Every international player in the ongoing Indian Premier League is on “injury” watch. With the World Cup 2019 slated to begin a mere two weeks after the end of the IPL, many of the top players – including Bairstow, Warner, Smith – have left their IPL teams to begin their World Cup preparations. All the ten squads have been declared in the third week of April. There were a few shocks, a few bold selections as usual.
Here are each of the ten cricket World Cup 2019 squads, ranked in ascending order of their strengths:
10. SRI LANKA
In perhaps the shock of the World Cup so far, Dimuth Karunaratne was not only picked but declared captain for Sri Lanka in the upcoming World Cup. This is surprising, mostly because Karunaratne last played an ODI for Sri Lanka in…the 2015 World Cup. He became the first ever Sri Lankan captain to lead the side to a Test series victory in South Africa earlier this year, but his ODI credentials are questionable. He was chosen over senior players Malinga and Angelo Mathews – either a masterstroke or a mistake. Dinesh Chandimal and Dickwella were overlooked, while Kusal Mendis and Kusal Perera represent the new-age team Lanka have put out. They look the weakest on paper, but that could work in their favour, despite coming off a 5-0 rout in South Africa.
Virtually unrecognizable from their last World Cup squad, only captain Sarfaraz Ahmed has been a consistent fixture in the ODI side for some years now. Indians will remember opener Fakhar Zaman, who ensured Pakistan is the Champions Trophy holder (in England, no less). But the experience is completed with the selection of Mohammed Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, with fast bowler Mohammad Amir ignored on basis of poor form. Only two in the whole squad have played a World Cup before this, and Pakistan is, again, an unknown entity in an international tournament. They could be dangerous.
The fairytale underdogs are now one of two teams who had to qualify for the World Cup (with the West Indies). Controversy ensued after captain Asghar Afghan was replaced by Gulbadin Naib, a move that didn’t go down with “senior” players Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi. But Afghanistan looks stronger than most teams on paper, with keeper-opener Shahzad still at the core of the batting, and Rashid and Nabi leading the bowling. They could spring a surprise or two. It’s just hard to be sure about whether these players can last 50 overs against more experienced teams. This is the time.
Contrary to popular perception, Bangladesh enters the World Cup not as minnows or underdogs anymore. They are equals. The team has done well since the last World Cup, and remain scrappy and resourceful. Mashrafe Mortaza will lead an able group of men – including batsmen Mahmudullah, Mushfiqur Rahim, Soumya Sarkar, Shakib Al Hasan and superstar Tamim Iqbal – to England this June.
6. WEST INDIES
Can they play for 50 overs the way the play 20? That’s the question on everyone’s mind. Pollard and Narine aren’t there, but there’s Gayle in top form, Andre Russell in electric touch, Jason Holder as captain, Darren Bravo, Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Evin Lewis and Carlos Brathwaite. They need Roach, Oshane Thomas and Ashney Nurse to perform out of their skins with the ball, but not selecting Alzarri Joseph may have been their biggest mistake so far.
5. SOUTH AFRICA
The retirement of AB de Villiers and the Kolpak deflections came at the worst time possible. As a result, South Africa head into the World Cup not as favourites but as possible semifinalists. But look at the bowling: Steyn, Rabada, Ngidi, Tahir. The batting is form-heavy: De Kock, Amla, Faf du Plessis, Duminy…but it’s youngster Aiden Markram who might just shine in England more than most.
4. NEW ZEALAND
Guptill, Williamson, Latham, Munro, Neesham and Ross “the boss” Taylor. The Kiwis are strong again, heading into an international ICC event. They have some dynamite players, while Trent Boult will lead the bowling and Mitchell Santner the all-round cavalry into their quest for their first-ever World Cup title. New Zealand can never be written off in World Cup tournaments.
One looks at them as “joint” favourites, but the Indian management may have missed a trick or three by not including Rishabh Pant in the middle order. Choosing Vijay Shankar over him is definitely a mistake and one that may be the difference between finalists and competent semi-finalists. Kohli, Sharma, Dhawan will have to do the bulk of the scoring, but Dhoni’s form augurs well for a team that will rely on him in the middle overs. The bowling is strong, but Kuldeep Yadav’s form is a worry.
A few months ago, Australia, devoid of Smith and Warner, were on their largest ODI losing streak ever. But in the run-up to the World Cup, under Aaron Finch, they have found tremendous form and stability, winning in both India and UAE against Pakistan, 8 matches on the trot. Some wondered if Smith and Warner would even be needed in the squad, but their World Cup-winning experience is needed, and maybe they were a bit too aggressive by dropping Mohali heroes Ashton Turner and Peter Handscomb. But Warner’s IPL form is a blessing, and Smith’s captaincy showed in the Royals’ turnaround. Australia, again, is a force to reckon with.
The hosts are easily the favourites to win their first World Cup. Imagine saying this in 2015, when a slow, old English team were dumped out in Australia. Despite the exclusion of Alex Hales, Jason Roy and Bairstow are excellent openers, while Root, Morgan, Buttler, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes form the best middle order in the world. The bowling is a little thin, with Adil Rashid, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes, Plunkett and Willey leading the force. But they depend on their batting chasing down any total and putting up 350+ consistently. As was evident in their 2-2 draw against West Indies, though, England doesn’t know what to do with a collapse.
Before you get caught up in the World Cup mania, follow the latest in the IPL 2019 below.