A Year Out from the CWC 2015 - Who is in the Frame
One Day Cricket, often lately as seen the lesser light of the three forms by cricketing pundits, is resurgent. It's unfair to say the players don't like it as judging by recent matches, there is plenty to play for and series haven't been cut and dry nor dominated by one side, except perhaps the New Zealand versus India home series just completed and Aussie over England.
Teams do love the game, it's generally close and generally well followed by the spectators. Last year, especially in New Zealand, there had been calls from the cricketing public to just play Tests and T20, but to be fair that was by a public that was following a team that couldn't compete too well. The recent series wins by New Zealand away to South Africa and England started to change some minds, then the good performances at home to West Indies and India, coupled with the launch of the CWC 2015 has seen those detractors diminish and more folks going to games and being in a positive frame.
So what of the Cricket World Cup. Who will be the teams to watch? Well it's a year away yet and to be fair there are some critical series to be played out this year. I'm going to analyse the teams and will firstly highlight those cricketing nations that are causing all the ructions in world cricket with their stance on controlling the game.
Australia. Currently Number One in the rankings and with a comprehensive 4-1 defeat over England at home suggests they will be in the mix next year. But their 3-2 loss earlier last year in India suggests on their day they could be fragile, but on home soil clear favourites. However I do think come semi's they'll fold.
India. Currently Number Two. With a series win over Aussie last year, and a win over Windies at home too, they looked the goods, but away losses to South Africa and New Zealand must have dented their chances, and with recent losses to Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup, they may be struggling. They are a young new team with some old heads, but they need to pull some more consistency out of the bag, especially away, to be a threat at CWC 2015.
England. With series losses in 2013 to New Zealand and Australia at home, then a 4-1 thumping away to Australia, England are struggling. They are still rebuilding to some extent and at time of writing have managed to square their ODI series in the Caribbean after two matches. In a years’ time, maybe a semi-finalist come CWC 2015, but have to improve markedly.
And now the teams biting at the top three’s heels.
Sri Lanka are a dark horse in the equation. Perennially a top five ODI team, they do have the fire power to win matches, though they do tend to rely heavily on Kumar Sangakkara, Lasith Malinga, and spin. If they appear at CWC 2015 without one or two of those three they'll be in the mix but not rated a chance. The key to this supposition is their recent loss to Pakistan 3-2 at home.
South Africa are also a dark horse. They do alright at home but also have issues playing away and with CWC 2015 being an away tournament they may find themselves on the losing end more often than not. They do have a good well balanced unit so in with a chance but they'll need a lot going for them.
West Indies are another to watch. They seem to be a team that one day plays very well, the next playing like dogs. They recently drew the series versus New Zealand, and currently share the series with England. The Calypso kings on their day could be world beaters, but realistically they may end up also-rans. Mind you, in the past few months they have been a young team playing on the back of key players out injured. They have a year to get it right. Can they?
Pakistan to me are the form team in world ODI cricket. They win the tight ones. They win away (naturally they can’t play at home). They play a good 50 over game, across the park. Well balanced, well captained, playing well. I'm sticking my neck out here, but I'm going to say they will be in the final of next year’s CWC 2015.
New Zealand. The other finalist. I think the key to how both Pakistan and New Zealand are going is New Zealand's series coming up in UAE in November. This series to me will be the defining moment for both teams and a momentum swing leading into CWC2015. New Zealand in the last year have won three ODI series (2 away), drawn 2 (1 away 1 home) and lost a series in Bangladesh, a blip on the radar (and a different team now). Playing the CWC games at home will be a fillip, thinking back to 1992, and they should ride a wave of support and parochialism.
Of the rest, Bangladesh will provide nuisance factor, winning the odd one or two, yes they should be buoyed with their series whitewash of a weakened New Zealand team last year, but as can be seen in the Asia Cup, against the top teams, and even on their home soil, they are out of their depth. Afghanistan will also be a fun team to watch, winning their match versus Bangladesh quite comprehensively means they too will surprise in some games. Ireland, Scotland, United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe will be there to make up numbers.