Just 12 days to go now and following my look at the minnows for the forthcoming tournament, in this article, I will focus on three teams who I believe will come up short in the Super 8 stage.
Pakistan played in England last summer, losing comprehensively the test series, even before the debacle at The Oval and drawing the One Day series. To put this performance into context, the Sri Lankans had earlier in the summer put England to the sword in the most one sided series of matches that you are ever likely to see. Now England have improved beyond all recognition since those matches, whereas Pakistan seem to be going backwards and were recently walloped in South Africa.
The Pakistani task has now been made even harder by the loss to injury of probably their three most critical bowlers, Razzaq, Akhtar and Asif. (Whether Akhtar and Asif should be available anyway due to their failed drugs test is now a moot point). This makes the form of Rana Naved critical to any chance of success, while hoping that the back up seamers, Umar Gul and Mohammed Sami, can fill in the gaps. The spin option of Kaneria is interesting as he hasn’t played a ODI for over a year.
On the plus side, Pakistan has the best middle order in world cricket in Younus Khan, Mohammed Yousuf and Inzimam, and destructive lower middle order batsmen in Shahid Afridi and Kamran Akmal. The presence of Afridi means that any target is attainable. However, relying on Afridi to fire is not going to get the Pakistani team into the semi-finals. They will win matches, but are not consistent enough to progress.
Similar to their great rivals Pakistan in that all of their strength is in their batting. Even with Virender Sehwag in terrible form, any line up that includes Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dhoni is going to score plenty of runs. However, their seam attack looks weak and their best line of attack may be to play both Kumble and Harbhajan, making use of the slow pitches in the Caribbean, with Tendulkar and Ganguly also seeing some work as bowlers as well as batsmen.
India toured the West Indies in 2006, losing the ODI series 4-1 (although they did gain revenge in the test series), but gained revenge at home more recently, where they also defeated a weakened Sri Lankan team.
Like Pakistan, there are too many weaknesses and too many other good teams for India to progress to the semi-final stages, and with Bangladesh in their group (with Sri Lanka and Bermuda), it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that they may not even make the Super 8 stage.
The host country has never won the World Cup, and despite the fabulous support that the team will receive, it’s not going to happen this time either. Having said that, in Chris Gayle, the hosts have an imposing all rounder, capable of scoring large and quickly at the top of the innings. His off-spin is also much more dangerous than it looks and is remarkably economical.
Captained by Brian Charles Lara (as the Sky promo keeps telling us), there is little for the other countries to fear with the rest of the squad. Sarwan and Chanderpaul have never looked the same players at ODI as they are in test matches, and with the exception of Jerome Taylor, the bowling has little variety, with the pace men that the Weat Indies has been traditionally associated becoming a thing of the past. However, they have two wild cards in Kieron Pollard and Lendl Simmons and the throwing in of such inexperienced youngsters must be seen as desperation.
Lara thinks that the West Indies should get to the semis and take it from there. While I admire his confidence as much as I admire his batting, it is misplaced.