With Paul the Octopus having met his watery grave we took the onus upon ourselves to predict the results for the Cricket World Cup. No, we didn’t hold any séances, borrow any 8-balls or search for the answers amongst the stars. We took into account all the variables - Strength of the teams playing, their Success since last World Cup, their Experience in the sub-continental conditions, their Confidence level against other teams and their Ratings calculated by us over the last 4 years and we distilled all these factors in to one single percentage that summarizes the chances of winning for a team. We call it, well, Chance Of Winning or COW. Over the last one and half years we have tuned and retuned COW to the extent that it now boasts of over 80% accuracy even before the match has started. The best part about COW is that it changes by every ball depending upon its outcome so at any time during the match you know which team holds the upper hand. You can even pinpoint which was the ball that changed the match!
Based on COW here are our predictions for the group stages of the upcoming Cricket World Cup.
The Australian team will be quite confident after beating England 6-1 recently. Australia has a nice mix of both youth and experience. It has a strong batting line-up (Ponting, Clarke, D Hussey, Brad Haddin, Cameron White) and a strong pace attack (Lee, Tait, Bollinger, Johnson), while Watson as an all-rounder provides excellent balance. The spin department (Krejza, Smith) is a bit inexperienced though. Australia has 3 rather easy encounters against Kenya, Canada and Zimbabwe, which should not cause too many problems. The match against Sri Lanka, in their home territory will be a challenge, while Australia will not dare take New Zealand and ever un-predictable Pakistan lightly when they face each other.
Prediction: 1st in Group A
Sri Lanka, having just won a series against West Indies, will be a very tough contender at home. Sri Lanka has a powerful and experienced batting line-up consisting of players like Sangakkara, Jayawardene and Dilshan. Their spinners, Muralitharan and Mendis can baffle the best of batsmen, and fast bowler Malinga will always remain a threat. The lack of experienced hitters in the middle order and someone to support Malinga will remain a worry though.
Sri Lanka will play 5 matches at home. The matches against Canada, Zimbabwe and Kenya can turn ugly given Sri Lanka’s reputation of crushing minnows. Against Pakistan though, anything can happen, while the match against New Zealand will be played in neutral Mumbai, and Australia is one team that really hates to lose.
Prediction: 2nd in Group A
New Zealand had a really torrid time in the sub-continent last year, so they would desperately want to silence their critics. New Zealand is blessed with all-rounders (Vettori, Oram, Styris, Franklin) who make an impact with either bat or ball. They also have attacking specialist batsmen (B McCullum, Ryder, Taylor) and a decent spin attack (N McCullum, Vettori). The lack of express quicks and a top-order prone to collapse will be a weakness on their part.
For all their troubles in 2010, New Zealand should not have any trouble against Zimbabwe, Kenya and Canada. Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia will be tough opponents but all New Zealand need is a good day.
Prediction: 3rd in Group A
Pakistan has been a team that has always been in the headlines for the wrong reasons, but on their day they can be unbeatable regardless of the opposition. Pakistan has experienced campaigners in the batting line-up (Misbah-ul-haq, Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq) as well youngsters like Ahmed Shahzad and Umar Akmal. Pakistan has a good pace bowling (Akhtar,Gul, Riaz) and spin bowling attack (Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal). Pakistan’s performances on the field though have been far from perfect and they would like some consistency from their batting and bowling.
Despite being at the receiving end of more than a few upsets, Pakistan should not have to struggle too much against the trio of Zimbabwe, Kenya and Canada. Pakistan’s biggest challenges will come against the stronger teams, particularly an in-form Australia and Sri Lanka on their home turf.
Prediction: 4th in Group A
The Zimbabwe cricket team is no longer the force it was for various reasons, not all of them cricketing. The Zimbabwean squad might not strike fear into the hearts of the opposition but they have with them big-hitting all rounder captain Elton Chigumbura and other capable batsmen in Craig Ervine, Charles Coventry, Brendon Taylor and Tatenda. Along with Chigumbura, the pace attack also has Ed Rainsford and Chris Mpofu. The spin bowling has the miserly duo of Utseya and Ray Price. Not the strongest of teams, Zimbabwe will have play at their very best to challenge the top teams.
The top 4 teams might be a bridge too far for Zimbabwe due to the sheer gap in quality between them. Zimbabwe however are much stronger than Canada and Kenya, and their best hope would be to beat these 2 teams and pray for a top team to have a bad day.
Prediction: 5th in Group A
Even amongst the associate nations, Canada has not been the strongest team, so there would not be any high expectations from them. Canada’s team will require the heavy hitting of top order batsmen John Davison and Rizwan Cheema, with Captain Ashish Baga and Zubin Surkari, providing stability in the middle order. The spin attack will again involve Davison and specialist spinner Harwir Baidwan, and the pace attack will depend a lot on Henry Osinde. The team depends a lot on the performance of a few players and that will be a worrying fact.
Canada has defeated Kenya in their last 3 matches, giving them an edge. The match against Zimbabwe will require a strong performance by the whole team to give them some hope. The matches against the top teams will require a standout performance by someone like Davison or Cheema to give them a sliver of a chance.
Prediction: 6th in Group A
The Kenyan team has not had the strongest lead-up to the world cup, reflecting a long standing decline of the team since 2003. Kenya will depend heavily on the bowling and batting of both Steve Tikolo and Thomas Odoyo. The batting will require the solidity of Seren Waters and David Obuya as well. Along with Odoyo, the pace bowling will also consist of Peter Ongondo and Nehemiah Odhiambo. The spin department will consist of Captain Jimmy Kamande, and the part-time spin of Tikolo and Collins Obuya. The major worry for this team is that they have played very few matches against top opposition. The match against Canada will be interesting even though Canada has the edge. Zimbabwe are now a far better side than Kenya, and even though Kenya had caused upsets in past, now it will find it very hard to replicate those performances against the top teams this time around.
Prediction:7th in Group A
Whichever way you look at it, India would be favourites to win the World Cup no matter where it was being played. In fact the host country jinx is the only thing against them. They have the most destructive openers bar none, a youthful middle order that thrives in home conditions and above all they have Sachin. Their bowling attack led by Zaheer Khan may not be the most lethal but few can argue against its effectiveness in the sub-continental conditions. Throw in a captain who has a knack for winning, apart from the toss, and this is one formidable unit that will steamroll through the group stages to make it to the quarterfinals. With half the team just back from injuries, the biggest threat to their campaign is from injuries of course.
India should be able to see off Ireland, Netherlands and even Bangladesh without much difficulty. England and West Indies will offer some resistance but the South Africans will provide them with a stiff challenge and they will have to be up for it.
Prediction: 1st in Group B
Chokers or not, we just cannot rule out the Saffers. In Smith, Amla Kallis and De Villiers they have a top order that can outscore most sides and in Steyn, Morkel and Tsotsobe they have a bowling attack that can knock off most batsmen with ease. While their brilliant fielding is like a 6th bowler picking up bonus wickets for them, it will be their inexperienced middle order and lack of quality spin options that might prove to be their Achilles’ Heel.
On current form South Africa will not be the team anyone would want to run in to. They will easily outclass Netherlands, Ireland, Bangladesh, West Indies and even England. They will be the only team to challenge India for the top spot and will run them close. Very close.
Prediction: 2nd in Group B
Barely a month back England were fresh off The Ashes victory and every one’s second favourites. Few injuries and a 6-1 thrashing later they have fallen off the radar a bit. Mind you this is the most complete ODI unit to set sail from England in a long time. They have one of the most potent bowling attacks that includes perhaps the best off spinner in the World and a resilient middle order led by Trott that refuses to give up. However it remains to be seen how well Swann comes back from his injury and how capable Bopara is of finishing the matches in the absence of Morgan.
England should see off Netherlands, West Indies and even Bangladesh quite comfortably but we think they have to ensure there is no complacency when they face neighbours Ireland who will up their game just for them. We expect England to fall short against India and South Africa but qualify for the next round comfortably.
Prediction: 3rd in Group B
Bangladesh has performed well enough over the years to discard the minnows tag. Their recent whitewash of New Zealand is ample proof of how dangerous they are at home. They are very much reminiscent of the India team of the 90s. With a spin attack that’s tighter than a Boa’s grip, Bangladesh will thrive by restricting the runs scored by their opponents and count on Tamim to knock off a chunk at start before Shakib and rest chase down the rest. However if Tamim falls early when chasing a big total, their weak middle order might not be able to pull them through.
Bangladesh should easily roll over Netherlands but will have to fight hard to overturn Ireland and West Indies. Victory against India or South Africa will be highly unlikely. They will squeeze through to the quarterfinals at West Indies’ expense.
Prediction: 4th in Group B
The much maligned West Indies squad is nobody’s favourite this time. It’s like watching the decline of the great Indian Hockey team. But just like the Indian Hockey team they are very much capable of springing surprises. In Barath they have one of the most exciting talents of recent times and with Sarwan and Chanderpaul their middle order has a solid look to it. Bravos, Sammy and Pollard provide plenty firepower when needed. However their bowling is amongst the weakest in the group and that is where they will lose ground.
West Indies should have no trouble beating Netherlands but they will not be able to challenge India, South Africa or England. It is their matches against Bangladesh and Ireland that will make or break their campaign and we fear that is where they will fall short.
Prediction: 5th in Group B
The Irish are expected to be amongst the also rans in this World Cup. Though, with a little bit of luck they can easily upset an applecart or two. The O’Brien brothers still form the crux of this team though Porterfield, Johnston and Joyce will also shoulder major responsibility. Ireland has been by far the most impressive side among all minnows with spectacular record against them. However playing against the Big Boys might just be too big a task for them to achieve.
While Ireland will not have much difficulty winning against Netherlands that’s exactly where it will end. India and South Africa will prove to be too strong and their inexperience will be exposed by them. However Ireland has a very good chance of upsetting Bangladesh, West Indies and their perennial rivals – England. With just a bit of luck they might make it to the next round but we don’t think they are lucky enough.
Prediction: 6th in Group B
Ryan ten Doeschate has career averages that can make Jacques Kallis look like Sanjay Bangar. But sadly rest of the squad leaves a lot to be desired. Alexei Kervezee is probably one of the brightest talents to come out of the Dutch lands but they need to hold on to their best talents and lose out on another Dirk Nannes if they want to become a force to be reckoned. Ten Doeschate will play a major role in deciding whether Netherlands end up with the wooden spoon or not.
We really do not expect Netherlands to make much of an impact in this World Cup in conditions that are completely alien to them. They clearly lack the experience to play well in the sub-continent and at best they might run Ireland and Bangladesh close.
Prediction: 7th in Group B