Thursday, May 23, 2019

ICC World Cup 2019 - A Competition Among the Middle Tablers ... and Pakistan's Chances!

The ICC World Cup 2019 gets underway in a week from now when hosts England square off against South Africa. The previous two World Cups were won by the host nations - India in 2011 and Australia in 2015 - and this time, it is also the host nation that goes into the 6-week tournament as firm favorites to lift the trophy for the very first time.

England have played 3 ICC World Cup finals, finishing runners up every single time. This cup is there for the taking for the world's number one ODI team.

But will they be able to?

They were firm favorites to win the ICC Champions Trophy too in 2017, but stumbled against a rampaging Pakistan in the semifinal.

The bookies have England as the favorites, followed by India and Australia.

Looking at the teams' form since the previous World Cup in 2015, it is apparent why England are favorites.


England and India are in a different league altogether. The best ODI sides around currently and I feel there will be nothing stopping them from making the semifinals of World Cup 2019.

While Australia is a third favorite of the bookies, their overall performance since 2015 has left a lot to be desired. But they have recently picked up their performances after the team settled down following the 12 month absence of Steve Smith and David Warner.

With both Smith and Warner back in the fold, Australia will be a strong contender.

South Africa and New Zealand are quite consistent as well and New Zealand had their best run ever in the previous World Cup. The black caps can never be ruled out in a tournament.

South Africa somehow win a lot of bilateral ODIs but when it comes to World Cups, they are the eternal chokers.

Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and the West Indies are not to be ignored but it does not seem like either team has it in them to win 6-7 matches consistently to vie for a semi final spot.

This leaves us with the perennial unpredictables - Pakistan.

Barring the Champions Trophy win in 2017, Pakistan have been quite atrocious in ODIs since World Cup 2015. They have not won much and more than 90% of their ODI wins over the past 4 years have come against low ranked teams like Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. When you look at ODIs against the top 5-6 sides, Pakistan have won just a handful of games.

But then, one can never rule out Pakistan in a tournament like this.

I feel England and India will go into the semifinals with a lot of one-sided victories and it will be left to the middle tablers - Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Pakistan - to fight it out for the other two semifinal spots.

And then when in the final four, it is anyone's game really.

I am backing Australia and Pakistan to join England and India in the final four of the ICC World Cup 2019.

Pakistan will likely qualify as the 4th team and play their semifinal against host England, leaving India and Australia fighting it out in the other semifinal.

That will surely make for great viewing.

As everyone keeps saying, after the semifinals it is anyone's game, but I feel it very strongly that it will be Pakistan.

Not because Pakistan won the 1992 World Cup after Australia and India won the previous two in 1987 and 1983 respectively.

Not because Pakistan won the World T20 in England and the Champions Trophy in England so its time to win the World Cup in England.

Not because the 9th year of every decade sees a Pakistan team in the final - 1999, 2009, ...

I feel it will be Pakistan because I feel Pakistan's bowling will be tough to crack. With the pitches conducive to 300+ scores, as the English summer moves forward the pitches will wear out and spin will play a big role.

Pakistan have the services of Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, and Mohammad Hafeez who can be very tough to get away.

With all teams finding it easy to score heavily, the team with good bowling will come out on top more often than not.

We all saw Pakistani bowlers get plastered by England in the recent ODI series but Mohammad Aamir and Shadab Khan were missing from that series. These two, along with Hafeez, are among the most economical bowler in ODIs.

Pakistan's batting seems to have come to terms with the requirements of modern day ODI cricket, but with their bowling in full form, the boys in green will be a force to reckon with in World Cup 2019!

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