Predicting the Cricket World Cup: Part One

Australia (A): Prediction = Finalists

To a generation of cricket supporters, Australia will always be a juggernaut and a powerhouse at World Cups. Having won three consecutive trophies (1999, 2003, 2007), home conditions will certainly play a part should Australia lift the 2015 edition as well. The hosts will want to put on a spectacle for their fans, and there is no greater spectacle than Mitchell Johnson running in at pace troubling overseas batsmen. Australia’s fielding is also world class, with electric players such as David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, and captain George Bailey saving between 20–25 runs a game as they patrol the field.

Issues to be worked on:

Due to Shane Watson’s injury, Australia are struggling with the batting all rounders spot. Mitchell Marsh (coming off a terrific tri-series in Zimbabwe and a Champions League) is currently auditioning for the role in the Pakistan series. James Faulkner has the added responsibility now of being the genuine all rounder in the ODI format, but it would upset the balance of the Australian squad should either Watson/Marsh not be fully fit come February. Australia would also be in trouble if Mitchell Johnson got injured between now and the World Cup- as a result; they need to carefully manage his workload over the winter. Their batting also needs to fire, in order to give the power hitters down the order enough of a platform.

New Zealand (A): Prediction = Semi-Finals

New Zealand are perennial dark horses at any ICC tournament. They quietly go about doing their business, but I believe this should be the tournament they really leave their mark on the World Cup. As co-hosts with Australia, they will play all their matches in front of partisan crowds. Home conditions should also suit what is arguably the best contemporary new-ball pair (Boult/Southee), who will be backed up with strong fielding from the likes of Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson, and Ross Taylor.

Issues to be worked on:

The spin bowling slot is one of the clear weaknesses in the New Zealand team. They will be praying for 10 overs a game from the experienced Daniel Vettori, in what is likely to be his swansong from international cricket. Should Vettori not be fit enough, the young Ish Sodhi will be tested- will he be good enough if thrown into the deep end? New Zealand will also be looking at ways they can improve the pace of the innings. Kane Williamson will be tasked with anchoring the innings, leaving the power players such as Corey Anderson, Jimmy Neesham, Ross Taylor, and skipper McCullum to play their natural games. New Zealand will also have to cope with the mental pressures that will come when entering the knockout stages of the World Cup- they will certainly be looking to their experienced players to provide guidance.

India (B): Prediction = Semi-Finals

It is often said that the most important position in India is that of it’s cricket captain. MS Dhoni now has the unenviable task of retaining the World Cup (having won the last tournament in 2011)- no small feat with 1.6 billion people’s expectations. The Indian captain is renowned for his tactical genius in the shorter forms of the game, but this will be tested in Australia. He will rely on his spinners to choke things up and to provide him with the opportunity to work on the batsman’s mind. However, if India are to retain the Cup, their batting must click, putting up totals of 300+ in every game. The talent is certainly there with Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, and Rohit Sharma providing top order firepower.

Issues to be worked on:

India have struggled with death bowling in the last 10 years. No pace bowler has been consistent enough to display any semblance of control under pressure, and Indian fans have grown accustomed to seeing 75–100 runs being scored after the 40th over. India’s ground fielding is outstanding, but slip catching has been a problem. It will be important in Australia/New Zealand, as a number of catches will come behind the wicket. India will also have to compete in testing overseas conditions- this has been their weakness over the past 5 years.

Pakistan (B): Prediction = Quarter Final

No team in cricket is as consistent as being inconsistent than Pakistan. On their day, they will blitz any opposition through their powerful batting lineup and strong bowling attack. However, these days have been few and far between. Misbah ul-Haq will have to lead by example as captain, while Umar Akmal and Sohaib Maqsood have to bat maturely. Pakistan’s pace bowling will be a test for the opposition on Australian pitches with Junaid Khan’s swing complementing the height of Mohammed Irfan well.

Issues to be worked on:

The inconsistency argument can go both ways. Either Pakistan could turn up and obliterate their opponents, but they are as likely to collapse and provide an easy win for other teams. Pakistan will also have to sort out the issue of their bowling spearhead Saeed Ajmal, who was reported for having an illegal action. Ajmal can be relied upon to provide 10 miserly overs while doing the bulk of the damage, which makes him an invaluable asset to the Misbah ul-Haq as captain. Pakistan will also need to improve on its fielding. Then there is the Afridi conundrum. As a bowler, Shahid Afridi is a superb second spinner, however he burst onto the scene as a batsman. His batting is characterised by brain fades and a lack of game awareness, which costs his side more often than not. However when he does succeed with the bat, he will score runs quickly and demoralise the bowling team. The trick for Pakistan is to try and find a way for the latter Afridi to materialise down under in the World Cup.

South Africa (B): Prediction = Finalists

South Africa are my favourites to win the World Cup as things stand six months out ahead of the tournament. Three of the top ten world batsmen (Amla, Du Plessis, De Villiers) are South African- a testament of their quality. Each of the top seven complement each other well, and South Africa will back themselves to set competitive targets/chase down anything set by their opponents. All of the top six are quality fielders that continue to stupefy spectators with their abilities in the field, which could make the real difference. South Africa also possesses the world’s best fast bowler in Dale Steyn, and he will be gunning to prove himself on the biggest stage.

Issues to be worked on:

Questions still remain over the identity of South Africa’s lead spinner in Australia. Imran Tahir has proved his wicket-taking ability in ODI cricket, but continues to be loose and expensive. There might come a point where South Africa take a hit and instead play the more economical Aaron Phangiso for control. South Africa’s squad depth is also quite poor after the sudden retirement of Jacques Kallis. An injury to any key player ahead of the World Cup would leave fans biting their nails hoping they are fit in six months time. South Africa also need to figure out the identity of their 3rd seamer- it seems to be between Wayne Parnell and Lonwabo Tsotsobe due to their left arm pace providing a variety from Steyn and Morkel. However, neither Parnell nor Tsotsobe have convinced when they received their chances in the past.

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