India will win this World Cup on the back of commanding tournaments by evergreen keeper-batsman MS Dhoni and pace prodigy Jasprit Bumrah.
That is among my predictions for the 2019 World Cup, which starts today.
Semi-finalists: India, South Africa, Australia, England
England and India are the two clear favourites for this tournament, while Australia have built great momentum and South Africa have a wonderful bowling attack. I expect New Zealand to also press strongly for a spot in the semis.
The 2011 World Cup champions are the most rounded team in this tournament, as I outlined in a recent piece for The Roar.
India a top four which extremely accomplished and boasts an extraordinary amount of experience. They also have quality quicks and the best spin combination in ODIs.
Top three most valuable batsmen
MS Dhoni (India)
Fresh from smashing 113 from 78 balls in India’s final warm-up match against Bangladesh, 37-year-old Dhoni is peaking at the perfect time.
In ten one day matches for India this year he has creamed 467 runs at 78. Underlining his phenomenal consistency, six of his 10 scores in that time have been of 48-plus.
What makes me so confident he will control this World Cup is not just his immense skill and experience, but his phenomenal composure.
I cannot remember Dhoni ever looking flustered with bat in hand, no matter how difficult the scenario. Dhoni lives for the big moment, for the final over, for the clutch situation.
He top scored for India in the 2015 semi-final against Australia, and made 91* to rescue India from a shaky start and lead them to victory in the 2011 final.
He’s also averaged 53 with the bat across the past two World Cups, highlighting how much he enjoys the centre stage of this global tournament.
Glenn Maxwell (Australia)
If Australia are to defend their World Cup – and they have a strong chance to do so – they will need Maxwell to have a blinder.
In an otherwise one-paced Aussie batting line-up, Maxwell offers the variety, the balance, the fear factor. With Australia’s top four looking solid, the cavalier all-rounder should get some good platforms from which to indulge his unique brand of cricketing mayhem.
Both with bat and ball Maxwell is in his best form since the 2015 World Cup. He tore that tournament to shreds by clattering 324 runs at an average of 65 with a jaw-dropping strike rate of 182, while also bowling tidily.
Now his touch is again ominous. In Maxwell’s last 10 one dayers for Australia he has smoked 458 runs at 57, with a scorching strike rate of 141. More carnage is imminent.
Jos Buttler (England)
Buttler is now the MVP of ODI cricket, as I argued in this recent piece for The Roar.
When England bat first his ballistic striking often pushes them to a total beyond their opposition. When England chase Buttler’s phenomenal rate of scoring ensures opponents remain on edge as long as he’s at the crease.
Top three most valuable bowlers
Jasprit Bumrah (India)
The fact I have two Indian bowlers on this short list – Bumrah and Yadav – underscores why I think they will win this tournament.
In do-or-die World Cup matches I will always favour the team with the better attack and India’s is the best around, with Bumrah the world’s finest white ball quick and Kuldeep the top ODI spinner.
Like Dhoni, Bumrah has a remarkably cool demeanour. Perhaps it is the result of bowling at the death in so many high-stakes IPL matches.
Whatever the case, Bumrah is easily the first bowler I would choose to bowl for my life in the last over of a limited overs match. He is deadly with the new ball, consistently makes an impact in the middle overs and is the best death bowler I have ever seen.
Trent Boult (New Zealand)
Boult was incredible in the 2015 World Cup, taking 22 wickets at 16. Yet now, at 29 years of age, he is an even better bowler.
By playing a mountain of T20 cricket in those intervening four years he has expanded his bowling repertoire. But the bedrock of Boult’s game remains his unparalleled ability to swing the new white ball very late and at a lively pace.
The number two ranked ODI bowler in the world, Boult has taken 26 wickets at 14 in his last ten one dayers for New Zealand.
Kuldeep Yadav (India)
Kuldeep is the only specialist left arm wrist spinner expected to play regularly in this tournament. That alone makes him a massive weapon in this high-scoring era when having variety in a bowling attack is paramount.
Combine that with his befuddling array of changeups, including at least three different styles of wrong ‘uns, and you have the most confusing ODI bowler on the planet.
But Kuldeep is not just a novelty act. He is calm, accurate and cunning. All of this has helped him build an outstanding ODI record of 87 wickets at 21.
What’s more is he has a terrific ODI record against the three other teams I expect to make the semi-finals, having grabbed 45 wickets at 22 in his matches against England, SA and Australia.
Shaheen Afridi (Pakistan)
This guy might just be the most exciting teenage cricketer on the planet. A 198cm tall left armer who can swing the ball at 145kmh, Afridi is the rarest of cricketing commodities.
In my time watching cricket there has been only one other bowler of this type and that is Starc, who has been arguably the best ODI quick of the past decade.
Having only turned 19 last month, Afridi has already made a significant impact in ODIs, with 24 wickets at 25 from his 14 matches. Afridi can be expensive but is a born wicket taker.
Lungi Ngidi (South Africa)
At just 23 years old Ngidi already has the accuracy, composure and consistency of a much more experienced bowler.
He has needed no time to find his feet at ODI level. Instead he’s been highly influential from the get go, taking 34 wickets at 21 so far, and averaging nearly two wickets per game.
His precision is complemented by steepling bounce and the ability to find just enough seam movement. Ngidi looks set to become a three-format star of world cricket.
Mark Wood (England)
The British press have been hyping Wood for years and have him pegged as a key element of England’s World Cup push.
Yet at 29 years of age the express quick is still yet to deliver anything more than the very occasional burst of brilliance. After 41 ODIs he averages 45 with the ball.
And despite his reputation as a natural wicket taker Wood has a very lofty strike rate of 48, which compares extremely unfavourably against the strike rates of Australian quicks Mitchell Starc (26), Nathan Coulter-Nile (29) and Pat Cummins (31).
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