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ICC Cricket World Cup 2015: Experts' picks

Sportskeeda cricket experts make their picks for the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup.

ANALYST
Feature 13 Feb 2015, 00:47 IST
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Australia
Can Australia win the World Cup for a fifth time?

Cricket writers on Sportskeeda have made their picks for the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup in three categories: champions, biggest disappointments, and player of the tournament.

Champions

Yash Asthana: The World Cup deserves a new winner, and New Zealand is my pick for the team that will be lifting the trophy on March 29. Traditionally, always the dark horses, the Kiwis enter the tournament as one of the favourites and have the advantage of playing all their games (except the final and maybe semi-final) on home soil. Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum are in brilliant form and will be key performers but as seen in recent matches, the other players can raise their game too when needed.

Ritwik Mallik: While popular perceptions hint towards South Africa – their more than healthy record of botching up important occasions in ICC events – make me want to choose Australia as the clear favourites here. Like I had said in my preview, Australia's familiarity with conditions, no apparent weaknesses and the nature of the tournament, keep them way ahead of the rest as far as contenders are concerned.

Vivek Krishnan: I just cannot look past co-hosts Australia as far as the team most likely to earn the distinction of being 2015 World Cup champions is concerned. Apart from having an extremely well-balanced outfit accustomed to the conditions on offer, they are one of the few sides who are genuinely blessed with match-winners right through their likely playing eleven.

In the batting department, they possess game-changers of the ilk of David Warner, Steven Smith and Glenn Maxwell, just to name a few, while they are spoilt for choice in the pace bowling department, illustrated by the fact that someone with the potential of Pat Cummins might go through the entire tournament without getting a single game.

Sarah WarisHaving lost only one of their last 13 games, Australia head into the World Cup as clear favourites with each member of the squad being a match-winner in his own right. Bolstered by the return of regular captain Michael Clarke after a back injury, the Kangaroos have a number of big-hitters from openers David Warner and Aaron Finch, with Steve Smith, Shane Watson and Glenn Maxwell in the middle order to James Faulkner at number 7. The bowling attack, spearheaded by Mitchell Johnson will have the advantage of playing in home conditions and this talented squad should clinch their 5th world title.

Aditya BhushanBeing an optimist Indian fan, my prediction would be that India will be the winner of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup. However, this prediction is not just based on sheer optimism; it has got some rationale behind it. Given the format of the World Cup, I would say that all the top 8 Test playing nations – Australia, South Africa, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, West Indies and Sri Lanka – will make it into the quarter-finals unless we have some major upset.

Once in the quarters, it is a matter of just three good days and the World Cup trophy is yours. And I believe, India have match-winners to do well in these three matches. I would place my bet on Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and MS Dhoni to take India home in these games.

MS Dhoni has already announced his retirement from Test cricket. He would give it all to win the trophy for the second time which in all probability would be his last. Even he would like to be carried on the shoulders of his teammates. Finally, in most of the World Cups, the winning team have not been in great form prior to the tournament, hence, we should not read too much into India’s current form.

Theviyanthan KrishnamohanMy choice may raise a few eyebrows, but I believe Pakistan has what it takes to go all the way in this World Cup. Given the conditions in New Zealand and Australia and the modern playing conditions, a team wanting to win the World Cup should have the following in my perspective: a strong bowling unit and a powerful lower order, both which Pakistan is endowed with.

Their bowling has good variety, with Yasir Shah threatening in the middle overs with his leg-breaks and Mohammad Irfan’s high projectile deliveries bound to trouble batsmen of all calibre. Pakistan’s top order is stable with Ahmed Shehzad and Younis Khan and their lower order is really dangerous with Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal. Sohaib Masqood has also looked in good knick, hence a recap of 1992 might not be far-fetched.

Santosh Antony23 years after an aging genius and a boy wonder stopped the rampaging Kiwis two steps short of glory, they are back! In familiar conditions and with a perfectly balanced team, New Zealand are in red-hot form, coming off one of their most successful years in international cricket.

In terms of talent, this team is superior to the 1992 dynamos. If Brendon McCullum – undoubtedly the most aggressive and innovative captain the Black Caps have had in years – can emulate the genius of Martin Crowe to some extent, the cup is theirs for the taking.

Biggest disappointments

Yash Asthana: Another team being considered among the favourites and looking for their first World Cup win are South Africa. The side is blessed with talent in all departments and should do well in the group stages. But I expect history to repeat yet again and the Proteas to slip up in the knockouts, due to a standout performance by an opponent’s player in the match. And thus, they will flatter to deceive for the umpteenth time and their quest for World Cup glory will have to wait for another 4 years.

Ritwik Mallik: The romantics might argue that India are all set to defend the crown, but unfortunately, the real picture is different. After two months down under, India finally won a game against a fledgling Afghanistan, that too, not before the Afghans had rattled India at the top with two quick wickets. The injury issues aside, the fast bowling attack seems to be erratic at best, the batting remains tentative.

Since 'not enough time to acclimatise' no longer remains an excuse, the defending world champions are more likely to disappoint. Even if the batting comes good, it's unrealistic to expect them to chase down scores of 300 plus every time.

Vivek Krishnan: Sri Lanka have enjoyed an enviable record in ICC tournaments in recent years; reaching the final in the 2007 and 2011 World Cups, while winning the 2014 World T20 and finishing as runners-up in the 2012 edition. However, the 2015 World Cup might just see that impressive run coming to an end, with the team likely to be out of their depth in what are bound to be testing conditions for the side from the subcontinent. They won’t be short of motivation, however, considering this is the swansong to One-Day International (ODI) cricket of two Sri Lankan stalwarts, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

Sarah WarisBefore I receive brickbats, let me state my criteria for selecting a team in this category: an all round team which has all the ammunition to clinch the cup, but will find invariable ways to slip up. Hence, teams like India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and England weren't considered with the choice being between South Africa and New Zealand.

The truth is that South Africa, despite starting off as favourites in the last 3 editions have never managed to win a World Cup knockout game. Ever. Yes, they’ve lost all 6 games since 1992. The pressure of getting over the hurdle and registering the first win will play on the minds of AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. After Australia, the Proteas start off as favourites with a number of match-winners in their ranks. With the type of team at their disposal, any result short of a triumph will be disappointing, to say the least. 

Aditya BhushanWith New Zealand being the co-hosts, a lot is at stake for the Kiwis. Anything less than a spot in the final will be treated as a failure for them. Given that other teams like Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and India are equally strong, I do not see the Black Caps going beyond the quarter-finals.

Theviyanthan KrishnamohanWith recent poor overseas performance and a defeat against Zimbabwe in the warm-ups, Sri Lanka’s streak of finals is most likely to end in this World Cup. Despite the seniors trying their level best to finish on a high, short-sighted blunders and the incorrigible attitude of the selectors have concocted a lopsided side. Despite having a strong team on paper, their performances have lacked the killer instinct.

With Bangladesh playing in the same pool, a league stage exit for them might not come as a surprise. Ironically, the last time the team suffered a first stage exit in a World Cup (in 1999), they had a Sri Lankan coach and this time too they play the World Cup under a local coach in Marvan Atapattu.

Santosh AntonyBased on empirical data, South Africa continue to be the usual suspects for this criterion. For all the talent they possess, the Proteas risk a quarter-final elimination at the hands of the Kiwis in a rerun of what happened at the 2011 tournament; their abject surrender in the warm-up game against the same opposition highlights the overt dependence on Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla as well as omnipresent choker skills, neither of which bodes well for business end performances.

Player of the Tournament

Yash Asthana: Steven Smith has been in outstanding form in recent times, and I expect him to take this into the World Cup and make big runs in the tournament. It is remarkable how quickly Smith has established himself as one of the batting mainstays of the Australian line-up and playing on home soil, where he’s been scoring heavily over the past 2 months, will give the youngster the perfect chance to showcase his talent to the world.

Ritwik Mallik: The boundaries are shorter, the outfields quicker and field restrictions are tilted in the favour of the batsmen. Hence, it's natural that the best bowler is going to have the most impact in this tournament. On current form, a league ahead of the usual suspects like Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, is Mitchell Starc of Australia. His knack of getting quick wickets early on, and a healthy strike rate is going to make him the tournament’s defining player. If he comes good, he is going to be the reason Australia will be world champions once again.

Vivek Krishnan: While Australia are my favourites to be World Cup champions, the one side who could pose a worthy challenge is South Africa, courtesy of their talisman in AB de Villiers. He is widely regarded to be the best batsman in the world currently, and while there is no disputing that fact, he is yet to really impose himself on a world stage. That might be about to change now, though, with the 30-year-old de Villiers at the absolute prime of his career.

Backed by batsmen of the quality of Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis around him, the Proteas will perhaps not be as reliant on him as they have been guilty of being in the past, thereby almost giving him a free license to express himself to the fullest.

Sarah WarisThe conditions will favour the pacemen, but Steven Smith will outshine the bowlers. Smith was been in red-hot form for Australia after taking up the Test captaincy in the absence of Michael Clarke in the recently concluded Test series against India, where he amassed 769 runs in 4 games. With a staggering ODI average of 74.44 over his past 12 innings and a vast array of shots at his disposal, the 25-year-old will play a key role in Australia's fortunes over the course of the next 43 days. 

Aditya BhushanIf India have to win the tournament, then one player who needs to make this World Cup his very own is batting sensation Virat Kohli. He has to lead the batting much like Sachin Tendulkar did for years. Also, the long Australian tour would have given him the perfect time to get used to the conditions down under.

Theviyanthan Krishnamohan: Mohammad Irfan can be to this Pakistan, what Wasim Akram was to the victorious Pakistani side in the 1992 World Cup. I’m not sure whether he can be the Player of the Tournament, but if Pakistan manage to cash in, then this man will have played a big role in it. He is tall, swings the ball, bowls at a decent pace and should things go well, the towering Irfan can leave Pakistan at the top of the tower.

Santosh AntonyIn a tournament likely to be dominated by bowlers, I pick the technically correct and currently in excellent form batsman, Kane Williamson, to stand out as a beacon in the Kiwis’ middle order, much like Martin Crowe in the 1992 edition. In seamer-friendly conditions not conducive to consistency among opening batsmen, I expect the tournament’s highest run-scorer to emerge from within the middle order, and going by current form, overall team preparedness and psyche going into a big tournament, Williamson is my pick.

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