ARE THE MEN IN BLUE CHAMPS THIS TIME?

   By Power Corridors ,  19-Jun-2019
ARE  THE  MEN IN  BLUE CHAMPS THIS TIME?

Looks like this global cricket contest is apparently Team Kohli versus World Cup tournament this time

Team India is among the favorits to win the world cup and it will not amaze any one if they come out to be the third time winner of the World Cup creating history this time.

Very few know that Australia's World Cup squad stopped this time at Gallipoli in Turkey on the way to England. Once history had witnessed Australia and New Zealand lost more than 10,000 men way back in 1915 when British and French troops landed on the Gallipoli peninsula in the Dardanelles Strait in Germany-allied Ottoman Turkey. Gallipoli has its deep historical significance alive now. It was the first trip to Gallipoli by the Australia’s national cricket team since Steve Waugh led his side there in 2001 ahead of winning the Ashes against England. And yes, in almost two decades now that was the last time Australia won an ashes series on English soil.

The 12th edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 scheduled to be hosted by England and Wales is the season of celebration for the cricket lovers worldwide from 30 May to 14 July 2019. The Round-robin and Knockout  format is going to witness the excellence of world’s ten best cricket sides.  The 48 contests under the administration of International Cricket Council will keep the cricket world delightfully preoccupied.

So far, five different teams have won the tournament. Among the winners Australia is the most successful World Cup team having won the tournament five times in the years 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015. The Aussies were also runner up another two times. West Indies won the first two tournaments in 1975 and 1979. and India have also won it twice once in 1983 and then in 2011.

Among the most favourites of the ten teams participating in the grand contest, India with quite good chances of winning has two more teams with them in the league of favourites this time – England and Australia. Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting too believes Steve Smith and David Warner's return will make Australia as good as any other team at the 2019 World Cup. And the ruthless team also has proved its dominance time and again. 

Team India, undoubtedly, has the most talented players in the world. And they also hold the second spot in the world ranking. Being realistic, the only minus point Indian side has is that they are home bully collapsing mostly in foreign soils. The Indian side could barely reach to the semi finals in the last world cup. Though team India is the strongest contender for the 2019 cricket world cup, England will also share the birth in the finals with equal chances.

Now let us be positive while analyzing team blue. Current Indian team has all the calibre to be the Champs. They are multiple world champions and most recently captured the crown in 2011. Perhaps even more notably, they also have recent experience of winning a global tournament on English soil, having defeated none other than England themselves in the final of the 2013 Champions Trophy.

Recently Team India also let Kangaroos bite the dust in their home grounds, that is another feather in the cap. This is all because the JOSHI IS HIGH in the Indian side which getting coupled with the potential can play havoc over their rivals.

Virat Kohli has not only evolved himself as an outstanding batter but also as an excellent skipper. With the presence of the mightier Mahi, he has got all world class strategical support for him at the platter. All departments of the Indian side are well intact. With batters like Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, MS DHoni, KL Rahul and Kedar Jadhav batting has very thin chances to collapse. Same way bowling options are also brilliant with the presence of Bumrah, Chahal, Kuldip, Shami, Jadeja, Pandya, Vijayshankar and Jadhav. We have been desperate for good all-rounders in the post Kapil Dev era and now that department is also strong having Pandya, Jadhav, Vijayshankar and Jadeja in the side.  With players like Rohit Sharma,Shikhar Dhawan have evolved into one of the finest opening pairs in the history of Indian cricket.

And yes, no one is unaware of the exploits of KL Rahul with the bat at the top order. Bowlers like Bhuvaneswar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah are a gift to Indian side with the power of tilting the match in their team's favour by restricting the run flow or by taking vital wickets. The spinners department is full of world-class spinners, led Ravindra Jadeja. Kuldeep Yadav, the chinaman cum India's trump card, seems to have come of age of late, along with Yuzvendra Chahal.

The team India has been playing extremely well in past few years both at home and oversees pitches. They have recently beaten both Australia and New Zealand in their respective pitches. Players like Virat Kohli are in full flow. Most of their players are in form. So being the clear favourites for the title, the team looks very balanced and on the paper it is very difficult to find any fault in the selected squad.

In batting order, India requires an inexperienced number 4. Number four is crucial since that player generally comes in at the 25th over. He should be capable to pace his innings by rotating strikes, picking gaps and boundaries and accelerate at the end. KL Rahul is the best to fill up the spot. India may go with him as he can provide few economical overs in the middle if some of the main bowlers get hit for runs. Let us see.

There is a famous saying “Batsmen will win you matches; Bowlers will win you tournaments”. This works well with the current Indian side. India’s biggest edge over other team would be their bowling attack.

Dhoni over his heels, whispering behind the stumps could help the spinners more. Spinners and particularly wrist spinners like Kuldip and Chahal, are going to make a huge impact in the 2nd half of the tournament with the pitch getting drier.  India’s spin twins Kuldeep and Chahal may prove to be the Indian X-factor

Talk about England. Playing at the home pitches in England and Wales, they certainly have the advantage of being the home side and it may favour them. Their recent performances speak of the form they are in. As far as the metric of Batting index is concerned the English side leads it with an astounding strike rate of 98.57. Such has been the scale of their ODI transformation, that they have built a team culture with a fearless playing side against any dominant side today. After India, England is best they have created this team in the aftermath of disastrous 2015 world Cup. Though the England are at the first spot in ICC ODI ranking but they have always been the unluckiest team in ICC tournaments so far.

English cricket has changed quite a lot over the last two years rather say after 2015. Nevertheless England’s most impressive displays in global ODI tournaments have mostly come on home soil. The team reached the semi-final of the 2017 Champions Trophy and finished as runners up in the same tournament in 2013 and 2004. Going through the cricket history we see English side has never previously won a global 50 over tournament, still this is going to be a chance for one notable knock to England’s ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 for the team.

After England’s miserable campaign in 2015, losing 4 out of 5 league matches, only managing to win one match against  Scotland. The English journey is truly amazing; from ashes to glory and how Morgan under a huge pressure stayed and composed leading his side to Number 1 ranking.

Here are the figure of brilliance. Since 2016, England lost only 4 out of their 37 matches and they won the last eight series at home. With four outstanding all-rounders they bat deep down the order, all players can slog the ball out of the park. And they have Butler too as a fine finisher. They have simply changed the dynamics of one day cricket. When they play an ODI it looks like they are playing a 50-over IPL.

Home pitches would definitely give the English eleven an upper edge. They have some excellent players who can catch the flicks of any team. They certainly have settled line up in all departments. The current form of their players like Root, Stokes, Roy would definitely benefit them. The team has performed extremely well at home grounds since the last two  years which awarded them the top ranking now. What it looks like is the English team obviously will reach semi finals and where luck will also examine their mettle.

However, England struggles playing against a quality spin attack. And the bowling attack leaks runs at a high economy rate of 5.69 which is second only to a struggling Sri Lanka. English bowers have conceded more than 300 runs 22 times and that the highest among the test playing nations.

Australia, the current champions of World Cup, get stronger with  the added tallant-force of Warner and Steve Smith’s presence. We can always bet on Australia in ICC tournaments because they're always unpredictable.

Australian chances also depend on constant performance of Smith and Warner after their return from the ban. The Australians just don’t play the game alone, they also carry emotion to the cricket field. When they do, most of the times, the result leaves us speechless. One of their prominent spinners, Jhye Richardson is out of the world cup is a big blow for the team. His bowling had more say on the team’s performance. Finch against the incoming delivires of the new ball and Starc walking on thin ice ahead of world cup, his brittle body is always under the dark cloud of injury these days are the areas the Aussies might like to work on.

Though there is one more opinion amongst global cricket pundits about the strongest contender for the 2019 cricket world cup. And this one is none other than New Zealand. The BlackCaps are the strongest team right at the moment, other than that they've the advantage of England conditions as they're similar to New Zealand pitches. They are also the runners up side of 2015 world cup and unfortunately didn't win the finals against Australia. And ICC ODI ranking has them on the third spot keeping their performance in view. 

One just cannot ignore New Zealand in the World Cup. They made it into the Semi-finals for 5 times and also were the finalist last time. New Zealand are always underdogs they have good bowling and batting but a little problem is seen in its middle order which lacks experience a little.

Long batting tail is the Kiwi’s big advantage, especially, the middle order with Kane & Ross. Kane allows the ball to get on to his bat, plays under his eyes and has a great sense of time for the ball as an expert batsman. He averages staggering 62.69 with 7 - 50’s and 2 centuries from 14 matches. On the other hand, Ross Taylor is like wine, gets better with age. His average is nearly 92 with 8 fifties and 3 centuries in 21 innings to his credit in last couple of years. Coming to Guptil, he just can’t be just restrained to numbers. He has the calibre to whack the ball to ungodly distances and it sure is a treat to watch when he gets going.

A prominent drawback would be the batsmen’s inability to play against a spin attack. Latham plays well against spin. Others – not so much. Also, they need a proper finisher, Since Colin de Grandhomme is trying to catch up constantly still it is time they had someone who probably might don the cap of the finisher.

South Africa one of the most brilliant performers unfortunately, may not have good times in world cup as they always tend to choke in ICC tournaments. Even the lost old Asian powerhouse Pakistan can perform better than South Africans. Therefore they are not among the list of the favourite sides. South Africa might have been a team with high expectations but due to the absence of an ABD factor in the team. The middle order doesn’t also look very stable. But they sure will try their level best to prove others wrong that they are no more ‘chokers’.

The pressure is blatantly visible for the ‘chokers’ in the knockout stages. This time there is no such talk and with no  big expectations from them. This is going to definitely allow them to play with no fear of failure. It would be imprudent if the other teams took them lightly.

The batters are brilliant in the team. De Kock is in tremendous form. Since the 2015 World Cup, he has averaged 50.35 with a strike rate of hundred plus. He plays really well under pressure with an average of 57 while on the chase. Ab Devilliers recently held him as ‘Brian Lara on Steroids’. Now Du Plessis. The southpaw’s contribution cannot go unnoticed. Some much needed stability is added by him in the middle and Aiden Markram looks good too with his current form.

South Africa’s backbone is their Bowling unit. Rabada, Ngidi, Tahir and Steyn can prove fatal for any batting line up. Let us see how they utilize the opportunity to cement their legacies in the hallowed halls of cricketing history.

So, Compared to all teams, India does have a better chance of winning the world cup. An uncanny replication of the top order trio is seen in this edition with Dhawan, Rohit and Kohli taking up the mantle. And with Bumrah, Kuldip and Pandya – they make a perfect combo of the power poles.

Henceforth, India becoming the first choice of the experts keeps England after it in the queue. England performance in big matches is not that good something similar to South Africa and New Zealand in 2015 World Cup where they were best teams at group stage but both of them failed to win. World Cup pressure is far more heavier than regular matches whereas Indians and Aussies handle pressure better than other group toppers. Form of Dhoni and Rahul with their hundreds against Bangladesh in the practice match is a good sign in this direction.

Every team will play with their utmost potential in the ICC World Cup. However a balanced expert analysis figures out  four teams for the semis – India, England, Australia and New Zealand. The finals will be between England and India which will see India as the third time world cup champ. Amen.

(PARIJAT TRIPATHI)