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan having established as a successful opening pair. Skipper Virat Kohli has a chance to leave a stamp on his legacy this summer in England for this quadrennial event. Arguably, the best batsman in the world at the present time, much is expected of this talented cricketer. While there were some eyebrows raised at the exclusion of the dashing Rishabh Pant, the team seems very balanced. One of the criticisms would be the batting strength of the lower-order of India’s batting. In the ideal world, their lower-order batting strength should not become a factor in winning particularly if their batsmen pose an imposing score. India would certainly be favorites in this World Cup considering their batting and bowling strength. With regards to bowling, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, and Bhuvneshvar Kumar are a formidable trio capable of overpowering any batting line up with their skills. Jasprit Bumrah, coming off his success in the IPL season, remains one of the best bowlers in limited overs cricket. Bhuvneshvar Kumar did have a scary moment when he seemed to have his right ankle twisted during an IPL match. Mahendra Singh Dhoni will also be playing his last World Cup and his sheer presence in the team and wicket keeping prowess is invaluable. Hardik Pandya, with his incredible cricket abilities as an all-rounder, could potentially become the difference in some of the close games. And, let’s not forget our spinning trio of Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja and Yuzvendra Chahal.
Pakistan may not be everyone’s favorite to win the World Cup for the second time, however, their players have produced a stunning run of performances to win the Champions Trophy two years ago and will hope to enjoy similar success on English soil in 2019. Former England captain Nasser Hussain mentioned that Pakistan’s unpredictable nature of play will continue to be a danger to anyone. Their bowling attack is quite strong and I was certainly surprised at the initial exclusion of Mohammad Amir. Pakistan has an ability to lose to a side that one would least expect them to and on the other hand they are capable of creating huge upsets on any given day. Pakistan’s batting strength was exemplified in their recent nearly improbable chase of 374 albeit in a losing cause in Southampton in the 2nd ODI. The fact that their team has had an opportunity to acclimatize themselves to conditions in England is also a huge plus. Their opening pair of Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman along with Babar Azam will provide the opposition some headaches particularly with the left and right handed combination. Pakistan skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed is a seasoned and unperturbed campaigner whose leadership skills will be put to task as he tries to get his nation the second World Cup. One concern is their unpredictable fielding which can bleed a few runs and that can become crucial particularly in close games as was evidenced in the ODI games against England currently.
Predictions can go awry and under-dogs could sneak in the final four. One or two key injuries to team players could switch the fortunes of individuals and their teams and the pendulum can easily swing the other way.