07 May, 2019

We are now just a few weeks away from the World Cup and excitement is mounting among cricket fans across the globe. It will be held in England and Eoin Morgan’s men are the favourites to lift the trophy after spending the past year atop the world rankings. The teams given the greatest chance of usurping them are India and Australia, as both have strong squads packed full of supremely talented ODI stars. Yet there will also be a few intriguing dark horses vying for glory at this summer’s competition and we have profiled a few that could spring a huge upset.


West Indies

The West Indies went into their recent ODI series against England on the back of a long losing streak and they were given little chance of toppling the world’s top-ranked team. However, they played with vigour and panache throughout and emerged with an extremely creditable 2-2 series draw when they won the final match by seven wickets. There is now renewed optimism among fans and the Windies have some magnificently talented individuals in their World Cup squad.

They have not won an ODI series since they beat Bangladesh back in 2014, so they are massive underdogs heading into the tournament. However, they will be sure to draw large crowds thanks to the swaggering presence of Chris Gayle at the top of the order. The seasoned opener will be one of the biggest draws at the World Cup thanks to his status as one of the most clinical and destructive batsman in the history of the game and his penchant for hitting sixes. He will retire from ODIs after this tournament and the Universe Boss will be desperate to go out on a high by firing his side to glory.

Yet the West Indies are not a one-man team by any stretch of the imagination. All-rounder Andre Russell has been lighting up the IPL this season with an enviable batting average, while the fast-bowling duo of Sheldon Cottrell and Shannon Gabriel will cause all manner of problems for opposition batsmen. Jason Holder is one of the world’s best all-rounders, and there is a strong blend of youth and experience in this squad. The World Cup odds at https://www.sportingindex.com/spread-betting/cricket/international-world-cup-2019 - show that the Windies are total outsiders for glory, well behind England, India, Australia, New Zealand South Africa and Pakistan in the betting, but they have the potential to light up this tournament and win it for the third time.

Pakistan

Pakistan will have the youngest squad at this summer’s World Cup and exciting teenage quicks Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Hasnain could really flourish at the tournament. Hasnain has developed a fearsome reputation by sending down balls at 93mph and that should make him the fastest bowler at the World Cup, as Australia did not select Billy Stanlake and Jofra Archer is yet to break into England’s 15-man squad. The 19-year-old recently inspired the Quetta Gladiators to the Pakistan Super League title and he is playing fearless cricket right now.

Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur has tipped Afridi to be the number one fast bowler in the world within three years, and no batsman will relish facing him. Batsman Babar Azam and left-handed opener Fakhar Zaman will also be dangerous. Pakistan also have experience in the form of Sarfaraz Ahmed, Mohammad Hafeez, and Shoaib Malik, and you can never write them off. They are one of just five teams to ever win the World Cup, along with the West Indies, India, Australia, and Sri Lanka, and they could well do so again this year.

Sri Lanka

Of the real long shots, Sri Lanka look better equipped than Bangladesh and Afghanistan to mount a serious challenge for the World Cup. They are ranked sixth in the world, above Pakistan and the West Indies, and they will have the most experienced squad at the competition. Sri Lanka will have an average age of 29.9 and an attack led by veteran pacers Lasith Malinga, 35, and Suranga Lakmal, 32. Dimuth Karunaratne, aged 31, is now the captain, but 31-year-old former captain Angelo Matthews is still in the team and 36-year-old Jeevan Mendis has also been recalled.

Nine of the 15 men selected for the squad are over 30, with Avishka Fernando and Kusal Mendis the only spring chickens in the bunch. That experience could be crucial as these wise heads plot a route out of the group stage and into the semi-finals. Sri Lanka are in dismal form, having been whitewashed by South Africa and New Zealand in their last two ODI series, but they always seem to come alive at the World Cup. They were quarter-finalists in 2015, and finished runners-up at the previous two tournaments, and they have an outside chance of success this year.

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