Monday, February 9, 2015

ICC World Cup 2015: 15 Interesting things to Watch out for #15for2015

Just 5 days remain before the mega cricketing event kicks off in Australia and New Zealand. The countdowns have begun, the previews of teams have been under way for some time now, excitement is building up, and all fans in the wrong part of the world are planning their schedules around games that will begin very late in the night or very early in the morning.

Just like other TV channels and websites, we at Well Pitched have also begun our countdown. We started the #countdownthatmatters campaign on Twitter and Facebook for the mother of all games - Pakistan vs India, and we started our #15for2015 promotions on this very page.

Today, we bring to you the 15 interesting things to watch out for during the ICC World Cup 2015.

1. Australia's Middle Order Conspiracy

Australia's squad has so many in form players that it is going to be difficult to fit Michael Clarke, George Bailey, and Steve Smith in the same playing XI once Clarke returns from his injury. The funny thing here is that Clarke is captain, George Bailey is the Vice Captain who captained the team in Clarke's absence, and Smith is the one who captained the team in Bailey's absence.

It is an odd situation for Australia to consider dropping one of the three. Bailey could well captain Australia in their first game and then watch the remaining games from the sidelines once Clarke returns. From captain to bench warmer - that must be a first.

It will be interesting to watch what happens with this selection dilemma.

2. Kohli at 3 or 4?

Virat Kohli became the great ODI player that he is today by playing majority of his awesome knocks at number 3. But then after a bad series in England and loss of some form he moved to number 4.

Dhoni and India have been criticized for this defensive tactic and wrapping Kohli in cotton wool while throwing a Rahane or a Rayudu at the deep end at number 3. Critics believe that the team's best batsman, i.e, Kohli, should be batting at 3. While Dhoni believes that the best strategy is to play Kohli at 4.

It will be interesting to watch where Kohli bats and whether he can live up to his reputation during the World Cup.

3. England's Top Order Momentum

Moeen Ali has made sounds about how he is going to be aggressive at the top of the innings. He lived up to those words in some practice games, as well as in the tri-series with some entertaining and aggressive knocks.

Moeen also spoke about how Ian Bell would be best served by batting through the innings and playing his natural game. Ian Bell showed what he is capable of by hitting some big runs in England's lead up to the World Cup.

England's openers are surely ones to watch out for at the World Cup this year and it will be interesting to see if they can carry on their form during the tournament.

4. Pakistan's Balancing Dilemma

The bowling ban on Mohammad Hafeez has left Pakistan in dire straits. It has severely affected their balance and they have desperately turned to Haris Sohail, Younis Khan, and Ahmed Shehzad to fulfil the 5th bowler duties. Pakistan has had issues defending totals and has also had issues in containing batsmen due to this.

With Pakistan intent on playing 6 batsman and a wicket keeper in the top 7, it means that they have been playing only 4 full time bowlers. This is going to trouble them significantly during the World Cup as the bigger teams will come hard on their 5th bowling option.

Pakistan can look to correct this by dropping a batsman for a bowler and go in with 5 full time bowlers, but that will severely weaken their batting. The management and Pakistan's captain are at a loss for a sound strategy to counter their issues. They do not seem to have the right personnel to overcome the loss of Hafeez the bowler.

It will be interesting to watch what strategy they adopt during the World Cup.

5. The Swansong - World Cup Finale

Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Shahid Afridi, Misbah Ul Haq, and Daniel Vettori have all announced their retirements from ODI cricket and this World Cup will be their last outing in ODIs. It is no secret that each one of them has that burning desire to lift the coveted trophy before they end their ODI careers.

Imran Khan, Steve Waugh, and Sachin Tendulkar are the only players who managed to win the World Cup in their final appearance.

It will be interesting to see whether Pakistan, Sri Lanka, or New Zealand can do the same for their players.

6. Will South Africa Choke again?

The question has been asked numerous times already and it will continue to be asked throughout the World Cup. The Proteas are firm favourites to lift the title, just like they have been in every single edition of the World Cup that they have appeared in. But they are yet to win a knock out game.

Gone are the days of Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher, and Shaun Pollock and these are the days of Hashim Amla, AB De Villiers, Quinton De Kock, and Dale Steyn. The latter lot is a different breed and may not be pressured by the chokers tag the way their predecessors were.

If now is not South Africa's time, it may never be. It will be interesting to watch whether they can overcome the tag or not.

7. New Zealand's Fast Bowling Riches

In Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Kyle Mills, Mitchell Mclenaghan, and Adam Milne, New Zealand have a pace battery that is the envy of the world. They have not had it this good ever in their history. Each one of those 5 pacers can walk into any other international team any day.

But New Zealand will have to pick and choose and rotate as they are likely to play only three in each game.

It will be interesting to watch how they rotate their pacers and who out of them makes the most impact.

8. Can Pakistan break the Jinx?

Pakistan and India have played each other 5 times in a World Cup. In 1992, 1999, and 2003 they played each other in group games; while in 1996 and 2011 they played each other in the quarter final and semi final respectively.

India beat Pakistan all 5 times.

Even though Pakistan have an overall superior record when it comes to ODIs against India, in World Cup matches they have always fallen short. With the amount of noises being made by members of Pakistan's World Cup squad, it seems that they are determined to break the jinx this time.

It will be interesting to watch whether Pakistan will be able to or not. The teams open their campaigns against each other on 15th February.

9. Can Pakistan break the other two Jinxes?

Besides India, there are two more teams that Pakistan have never beaten in a World Cup match - South Africa and Ireland, both of whom are in the same group as Pakistan in this World Cup.

It will be interesting to watch and see if Pakistan can turn the tables this time round. Especially against Ireland considering the last time the two met, the Irish sent Pakistan crashing out of the World Cup.

10. The Opening Century Contenders

Last time the World Cup was hosted by Australia and New Zealand, the opening game of the World Cup was between the host nations. That game witnessed Martin Crowe hit the first century of the World Cup, which was followed by another century by David Boon in the next innings.

The host nations will be there again on the opening day of the World Cup 2015, but they won't be playing against each other. While Australia will take on England, New Zealand will be up against Sri Lanka.

It will be interesting to watch who hits the opening century at this World Cup. Aaron Finch, David Warner, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, Brendon McCullum, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, and Ian Bell are all contenders.

11. Can the Lesser teams cause an Upset?

The format of the World Cup is such that it is almost predictable who the 8 Quarter finalists will be. The last two World Cups that have had Quarter finals, the top 8 ranked ODI teams have competed in those. It is highly unlikely that it will be any different this time around.

But teams like Ireland, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh can be dangerous on their day. One or two upsets by either could change the whole outlook of the Quarter finals line up.

It will be interesting to see if any one of these teams can go further than the first round. If I have to choose one, I'd put my money on Afghanistan.

12. The Fastest ODI Century

It took Shahid Afridi 37 balls to crack a hundred almost 20 years go, which remained the fastes ODI century ever for 18 years, till it was bettered by 1 ball by Corey Anderson last year. A mere year later AB De Villiers smashed an ODI ton of only 31 deliveries. These are the only ODI centuries that have been scored in less than 40 deliveries.

The World Cup is going to be high scoring one. Batsman friendly pitches, small boundaries, two new hard balls ripe for hitting around, big bats, and plenty of games against associates mean that we might see some more tons being scored off 30 odd deliveries.

Watch out for batsmen like David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, Brendon McCullum, AB De Villiers, Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli. It will be interesting to see if any of them can do what Afridi, Anderson, and ABD have done.

13. Commentators Sledging

There will be more World Cup winners sitting in the commentary box during this World Cup than there will be on the field!

World Cup winners Wasim Akram, Rameez Raja, Allan Border, Damian Fleming, Sunil Gavaskar, Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Dean Jones, Brett Lee, Damian Martyn, Tom Moody, Shane Warne, Mark Waugh will all be seen commentating on World Cup matches.

Additionally, there is news that Bollywood Superstar Amitabh Bachchan has been invited to commentate on the Pakistan vs India match. Now that is going to be something.

It is going to be very interesting to watch the sledging among the commentators during this World Cup.

14. Pakistan's Class of 92 Under one Roof

When Pakistan plays against the UAE on 4th March, we will see Aaqib Javed in UAE's dressing room; Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed, and Moin Khan in Pakistan's dressing room; and Wasim Akram and Rameez Raja in the commentators box.

I would want that selfie!

Interesting much?

15. The Quarter finals line up

We all know who the 8 quarter finalists will be, don't we? But do we know who will face who in the quarters?

I believe the line up will be as follows:

Australia vs West Indies
New Zealand vs India
England vs Pakistan
Sri Lanka vs South Africa

It will be interesting to watch how the group stage pans out.

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