The conclusion of the Pakistan-Australia series means all the ODIs are finished before World Cup squads need to be named by April 23. New Zealand will be the first to reveal their hand on Wednesday. ESPNcricinfo correspondents look at how all the teams are coming together ahead of decision time
(Peter Della Penna)
On their World Cup debut in Australia and New Zealand, Afghanistan were still very much a raw Associate outfit. What a difference four years makes. Two of their bowlers are in the top 10 of the ICC’s ODI bowler rankings, including Rashid Khan who is not just the top rated spinner at No. 3 but also sits at No. 1 in the allrounder rankings for ODI cricket. Not only did they sweep a pair of matches against West Indies at the World Cup Qualifier last year, but also beat Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the group stage of the Asia Cup last September in the UAE before ending the Super Fours with a thrilling tie against India. A cinderella run to the semi-finals might be a stretch judging by the number of holes in the batting order exposed recently by Ireland in a 2-2 draw, but they won’t be in England just to make up the numbers.
The Big Question How effective will their trio of spinners be in English conditions? Rashid, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi have formed the bowling core since Mujeeb made his ODI debut against Ireland at Sharjah in December 2017. Nabi will remain an automatic starter due to his all-round package which includes explosive batting in the middle-order, but a slow start for Mujeeb might result in an extra seamer for balance in conditions. Mujeeb’s saving grace is his superb economy rate, particularly as a new-ball spinner in the Powerplay.
Injury concern Dawlat Zadran has only played two competitive matches since the end of the World Cup Qualifier last year due to recurring shoulder issues. He made his comeback in the recent ODI series against Ireland, taking five wickets across the first and third ODIs in the series to highlight the importance of him maintaining 100% fitness leading into the World Cup.
Possible wildcard Shapoor Zadran. The left-arm quick was Afghanistan’s leading wicket-taker at the 2015 World Cup with 10 scalps, but has only played eight ODIs since then. However, the lack of a quality experienced alternative to complement Dawlat in the pace department could see Shapoor on the plane to England.
Possible squad Asghar Afghan (capt), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Hazratullah Zazai, Javed Ahmadi, Rahmat Shah, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Ikram Ali Khil (wk), Hashmatullah Shahidi, Gulbadin Naib, Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran, Aftab Alam, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
Their one-day fortunes have taken an upturn with the away series victories against India and Pakistan and prospects for the World Cup defence are looking much better than a few months ago. It has always been known that the Two Big Names would be available again by May, but the recent success of Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb and Ashton Turner has provided some unexpected options and left some mighty tough selection calls.
The Big Question How to fit in David Warner and Steven Smith? It’s been assumed they will walk back in and not too long ago it probably wouldn’t have been a tough question but now they’ll be a couple of players harshly done by.
Injury concern Jhye Richardson (shoulder) has joined Mitchell Starc (pec) and Josh Hazlewood (back) on the sidelines. Starc is the most likely of the trio to make the squad.
Possible wildcard Any complete bolters now seem unlikely but it would be a rapid rise for Turner if he went to England.
Possible squad Aaron Finch (capt), David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Nathan Lyon, Jhye Richardson, Jason Behrendorff
With possibly their best-ever collection of players in years, Bangladesh will go to England with high hopes. There’s belief that stretches as far as the cup in hand, which stems from their strong performances since the 2015 World Cup. But no Bangladesh cricketer in his right mind will say it out aloud. Led by the tireless Mashrafe Mortaza, the side can call upon several match winners these days. Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mashrafe, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah will be leading the side in different areas.
The Big Question Can they keep their cool? A good start can lead to great things, but Bangladesh become highly susceptible after a big loss, or a string of losses. Things quickly turn chaotic.
Injury concern Injuries to Mushfiqur (wrist and rib), Tamim (groin) and Shakib (finger) have concerned BCB’s decision-makers in recent months, but they will have to be managed carefully during the long tournament.
Possible wildcard So excited is everyone around the World Cup that BCB president Nazmul Hassan last week read out the 15-member squad in one of his regular press briefings. Given his power, it is unlikely going to be any different as the two appointed selectors – Minhajul Abedin and Habibul Bashar – have usually listened to his demands. But still, Imrul Kayes, who made 349 runs against Zimbabwe in October last year, could feature in the side as a back-up batsman even though he didn’t tour New Zealand.
Possible squad Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Mohammad Mithun, Mahmudullah, Sabbir Rahman, Mohammad Saifuddin, Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Liton Das, Taskin Ahmed, Imrul Kayes
It’s coming home. Well, the tournament is, at least. Twenty years after crashing out of their own party in 1999, England have left nothing to chance as they prepare to host the World Cup for a record fifth time. On their day few sides can hope to keep up with them, though their tendency to malfunction in bowler-friendly conditions remains a concern. It would be astonishing if they failed to reach the semi-finals. Thereafter, it’s a test of nerve…
The Big Question … and will those nerves hold? England muffed their dress rehearsal in the Champions Trophy in 2017, outgunned by a resurgent Pakistan in their semi-final at Cardiff, and the fear of another failure may yet surface at an inopportune moment – especially if a sense of expectation is allowed to take hold among their home fans.
Injury concern Chris Woakes, who has emerged as England’s white-ball attack leader in recent seasons, has been managing a chronic knee injury and will need careful handling.
Possible wildcard Jofra Archer is lurking on the fringes of English selection after completing his residency qualification, and as with Kevin Pietersen ahead of the 2005 Ashes, there’s risk and reward to weigh up for the selectors, who covet his outstanding allround attributes but fear unsettling the tight-knit members of a squad that has come together superbly since their nadir in 2015. The ODIs against Ireland and Pakistan in early May will be a chance to test his 50-over mettle.
Possible squad Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (capt), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood, Alex Hales, Jofra Archer, Liam Dawson, Sam Billings.
India have never gone to a World Cup as clearer favourites. They were a pretty good side in the Champions Trophy in the same country two years ago; now they have added wicket-taking abilities in the middle overs, which probably cost them the Champions Trophy final. The simple reason for this optimism is their bowling attack, the most varied and potent in the world today.
The Big Question They have the best top three in the world, but the middle order is neither exposed nor tested. In the limited chances they get, they have not inspired reasonable confidence. It doesn’t help that domestic cricket and IPL keeps throwing up top-order batsmen, and not specialists in these tricky positions.
Injury concern Hardik Pandya‘s relapse after a major back injury last year was a matter of concern, but he has pulled up all right in the IPL.
Possible wildcard Vijay Shankar has entered the equation only this year, and goes against the MS Dhoni school of World Cup selection of taking players who have played at least 60-70 matches. At nine matches old, Vijay has presented India a temptation, which keeps getting stronger with every strong IPL performance from him.
Possible squad Certainties: Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah
Others: Ambati Rayudu, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Vijay Shankar, Dinesh Karthik
They don’t quite have the buzz around them they did four years ago on home soil – and the recent defeat to India exposed a few holes – but they remain an excellent one-day side. The transition from Mike Hesson to Gary Stead as head coach does not appear to have disrupted anything and the majority if the squad has been set in stone for a while. Those filling the shoes of Brendon McCullum, Grant Elliott and Daniel Vettori will be vital.
The Big Question It appears it will come down to Ish Sodhi v Todd Astle for the second spin-bowling position. Sodhi is the more attacking option with the ball but brings less with the bat and in the field.
Injury concern Kane Williamson’s shoulder injury suffered against Bangladesh is not serious, but such is his importance to the team they’ll be some fingers crossed he comes through the IPL unscathed.
Possible wildcard It has been reported by Stuff.co.nz that Tom Blundell is now favoured to be in the squad as back-up wicketkeeper after an injury to Tim Seifert.
Possible squad Kane Williamson (capt), Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Jimmy Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson, Colin Munro, Tom Blundell, Ish Sodhi
It might be sensible not to read too much into Pakistan’s 5-0 loss to Australia in the UAE as they rested seven of their key names as part of their pre-World Cup strategy to allow them to recover from minor injuries. They also have plenty of matches ahead of the tournament include a five ODIs against England. The core of their batting centres on Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam with a few holes in middle order but the bowling once again remains a force.
The Big Question Can Pakistan touch 325 batting first? Do they have an ability to chase down anything over 300? Another riddle is Mohammad Amir‘s selection. He is averaging 92.60 in 14 games since he played the Champions Trophy final against India. The spotlight on Amir increased during the series against Australia when he was dropped. Pakistan doesn’t have an experienced bowler like him at their disposal but it is increasingly difficult for selectors to pick him.
Injury concern Mohammad Hafeez was an automatic selection until he sustained a hand injury during the PSL and missed the entire season. He underwent two surgeries in London to recover from a fractured thumb and is racing against the clock. He is likely to go through a fitness test on April 14 and he is very much under the radar for the middle order slot.
Possible wildcard Mohammad Hasnain has impressed many with his genuine pace. He shot to prominence after a productive PSL season with Quetta Gladiators and was named for series against Australia and played three matches with limited success as he bagged just two wickets. He has already withdrawn from the Pakistan Cup and will be residing at NCA to work on his fitness.
Possible squad Fakhar Zaman, Imam ul Haq, Abid Ali, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali/Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Hasnain, Hassan Ali, Mohammad Rizwan
They are nothing if not prepared. When Ottis Gibson took up the role of head coach in 2017, World Cup success was a specific piece of his mandate. So seriously has Cricket South Africa taken their preparation for the tournament, they even went as far as giving
their schedule of debuts, auditions, tinkering and fiddling a name: Vision 2019. Their strength will be their bowling, and it will be hard for any opposition to poke holes in an attack formed around Rabada, Steyn, Ngidi and Tahir. The make-up of their top seven doesn’t have quite the same certainty to it. South Africa have worked hard to remove conservatism from their batting efforts over the past year, but they will have to decide whether to pick their batters on form, reputation or potential.
The Big Question Can they outrun the ghosts of World Cups past? The psychological weight of their misadventures on cricket’s biggest stage has dogged South Africa’s previous campaigns, but this time just feels different. Perhaps it is because they will
arrive at this tournament without the Damoclean favourites tag over them. As their forebears have found out, being the best team on paper means nothing if it does not translate to success in must-win games.
Injury concern Both Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje are missing out on this year’s IPL after picking up injuries during the home series against Sri Lanka. While neither of the injuries – back and shoulder, respectively – are especially serious, Ngidi had only just returned from a three-month lay-off for knee ligament damage he picked up during South Africa’s trip to Australia late last year.
Possible wild card South Africa have offered auditions to every player who might possibly be part of the selection conversation this season, and so it is highly unlikely that there could be a bolter that we haven’t all seen already.
Possible squad Faf du Plessis (capt), Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, JP Duminy, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Imran Tahir, Tabraiz Shamsi
(Andrew Fidel Fernando)
Sri Lanka sucks at ODI cricket right now. They’ve sucked for quite a while. The last time they won a bilateral series was way back in 2016, against Ireland. They have won a couple of tri-series since then, but did not have to defeat any of the higher ranked sides to achieve this. There is possibly no team going into the World Cup in a greater state of disarray. They have lost each of their eight ODIs so far this year.
The Big Question Apart from their ability to claim early wickets (thanks largely to Lasith Malinga), there is no aspect of Sri Lanka’s game that isn’t misfiring at present. Their greatest concern, however, is the batting order, which tends to collapse so dramatically, it seems like multiple batsmen are racing each other back to the dressing room. During the recent five-match ODI series against South Africa, Sri Lanka didn’t last the full 50 overs once. Also, they don’t really know who their World Cup captain is, and the choices seem to be getting worse by the minute.
Injury concern Kusal Perera is struggling to make the World Cup after sustaining a bad hamstring tear in South Africa. And although Angelo Mathews should technically have recovered from his latest injury, his own hamstrings seem so fragile that a bump from a pothole on the way to the stadium might be enough to cause a strain.
Possible wildcard Every series a new Sri Lanka ODI player produces good performances in losing causes. Most recently, it is slower-ball specialist Isuru Udana who has announced himself, doing a half-decent job with the ball, but really impressing with the bat – his big blows from the lower middle order earning him a reputation as one of Sri Lanka’s cleanest hitters.
Possible squad Certainties: Lasith Malinga, Isuru Udana, Thisara Perera, Angelo Mathews and Kusal Perera if fit. (No really. That’s about it.)
Probables: Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Oshada Fernando, Jeffrey Vandersay, Akila Dananjaya, Suranga Lakmal, Kasun Rajitha.
Possibles: Kamindu Mendis, Dasun Shanaka, Angelo Perera, Upul Tharanga, Vishwa Fernando, Lakshan Sandakan.
They had to go through the qualifiers and only earned their spot thanks to the absence of DRS for a crucial decision against Scotland. But there are signs of a revival in the one-day side: they have pace in the bowling attack and no shortage of big hitters. The full round-robin group stage may help them, allowing for the odd bad day, although the challenge for the batsmen will be if they can’t just hit through the line.
Big Question Can Chris Gayle keep doing it in boundaries and does the great opening batsman have one last international hurrah in him? He doesn’t do much running – between the wickets or in the field – but his destructive form against England fired a warning shot.
Injury concern West Indies would like to get Andre Russell back in the middle order but it’s a question of whether his knees can withstand 50 overs.
Possible wildcard He’s already had a taste of international cricket but Oshane Thomas remains very raw. It comes out quickly, but erratically as figures of 2 for 84 followed by 5 for 21 against England testify.
Possible squad Jason Holder (capt), Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Nicholas Pooran, Carlos Brathwaite, Andre Russell, Ashley Nurse, Keemo Paul, Devendra Bishoo, Kemar Roach, Oshane Thomas, Sheldon Cotterell
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