As the Cricket World Cup begins on Saturday, Ted Mahon gives us his list of contenders for the trophy:
With just a few days to go before the cricketing world goes bonkers for a while, it seems like the ideal moment to discuss the main fighters battling it out to lift the cricket world cup. Four years ago it was India who triumphed under the innovative leadership of MS Dhoni. Can the Indians repeat their heroics, or will we see a different team have their glory down under?
Leaving all bias out of the equation, this may seem like a strange one. All cricketing experts have written our boys off, with England’s apparent lack of flexibility and power hitters counting against them. Moreover the uncertainty of Alastair Cook’s captaincy means they go into the tournament under prepared.
However, whilst sacking Alastair Cook as captain may have come as too little too late, there is some hope. The new blood in the team like Ali, Taylor and Butler are fresh and eager to prove a point, whilst the old guard of Anderson, Bell and Broad are desperate to gain some silverware. The lack of pressure may suit the English. Eoin Morgan’s team have shown promise in the recent tri-series especially against the Indians. However as their two losses with Australia demonstrate, they still have work to do to catch up with the very best.
The tournament favourites have had an impressive summer and are looking good to win another World Cup on their home turf. Their batting line up is nothing short of explosive. Finch, Warner, Maxwell, Smith, Bailey and of course captain Clarke if fit is formidable. As we have seen over the last few months, scores of 350 plus are a real possibility especially on the hard, fast wickets of Australia and New Zealand.
With Mitchell Johnson in their bowling ranks alongside the new blood of Starc and Cummins, the Aussies have a combination of big hitters and strike bowlers which could prove too much for their opponents. If they can cope with the public pressure and deflate media speculation around Michael Clarke, expect them to be in the very latter stages of the competition.
Despite a disappointing tri-series, the Indians are still capable of performing magic on their day. As the current holders they have much to play for. We have seen Indian teams go down with a whimper in certain matches but on the biggest platform, expect nothing of this sort. Dhoni, Sharma, Kohli and Rahane is the basis of a strong batting lineup. Their main disadvantage is a bowling attack which has much to prove. A lot will be up to the top order to set an imposing score, as I can’t see the Indian seamers and spinners suffocating opponents once the new ball has gone. Away from their favoured sub-continental conditions, it is unlikely they will retain their crown.
The so called ‘chokers’ of the cricketing land, this current team will want to put that title to bed once and for all. And my goodness have they got a chance. The current crop oozes class from one to eleven and they have the serious potential to lift the World Cup. They have shifted from relying on a few players to having an enterprising top six, seamers who move the ball with bounce plus a spin department which is potent.
AB de Villiers is the best player in world cricket across all formats but his one day game is sensational, as showcased by his explosive century off just 31 balls- a world record. Dale Steyn is leaps and bounds above other quicks around, regularly hitting 90mph with late swing causing batsmen doubtless problems. Meanwhile, Imran Tahir is a gem of a spin option, bowling with great variety and control. On paper, this team has everything. If their mindset is spot on, the Proteas are the ones to beat.
The Black Caps could be a surprise package in this tournament. Playing at home will be a benefit, and their small boundaries will be great for entertainment purposes. With form players, depth in selection and efficient backroom staff, this team has plenty to be confident about. Led by the vastly experience and supreme tactician Brendon McCullum it may be their best chance to lift the trophy. In Guptill, Williamson and Taylor there’s a good balance between attacking intent and consistent run scoring.And who could forget Luke Ronchi’s magnificent ton the other day?
Their bowling is attack has raw pace and aggression via McClenaghan and Milne, whilst being spearheaded by the now experienced Tim Southee. Either Nathan Mcullum or old timer Daniel Vettori will be asked to play a big part in the spin department and bat at number 8. Their fielding is also exceptional, and as we know ‘catches win matches’. Expect New Zealand to cause some shocks in the near future.
On paper you cannot bet against Australia and South Africa, the two most balanced sides in the tournament. I marginally fancy the Proteas to banish their ‘choker’ tags and win the trophy at last. Meanwhile, New Zealand and England are perhaps the two best outside chances in what will be favourable conditions for their bowlers.bookmark me