With everyone warming up to the World Cup, here’s a quick lowdown on one of the planet’s greatest sporting extravaganzas.
Top Team 5
Here are some of the top-performing sides to look out for this season
Australia rank one on our list, as they have the home ground advantage. The team is bubbling with enthusiasm and is high on morale due to the spectacular performances it has had in the past few tournaments—be it its victory over India during its tour to the country or the tri-series last month. With players like Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell, Australia are bound to impress this year’s audience in a brilliant manner.
New Zealand, with its spectacular bowling and batting line-up, rank second on our list. Apart from a home ground advantage, just like Australia, they also have a record of great performances in the recent past. With batsmen like Kane Williamson and bowlers like Trent Boult, this team has a lot of potential and will not fail to surprise you either.
This year’s South African team is by far one of the most balanced teams and in many ways will give the other boys a tough competition. Don’t be surprised if they go on to claim the trophy. But all this is only possible if they don’t choke; let’s face it—the Proteas always have had a good arsenal, but have the tendency to choke and fold under pressure. AB de Villiers, who smashed the West Indies bowling line-up at the Wanderers recently, and Dale Steyn, who has proved his mettle on several occasions, could well put the team on top of the tops.
Well, there are several reasons for placing India fourth. First, they are the defending champions, so not having them on the list will be unfair. Although they haven’t shown any performance worth remembering in the recent past, don’t write them off as yet. They have surprised us before, and we sincerely hope they will do so again. Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane can really knock the balls out of the park and give opponents a hard time.
Pakistan, Sri Lanka, England
The fifth place is a tie between Pakistan, Sri Lanka and England. The numbers over the past years suggest Pakistan have little chance. With just three wins in their last 11 starts, they have not had an ideal preparation going into the World Cup. Sri Lanka are the dark horses in the tournament and with a brilliant 2014 to back them up, would hope to progress far in the competition. However, Malinga’s fitness may prove vital and his unavailability can see the Lankans fall short of a final berth, but are more than capable of making it to the penultimate stage. As for England, the inventors of the game have never lifted the World Cup trophy, but will look to break the jinx nevertheless.
If given a chance to form our own dream team, here’s what our selection would look like.
Hashim Amla (South Africa)
Playing role: Batsman
Highest score: 153*
Elegant opening batsman who provides a steadying influence at the top of the order. Not a powerful hitter, he accumulates runs with his wristy stroke-play and quick hands. Became the fastest player ever to score 5,000 ODI runs last month, taking 101 innings to set the record. He captains the Test side and acts as a deputy for the one-day unit.
Ajinkya Rahane (India)
Playing role: Batsman
Highest score: 111
The Mumbai right-hander is likely to open for India and has shown his hunger to excel in international cricket. Rahane is introverted on the field, letting his bat do all the talking for him. He has a tendency to fly under the radar and score useful runs without taking too many risks.
Kane Williamson (New Zealand)
Playing role: Batsman
Highest score: 145*
The glue that will hold New Zealand’s batting together, Williamson was once considered too slow a scorer to be a threat in limited-overs matches. However, he worked on his game and has a career strike rate now of over 80 and an average of 45. Having scored 753 runs in 11 matches at an average of 75.3 since December, he can provide a few overs of off-spin if required.
Joe Root (England)
Playing role: Batsman, right-arm off-spinner
Highest score: 113
Root has been earmarked as a future England captain from a young age. Calm and phlegmatic at the crease, he averages over 50 in 22 Tests and exactly 40 in 48 one-dayers. Will bat at number four in the World Cup, charged with the responsibility of holding the innings together with his deft accumulation.
Steve Smith (Australia)
Playing role: Batsman
Highest score: 104
Smith burst on to the international scene in 2010, as a leg-spinning youngster who could make useful contri-butions with the bat. His form with the bat earned him the Test captaincy when Clarke was injured at the back end of last year. Three centuries and three half-centuries in 11 ODIs since October have established him as one of Australia’s most important batsmen.
AB de Villiers (South Africa)
Playing role: Wicketkeeper, batsman
Highest score: 149
Last month, he hit the fastest ever ODI ton off 31 balls against West Indies. As a captain of the side, many of the country’s hopes for a maiden title will rest on his shoulders. An athletic fielder in the inner circle, he is known for his catches. He’s considered by many as one of the best ODI batsmen in world cricket in recent times.
Glenn Maxwell (Australia)
Playing role: All-rounder
Highest score: 95
An enigmatic and sometimes destructive batsman, he will have to go some distance this year to erase the memory of his embarrassing golden duck in the Big Bash T20 tournament in December, where he shouldered arms to a straight ball.
Yasir Shah (Pakistan)
Playing role: Leg-spinner
Best bowling: 2-51
The only specialist spinner in Pakistan’s squad, Shah was picked after his strong showing in Tests against Australia and New Zealand. He has played only one ODI in 2011 against Zimbabwe.
Trent Boult (New Zealand)
Playing role: Fast-medium bowler
Best bowling: 4-44
The left-arm swing bowler has been mostly overlooked for the limited-overs teams after establishing himself as a Test bowler. Can move the ball both ways in the air and off the pitch, and has formed a strong new-ball partnership with Southee. A superb fielder, as evidenced by several athletic catches at point or in the outfield.
Dale Steyn (South Africa)
Playing role: Right-arm fast bowler
Best bowling: 6-39
In our opinion, he is the best fast bowler in the world and has been so for a few years now. He is just so consistent and aggressive, and his ability as a pace bowler is second to none. In the limited-overs arena, too, he never looks to contain runs. Steyn’s bowling is based on pace and aggression, and he will get wickets for you irrespective of the format, and that puts South Africa in a formidable position.
Mitchell Johnson (Australia)
Playing role: Pace bowler
Highest score: 73*
The tall paceman has two ICC Cricketer of the Year awards. After spending a long period in the doldrums, Johnson returned to form with the white ball on the 2013 tour of India and has barely put a foot wrong since. His 224 wickets at 25.50 in 145 ODIs tell only part of the tale of one of the few bowlers who can genuinely scare a batsman and turn a match in a couple of spellbinding overs.
Virat Kohli (India)
Playing role: Right-handed batsman
Highest score: 183
On February 9, 2015, the Delhi batsman became the only Indian player to be named in the People’s XI list for World Cup 2015. Having sorted his temperament, Kohli has emerged as the darling of India’s besotted fans and is the only one carrying the hopes of a cricket-mad nation this World Cup. A brilliant fielder, he does not try to hide his aggression and loves to get under the opposition’s skin.
Marlon Samuels (West Indies)
Playing role: Right-hand bat/right-arm
Highest score: 126*
Best bowling: 3-25
Hugely talented batsman and useful off-spinner, Samuels has rebuilt his career after returning in 2011 from a two-year ban for involvement with a bookmaker. The Jamaican may never have quite lived up to his potential, but can be an explosive match-winner on his day.
Brendon McCullum (New Zealand)
Playing role: Top-order batsman
Highest score: 166
The former wicketkeeper shelved the gloves due to a back issue that has dogged him for more than five years. Exhilarating hitter with exceptional bat speed, he has floated up and down the order in recent years, but will look to give the co-hosts a flying start as an opener. An inventive, aggressive captain and exceptional fielder who leads by example.
Ian Bell (England)
Playing role: Right-hand batsman
Highest score: 141
England’s senior batsman following the axing of Alastair Cook and their highest run-scorer in one-day internationals. Has made 32 fifties, but only four centuries. In a rich vein of form, conventional but elegant batsman with the ability to time the ball sweetly. England will need his experience at the top of the order to allow the more flamboyant stroke-makers in the team a