Keep up with the latest cricket news, read the latest cricket opinion, and vent your own feelings with Hugh O'Connor at the New Yorker Cricket Blog.
Friday, February 18, 2011
World Cup: Team By Team
India - Where better to start than with the hosts and favourites? They've got an endless batting line-up. Actually, it might end with Yusuf Pathan, because there are often no survivors. In Zaheer Khan, they have a man who's led lower bowlers to triumph before, and Munaf Patel and Sreesanth could well be those bowlers. Harbhajan Singh is world class. They have part-time spinners all over the park. A good captain in MS Dhoni. Virat Kohli is fast becoming my favourite player to watch. They've got it all. And yet....it's too much of a fairytale.
Prediction - Who would not love to see a Sri Lanka - India final? I think they will make the final, but I'll only give them a runners-up spot.
South Africa - The bottlers supreme. Their batting line-up looked shy and their tail pretty long against India, but Jacques Kallis back should make a difference in balance. With Hashim Amla at the top, you can nearly give them a 50-run lead. Will Johan Botha do the business with JP Duminy alongside him? They have a team of fantastic players - De Villiers can kill off a game when required, and Dale Steyn is the best bowler in the world. For a long time I've said they'll win this, but they really need every man in the team to perform, and I'm not sure that'll happen 3 games running.
Prediction - Semi-finals, maybe runners up.
Australia - They've won the last 3 - that's a good start. On the other hand, Warne, McGrath, Hayden, Langer, Hussey....etc aren't here. Ponting's hit a couple of 50s in the warm-up, and they beat a poor England 6-1, but I don't know. They've drawn the easier group - Canada instead of Ireland, New Zealand and Pakistan instead of South Africa and England, but I still think they'll have it tough. They should still make it through without too many problems, and from there on in it's a shootout. I don't think they have the bowlers - Lee did it for them Down Under - India's a different kettle of fish. Jason Krejza, well, good luck.
Prediction - Quarter-final exit.
New Zealand – They have a history of performing well in the big tournaments, and while they should make it to the quarters, they don’t have a the class to compete. Brendon McCullum’s IPL pedigree will serve them well, and in Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill they have two very fine batsmen, but I can’t see them troubling the big teams. They’re too close to a batting collapse, even with the experience of Scott Styris and Jacob Oram in as props. Daniel Vettori is a world-class spinner, but he can’t do it all on his own, and there are a couple of untested young men in the attack who could be taken to the cleaners.
Prediction: Quarter-final exit, but watch Martin Guptill make some runs first – he’s one for the future.
Sri Lanka - Here we go. Tilikaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga to open. Sangakkara at 3. Mahela at 4. Samarweera at 5 before maybe Matthews at 6. That all adds up to a million runs - who's going to defend them? Only a man with 590-odd ODI wickets and the most terrifying paceman you can see coming at you. How can Lasith Malinga work? No one really knows - he shouldn't be hitting line and length but he does. 4 wickets in 4 balls 4 years ago - I smell a hat-trick again. This is a truly class team. They showed great composure chasing the West Indies' total of 280 in the warm-up, after bowling well to keep them to that number. Sangakkara is a canny captain with a great team behind him.
Prediction - Blasted away from victory last year by Adam Gilchrist, I see them going one better here. 15 years on from their last triumph, the last team to win it before Australia are set to do it again. Champions.
Pakistan – It’s foolish to write them off – they can win anything from a standing start. They actually have some ok form coming into this, and plenty of players have put their hands up. Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammed Hafeez are an exciting opening pair, and Hafeez has shown himself to be a very useful second spinner behind Saeed Ajmal. Shoaib Akhtar is bowling well, as is Wahab Riaz, and Umar Gul could get into any ODI side he wanted. Misbah-ul-Haq has faced down his critics by producing some lovely ODI innings recently, including a run-a-ball century against Bangladesh in the warm-ups. If he can hold down one end and allow Afridi and Razzaq to tee off from the other side there could be some big scores. The big question marks are over the Akmal brothers – Umar Akmal’s stunning start to his career has ground to a halt – he needs to build a couple of innings to get his confidence back – and Kamran needs some runs now he’s taken the gloves back from the third brother, Adnan.
Prediction: Realistically need a top-two finish in the group to avoid India and South Africa in the quarters, but I think they’ll manage that ahead of Australia. Semi-finalists, and from there, who knows?
England - I'm sure I'll get flak for this, but they're not a great ODI side. People brushed aside the 6-1 to Australia, and fair enough, but the focus was on the absentee bowlers. The problem was the misfiring batsmen. KP must perform, as must Strauss. Trott must speed up. Prior must get runs. The opening partnership has changed again, with KP promoted. Will it work better than the last 20? Who knows? Without Eoin Morgan, the team lacks the innovation required to win this tournament. Collingwood, Bopara and Yardy aren't going to finish a game like the Irishman. England need more planning for this, starting with bringing Alistair Cook into the ODI game. Do they not watch him for Essex?
Prediction - Quarter-final Exit.
Bangladesh – A lot has been made of this team, and not without cause. Shakib al-Hasan has prove himself to be able to manage the captaincy alongside being a key with both bat and ball. Tamim Iqbal is one of the best openers in ODI cricket. Mahmudullah, Mushfiqur Rahim Juanid SIddique and more runs to a solid batting line-up, and with several solid spinners in the team they can cause trouble to any batting line-up. They’re most often criticized for a lack of a good pace attack – this should be less important in the subcontinent, although Rubel Hossain showed some good form against Pakistan in the warm-up.
Prediction – Expect some upsets from this still very young team. I have a sneaky feeling that they’ll qualify from the group stages, but that could leave them facing Sri Lanka in the quarters, which is where, for me, they bow out.
West Indies – Where to start? What a frustrating team. Chris Gayle, Shiv Chanderpaul, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Darren Sammy. That’s a team that should produce fireworks every time it goes out. Unfortunately, 50% of the time it’s a damp squib. They are undoubtedly going to have some big performances, led by the big man himself, but that’s the problem. Get Chris Gayle out early, and you should win. Against Sri Lanka in the warm-up, Gayle fell after a quick 50 and the run rate plummeted. Pollard’s job is to provide a flurry at the end, but that’s not such an easy task if the score’s 100 for 5. The bowlers are interesting – Sammy and Kemar Roach are a pair I’d like to see open, but I just don’t think that Nikita Millar and Sulieman Benn are penetrative enough in India. To be fair to him, Benn took 3 and only gave 4 an over to Sri Lanka, but he doesn’t have the consistency.
Prediction – I think they’ll beat England in the group stage, but still fail to qualify. If Gayle can be knocked over early, Bangladesh and Ireland have a great chance of taking the Caribbean scalp.
Ireland – Expect this preview to be heaped full of bias. Ireland are a very good team. They played a couple of very solid warm-up games, including a victory over Zimbabwe without using captain William Porterfield and Sussex opener Ed Joyce, arguably their two best batsmen. Kevin O’Brien showed great maturity alongside old hand Andre Botha in rebuilding after early wickets. Historically, the batting has been our problem – suddenly there are quite a few men with form. With Joyce at 3, we then have to choose from Botha, the O’Brien boys, Gary Wilson, Andrew White, Alex Cusack and John Mooney for our next four. Boyd Rankin and the ever-reliable Trent Johnston are a solid opening pair, and young George Dockrell has bowled tidily if not brilliantly so far. The main problem against Zimbabwe was conceding a huge number of runs off the last 10 overs – our death bowling has never been strong, and that’s where Trent needs a good partner once the Batting Powerplay is taken.
Prediction – Getting out of the group is a huge task – I expect a thumping from South Africa and India, but every other team is beatable. I would expect them to win maybe two games, but to get all the results to get through in such a short space might just prove too much. But I’m not going to type a nailed-on prediction…..
Hugh O'Connor is an Irish student, stand-up comedian, and avid golfer/cricketer/snookerer living in Dublin. He has been commentating on golf and cricket in his living room to the annoyance of his family for over a decade, and is hoping he'll be able to find a more appreciative audience for his musings. He is a member in Woodbrook Golf Club, which hosted the Irish Open throughout the '60s and '70s, and in Mount Juliet, host of the '93, '94, & '95 Irish Opens, as well as the 2002 and 2004 WGC American Express Championships.
His cricket is mainly played on the beach in Derrynane and any cricket ground he can sneak into.
He currently plays off a handicap of 7, but hopefully won't for much longer. His initial ambition is to get to 0.4, in order to enter the qualifying for the Open Championship.
After that he'll be ready to open the batting and bowling for Ireland, once he's asked.