VEDANT SHARMA | 13 MARCH, 2019
Ever-changing teams make for inconsistent performances
As cricket fans gear themselves up for the ICC World Cup coming in June – where undoubtedly India and England will start out as hot favorites – here’s a look at the areas of concern for each of the ten participating teams.
The Indian men’s cricket team have over the last year and a half been able to find a solid playing XI, who can be relied on to win matches nine times out of ten, if not more. But the team has struggled with a problem of plenty, and hasn’t been able to give opportunities to the four players on the bench.
For the recent tour of Australia, the selectors named Rishabh Pant and K.L.Rahul as part of the 15-man ODI squad – but not once did the duo get the opportunity to play. Going into the World Cup, if a player or two is injured, the lack of match practice for these bench warmers will create problems.
Before the bilateral series against the West Indies on their home soil, England were firm favourites to win the trophy. But questions have surely been raised since this series – England lost the tests 1-2 and tied the ODIs 2-2, taking only the T20s, 3-0.
The team’s biggest concern has been their spin bowling and middle-order collapse. In the spin department, Moeen Ali was as effective as anyone can be for England. However, he struggled to find that rhythm in the recently concluded series. And the batting collapses continued in recent times, posing a big problem for England team which they will look to correct ahead of the World Cup.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the five-time World Cup champions haven’t enjoyed the best of times in the limited overs setup, and need to get things right before the World Cup. The last time Australia won a fifty-over series was in 2017 against Pakistan, a long time in cricket.
Going forward, it’s important for the team to start playing as a unit and change their approach towards the game. Ever since captain Steve Smith and David Warner have been sidelined due to ball-tampering against South Africa early last year, it’s looked as if Australia’s morale has also been sidelined.
Since their readmission into international cricket after the apartheid years, South Africa have undoubtedly been the world’s second-best international cricket team. In both Tests and ODIs their record is bettered only by Australia. An unyielding South Africa team, in defiance of injuries, scandal, political interference, and accusations of a lack of flair, has been one of world cricket’s few constants.
But seldom have South Africa been as meek as in their ignominious collapse the last six to eight months. Worse, their man of armour AB de Villiers hung up his boots when his team rebuilding most needed him.
But can a game played with eleven to a side, long be dependent on one man? And with teams like South Africa which have been so successful over the years, should this even be the case? – No.
The main concern for Pakistan has been a lack of consistency. The team have performed well in bits and pieces, without the consistency necessary to have their performance get recognised.
After the 2017 Champion’s Trophy, when they beat India by 180 runs to take home the cup, almost every cricket pundit thought the team would reach a higher orbit.
But with the captaincy baton shifted since, and no string of good performances to show, Pakistan may struggle to replicate that ICC event’s performance on the same English pitches.
The Kiwis are probably the team who least need improvement. After losing the ODI series against India they came back strongly against Bangladesh, and showed why it’s equal to impossible upstaging them on home soil.
Conditions in England will be little similar to New Zealand, and the Kiwis will try to take this as an opportunity to do what they did in the last World Cup.
The concern with the Windies is this: as a team they don’t seem to know just how good they are, and what they are capable of. They’re capable of producing heroics on almost every occasion, but haven’t been able to follow through and show results.
Going into the World Cup, it will be important for them to back their abilities and play the pitch and ball – not the opposition – if they are looking to get themselves through to the knockouts.
Ever since the 2016 T20 World Cup in India, no one treats Bangladesh as underdogs. The Mashrafe-Mortaza led team showed grit, character and dedication to continue with consistent good performances, even in the Asia Cup.
However, as the World Cup draws near, it feels as if the team has once again lost the momentum, and are almost back to where they started. With less than three months to go, Bangladesh will know it’s time they got back in the groove.
Having played just handful of ODI matches, Afghanistan are the most inexperienced team in the tournament. They are still new to this setup and going into an event like the World Cup it’s probably important for them as a unit to learn from the experience, play their game, and not take any undue pressure onto themselves.
If they are able to do this, they may well manage to upstage some big teams in the tournament.
No doubt the Sri Lankan team of the era 2003 to 2011 was a different team to what it is now. Now their adaptability on the field seems to be missing. They performed well in the Test series against South Africa, winning both, but simply couldn’t carry the momentum into the ODIs, losing 2-3 on home soil.
With the likes of Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews missing from the squad, the team is also missing vital experience. They have changed captains on more than one occasion in the past year – it will be pivotal not to do so again, at least till after the World Cup, so they can perform as a unit.