By: Chinmay Vaidya, KCOU Sports
The 2015 Cricket World Cup will start on Feb. 14 with New Zealand and Sri Lanka playing the opening match. The co-host Kiwis will hope to get off to a strong start in the cup with a win in a 2011 semifinal rematch. The second game will feature the other co-host Australia and England in an ODI edition of the Ashes rivalry. Both co-hosts can make huge statements on the opening day.
Pool B kicks off the biggest rivalry in the history of cricket with India and Pakistan facing off. India finally captured a World Cup in 2011 on its home soil, giving a team full of stars the final piece of their legendary careers. Pakistan has tried to recover from scandals, security issues and lack of revenue from international tours. The squad is beat up, but features good bowling that can work wonders on the Australian pitches.
This is one of the hardest World Cups to predict. There is no clear-cut favorite or team that is superiorly talented. India features the world’s best batsman, while South Africa has the best bowling attack. Australia might feature the most complete team and New Zealand has made back-to-back semifinals. Sri Lanka has a veteran group that made a run to the 2011 final before falling to India. England is resilient and finally talented from top to bottom.
The West Indies had a tumultuous year and Pakistan doesn’t have a strong squad. Zimbabwe has a chance to advance out of Pool B for this reason. However, I’ll still go with the four top teams. In Pool A, I don’t see any upsets and the top four teams will advance out.
Pool A: Australia(A1), New Zealand(A2), England(A3), Sri Lanka(A4)
Pool B: South Africa(B1), India(B2), Pakistan(B3), West Indies (B4)
A1 v. B4- Australia vs. West Indies
These teams met in the first Super Six game of 2007 and Australia demolished the Windies. Chris Gayle could singlehandedly change the game, but I like the Australians because they are the more complete and more experienced team.
B2 v. A3- India vs. England
India has struggled abroad, especially in the Land Down Under. Although the Men in Blue have Kohli and Raina, who are both top-10 batsmen overall, they don’t have a solid group behind them. MS Dhoni should be able to captain his side to a victory, but expect a strong test from England in this one. In the end, India advances.
A2 v. B3- New Zealand vs. Pakistan
Pakistan was winning this game in the 2011 Cup until Ross Taylor decided that every ball can go out of the ground. Taylor had the most impressive innings of his career and the Kiwis went on to win in dramatic fashion. I’ll take New Zealand to advance to a third straight semifinal with a victory over a depleted Pakistan squad.
A4 v. B1- Sri Lanka vs. South Africa
South Africa is a perennial choker. Despite being insanely talented, the Proteus find some way to mess it up. Either the batting lineup doesn’t click for that one game or the bowlers get walloped all around the park. Sri Lanka is experienced and South Africa is an experienced choker. Give me the Lankan Tigers in a tight quarterfinal.
Semi-Final 1- Australia vs. India
A rematch of the 2003 final and the 2011 quarterfinal. Australia won in 2003 and India won in 2011. The host nation has demolished India consistently on its home soil and India has struggled away from the sub-continent. This is Australia’s match and tournament.
Semi-Final 2- Sri Lanka vs. New Zealand
Another rematch. These two teams met in the opening game of 2015 and more importantly, the semifinal in 2011. Sri Lanka won in Colombo in 2011, but the Kiwis get the victory here to advance to an all-host final in Melbourne.
Final- Australia vs. New Zealand
This is Australia’s cup to lose. The Aussies are trying to return to the glory days of 2003 and 2007. Australia completed a World Cup three-peat (1999,2003,2007) in the early part of the decade and is trying to get back to that point. New Zealand has a chance to play in its first final and will get valuable experience for its young talent. However, the experienced and motivated Australians will capture the World Cup for a fifth time and complete the return to global prominence.
Man of the Cup- George Bailey
This could easily be Kohli or David Warner, but I think Bailey will be the most instrumental player for Australia. Bailey is a middle-order batsman who will be tasked with rebuilding innings when the top of the order fails or providing stability for a hot hitter at the other end. The right-hander has been in solid form and has a healthy average of 41.74 in one-day internationals. He won’t be the leading runs scorer in the tournament, but Bailey will likely be the last man standing at the crease when Australia chases down a total in the World Cup final.