World Cup Contenders: A home team with an unsteady performance. The reigning World Champions competing away from their home ground. A team known for their unpredictable nature, staying relevant in the tournament until their exit. These are just a few of the contenders for this year’s ICC World Cup, set to commence on October 5.
World Cup Contenders
If we look at the host nation, India, they appear to have a well-rounded team tailored to their home conditions. On the other hand, England enters the tournament with one of the most prolific and fast-scoring batting line-ups in the ODI format.
Pakistan carries an outsider’s hope, while both New Zealand and Australia boast teams packed with seasoned and skillful players, eager to defy expectations. Let’s take a closer look at why these teams are considered favorites to lift the coveted trophy.
As the defending champions in both ODI and T20 formats, England is expected to be a formidable opponent in the tournament. Eight members of the 2019 World Cup-winning squad will be joining the team in India, and their presence could prove pivotal in close matches.
Ben Stokes, the star of the 2019 campaign, returned from his ODI retirement last month to participate in the tournament. His recent innings of 182 against New Zealand underlines his commitment to the team’s cause. Jos Buttler leads the team intelligently, and with a batting order that includes Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Liam Livingstone, and Harry Brook, England has a potent lineup.
However, concerns persist. The squad lacks the stability it had in 2019, with uncertainties about opening batsmen and bowling leadership, especially due to the absence of Jofra Archer and doubts about Mark Wood’s fitness.
The host nation, India, is among the top contenders to clinch the tournament title. They come into the competition following victories over neighboring teams in the Asia Cup. The team has standout performers, like opener Shubman Gill, who is one of the most promising batsmen in the tournament.
Nevertheless, India faces challenges, notably the lack of depth in their batting order. Middle-order batsmen, such as Ravindra Jadeja, have not been in top form, and Shreyas Iyer enters the tournament with limited international experience. In the bowling department, the fitness of Jaspreet Bumrah will be crucial, and India will rely on other pacers to exploit the home conditions. Kuldeep Yadav’s performance in the Asia Cup will be closely monitored.
Pakistan enters the tournament with a squad filled with lethal pace bowlers that envy many international sides. Their unpredictability makes them one of the favorites, although their performance in the recent Asia Cup raised concerns.
The losses in the Asia Cup highlighted their over-dependence on top-order batting. Captain Babar Azam needs to perform consistently for Pakistan to progress deep into the tournament. The pace trio of Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf, and Naseem Shah will be key, aiming to make early breakthroughs. However, the spin department appears vulnerable, especially after Shadab Khan’s poor showing in the Asia Cup.
Australia, a five-time tournament winner, is always a strong contender. They start their campaign in Chennai and will face South Africa and Sri Lanka on spin-friendly pitches. The absence of Travis Head due to injury is a setback, and Mitchell Marsh is likely to open alongside David Warner. The team is packed with all-rounders, reducing their reliance on specialists and ensuring batting strength up to No. 8.
However, the injury to Ashton Agar leaves Australia short in the spin department, with Adam Zampa as the primary spinner. They will rely on Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc to perform at their best.
Having narrowly missed out on the last World Cup, New Zealand boasts a team with all-round skills. They have consistently performed well in white-ball cricket, reaching the semi-finals six times and back-to-back finals in the last two editions.
Their batting order is solid, with Kane Williamson as the talismanic figure, likely to join the squad after the initial few games, despite nursing an injury. The bowling attack, led by Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, and Trent Boult, has ample experience on subcontinent tracks. All-rounders Jimmy Neesham and Mitchell Santner add depth to the squad.
Ultimately, New Zealand’s success will hinge on their consistency throughout the tournament.