It’s that time in the tournament where one bad day and the teams would be on the streets for souvenir shopping. The knockout stage, starting this Wednesday, March 18, will see last year's runners up Sri Lanka taking on superman (read AB de Villiers) led South Africa. This will be followed by surprise package of Bangladesh taking on mighty powerhouse and defending champions India at the mammoth MCG on March 19.
The hosts will make the next two quarterfinals as Australia will first take on a resurgent and unpredictable as ever Pakistan side at Adelaide Oval on March 20. Across the Tasmanian sea home side and tournament favourites New Zealand will host bits and pieces side of West Indies at Wellington on March 21.
Here is a SWOT analysis of the eight quarter-finalists with predicted winners.
Date: March 18, 2015
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground
Match: South Africa vs Sri Lanka
Strengths: A skipper who is in the form of his life and a bowling attack at par with the best in the business. With that they surely would want to reverse the stat that the Rainbow Nation has never won a knockout game in the tournament’s history.
Weaknesses: Big game pressure along with their not-so-impressive record while chasing. Don’t want to mention that word used for them so often. Their fielding hasn’t been top notch by their standards.
Opportunities: Dale Steyn needs to have one good game and he can be a match-winner. Even Imran Tahir couldn’t have asked for a better pitch than the Sydney strip to make an impact.
Threats: Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan are in the form of their lives, Mahela Jayawardena is a big day man and a Lasith Malinga special is pending so plenty of stuff SA need to be wary of.
Strengths: Senior pros Kumar Sangakkara & T Dilshan have made a mockery of almost every bowling attack that they have faced. Batting prowess of these two has overshadowed every other aspect of their campaign.
Weaknesses: Bowling hasn’t been top notch and Lasith Malinga hasn’t been able to inspire much. With teams like Proteas who are susceptible against quality spin, Lanka is lacking in that department too.
Opportunities: Win toss, play to your strength and bat first. By putting SA under pressure of chasing anything in the range of 280+ ensures the Island nation to become the first semifinalists of this World Cup.
Threats: Since 1992, every World Cup South Africa has come in as a team to beat. The team’s leader has led from the front and looks determined to go all the way and a fiery Dale Steyn spell is still pending in this World Cup.
Winner: Sri Lanka
Date: March 19, 2015
Venue: Melbourne Cricket Ground
Match: Bangladesh vs India
Strengths: A strong middle order combined with grit and hunger is what makes these Bangladeshi Tigers a threat to be taken seriously. Not to forget they have some really crafty spinners to make their case.
Weaknesses: None of their top batsmen barring Mahmudullah have really made an impact. Against a disciplined Indian bowling, they will have very little to play with and that can be their downfall.
Opportunities: Three out of India’s top four haven’t really got into the groove. If Bangladesh can get them in cheaply, they are in the game. For there is no other possible way to beat India except for rattling their explosive batting line up.
Threats: The bowling quartet of Mohammed Shami, Mohit Sharma, R Aswhin along with Umesh Yadav is suddenly amongst the best in the tournament. Against an ordinary Bangladesh batting, they can create havoc.
Strengths: Superlative batting line up and a new found sting in the bowling is what India is riding on. Starting from Shikhar Dhawan till MS Dhoni comes in, India has a man for every situation. Shami & Co. have made life tough for every batsmen they have bowled against.
Weaknesses: That fifth bowler in Ravindra Jadeja and opening issues with Rohit Sharma is the only weak link as of now. This is the same team that couldn’t take one step right in the Tri-Series preceding the World Cup.
Opportunities: Rohit Sharma has a reputation of coming good against weaker opposition. This is a tailor-made stage for him to come in form. Ravindra Jadeja too should make the most of this opportunity before the skipper changes his mind.
Threats: Everyone likes the underdog to win, David beating Goliath. Complacency is the biggest threat for India. Taking Bangladesh lightly would be foolish and if India does that, defending champions’ applecart will be dislodged.
Date: March 20, 2015
Venue: Adelaide Oval
Match: Australia vs Pakistan
Strengths: Mitchells of Australia have tormented the best in business with their unsettling pace, bounce and yorkers. To add to it, the batting has strong top order in David Warner, Aaron Finch and Steve Smith and a super explosive middle and lower order in Glenn Maxwell, Shane Watson and James Faulkner.
Weaknesses: They haven’t entered the knockouts in a dominant fashion like they have done in previous World Cups. Against aggressive bowling attack, they have been vulnerable like how they folded against probing Tim Southee and quick Trent Boult.
Opportunities: There is no place better than home to live in. Aussies would want to make the most of this advantage and ensure the backing of their crowd inspires one and all on the field.
Threats: Pakistan’s bowling suddenly seems to have found a new rhythm. Also Aussies are not the best players of spin and the guile of Shahid Afridi can be their undoing.
Strengths: Their bowling attack of quick and skiddy Wahab Riaz and smart alec Rahat Ali has found their mojo. With Ehsan Adil and Shahid Afridi they can choke or unsettle any line up on their day.
Weaknesses: Poor batting and doubly poor fielding can undo all the hard work their bowlers would put in. Besides Misbah-ul-Haq, no other batsman in the team has looked good to change the complexion of the game. Also, Mohammad Irfan won't be playing due to an injury.
Opportunities: Aussies aren’t really a side who would give too many opportunities but then the hosts aren’t in their usual dominating form. Wickets at regular intervals can unsettle the home side easily.
Threats: Starc and Johnson can steamroll the brittle Pakistani batting. Also Glenn Maxwell has five different ways to score every ball. If Pakistan has to stand a chance, they need to stand Starc, Johnson and Maxwell onslaughts.
Date: March 21, 2015
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Match: New Zealand vs West Indies
Strengths: Popeye-arm Brendon McCullum can blast through any bowling attack, while chasing or setting up a target. Their bowling has been a revelation of sorts, as Tim Southee and Trent Boult have not put a step wrong in this event.
Weaknesses: Their feebleness against spin was well exposed by Bangladesh. Kiwis struggled to break the shackles against disciplined spinners. In fact relentless fast bowling of Aussies too unsettled them.
Opportunities: West Indies is definitely not a threatening side. Barring a few stars, they really don’t have winners in their side. Half the game will be won for Kiwis if they dismiss Chris Gayle early on.
Threats: The unpredictability of West Indians is something Kiwis should be wary of. If a couple of batters hang around with Gayle, Windies can never be out of contention.
Strengths: A batting with real power hitters all the way till number 7. Except for Lendl Simmons, all their top seven batters can hit any bowler on any pitch anywhere beyond the boundaries. Gayle, Samuels, Smith, Carter, Sammy and Russell are all mighty powerful.
Weaknesses: The entire team is out of form so to say. They have won matches on individual brilliance more often than through team effort. Besides Gayle, no batter has posed any threat and besides Holder no bowler has shown any sting.
Opportunities: This is their chance to prove the naysayers that they are not a spent force. This definitely is not the World Cup final, but beating tournament favourites on their home turf would be a statement of sorts.
Threats: Kiwis are in the form of their life. They have ticked almost every department and are coming in unbeaten in the knockout stage. On current form, Windies will be steamrolled if a team effort is not put up.
Winner: New Zealand