Group A Preview:

Teams: Pakistan, Australia, India, West Indies.

Pakistan:

Younis Khan (C), Imran Nazir, Kamran Akmal (w),S. Malik,M. Yousuf, Misbah ul Haq, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi(1C) , Naved ul Hasan, Saeed Ajmal, Umar Gul, Mohammed Aamer, Fawad Alam, Iftikhar Anjum, Mohammed Asif,

Batting: 8/10

That Pakistan has been a mercurial team for as long as mankind has existed blah blah blah is a known fact.  They have the potential to be absolutely explosive (9) or downright atrocious (6). I’ve taken a safe bet at 8.

Opening with the ever-dangerous Akmal will probably be Imran Nazir, who’s average of 24 doesn’t reflect his potential.  A talented player , especially off the backfoot, he might find the pitches of SA to his liking, especially if Pakistan bats first. The calm presence of Malik, Younis Khan (though it’s unlikely in the first game), the very very dangerous YOusuf, and bear-hunters Afridi and Misbah rounds up a tremendous array of strokeplayers,making a case of the best around. Most of them (except Afridi) have the capability to play according to the situation. Yousuf , Misbah and Afridi are definitely amongst the most dangerous trio of finishers in world cricket.   As with all great Pak teams in the past – there is a streak of unpredictability that runs through the team. A consistant Younis Khan could be the key to keep that in check

Bowling: 7.5/10

I know, I know.  It just doesn’t seem right does it? Bear with me fans. The somewhat lower rating is simply due to 2 reasons:
There are no 2 -3 names that stand out from the awe-inspiring attack of the past.

I like Umar Gul. From a steady line-and-length bowler, he has evolved into a dangerous wicket-taker, and sometimes unplayable at the death.  If we go by pure talent, Asif would be a perfect opening bowler to partner him, but questions retain on his form for now.

Ajmal will be the key here. In his short spell at the big stage, he has proven that he has what it takes to succeed. The doosra stands out amongst his delicious and subtle variations. He has the key to flourish , and flourish big time.As strange as it sounds, Afridi is someone I fear more as an opposition in the bowling department than in the batting.
It’s the 5th and 6th option that seem slightly suspect. Iftikar Anjum’s back from the long layoff. It could otherwise be Aamer. It remains to be seen which line up the Paks settle for.

Keep an Eye on: Fawad Alam.

I was really tempted to pick Ajmal, but I am going to take a shot in the dark and say Fawad Alam. The young all-rounder has the genes and the skills to go with it. Should he find a place in a very crowded final XI, the champion’s trophy could just be his coming out party.


West Indies

FL Reifer (C), DJG Sammy, DE Bernard, TL Best, RT Crandon, TM Dowlin, ADS Fletcher, KR McClean, NO Miller, KOA Powell, DM Richards, KAJ Roach, DS Smith, GC Tonge, CAK Walton(W).

Batting : 4/10

I admit it. I don’t have much of a clue of most of their players, and it hurts me to rank the old world entertainers so low.  But for the sake of consistency and guessing I’m doing so.

Without the likes of Gayle, Bravo,Smith, Chanderpaul, Sarwan, all of whom definitely had the potential to creep up on a few teams, this line up however is going to go ahead and do what it’s supposed to do : SUCK.
Bernard , Richards , Devon smith, Fletcher have the ardous task of facing the opposition bowling for 50 overs, and putting up a big score.  The captain, Reifer , hasn’t shown any kind of form so far, and neither has Dowlin.  The best bet lies in Richards and Fletcher putting up a good partnership at the get go, and a couple of lower order batsmen pushing up the scores.

Bowling: 5/10

Though in a similar situation, I am giving the bowling 1 mark more simply because of this silly belief I have – you can have athletes as fast bowlers and somewhat manage. Adding fuel to my pathetic fire is the fact that  Tonge, Sammy, Best and Bernard didn’t do all that badly in the warm up games. The lack of a good spinner sticks out like a sore thumb, and Gayle’s fastish off spinners could have been a boon from the god’s above.

Keep an Eye on:
Fletcher

As incredibly tough it was for me to right the above paragraphs, this one’s even tougher. I’m going to go with Fletcher on this. I’ve seen him play a couple of times, and I think there’s a fire waiting to be lit. I’d expect 1 impressive innings from him  ( 50+ score) in one of the games , when the others tumble around like Jacks and Jills.

Bonus Fact: There’s a player in their squad called Nikita Miller.  Now before you perverts get your hopes up , it’s a dude.

Australia

Ponting, Clarke, Bracken, Hauritz, Hilfenhaus, Ferguson, James Hopes, M Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Siddle, Haddin, Shane Watson, Tim Paine, Adam Voges, Cameron White, Brad Haddin

Batting: 8.5/10

Outside of a select band of few (Hussey, white etc) , this Aussie squad seems to have players that I just love to hate for some reason. However, take nothing away from their production, it’s simply top class.

Conventional reason tells us that they are the favourites for the cup, but a 6-1 whitewash of a pitiful English team shouldn’t be the only reason why we should all get down on our knees in front of them.

The Batting line up is pretty consistant : Watson and Paine have been opening the innings. While the talented Mr. Watson has yet to reproduce his awesome IPL 1 form in any other place in the game, Paine has really brought on the PAIN of late. Hoping to take on Gilly’s mantle, he has done well in the England series, and it remains to be seen how he does with  opposition not named England.

Ponting and Clarke form what must be the most homosexual pair on this side of the Batman-Robin realm, but there’s no doubting their incredible skills in batting.  Include Mr. Hussey in there (one of my favs) to shore up or finish.  The hitters come in the form of Cam White, Hopes, and even Johnson.

The 8.5 has been given to them not because of the explosiveness, but simply because of the length of the batting line up and consistency. Johnson is a very underrated batsman, and even Lee and Hauritz  can be counted on to contribute 10-20 crucial runs.

Bowling: 7.5/10

Australia’s bowling situation in many ways is very similar to Pakistan’s. They’ve got a couple of very good pacers  in Lee and Johnson. Bracken can be expected to be his miserly self. There’s only 1 proven spinner in the line up in Hauritz, and he’s an underrated one. Then, Australia has an assortment of bowlers to choose from to comfortably finish their 50 over quota from Watson, White, Siddle, Clarke and Hopes.  Again, the slightly higher rating is because of 2 reasons:
1. Though individually some of them might not be of the same quality of someone from , say Pakistan for example, the bowling line up too runs deep.
2. Australia have proven to be the top dog. Even though other teams are catching up, till it’s proven, I give them the benefit of doubt of reloading and performing .


Keep an Eye on:
Cam White.

With a good showing in the England series, and some leg-spin to provide variety, White could be what the doctor ordered to substitute the big hitting skills of symonds.

India

Dhoni (W/C), Gambhir, Sachin, Dravid, Yuvraj, Suresh Raina, Ishant Sharma, RP singh, Nehra, Harbhajan, Karthik,Yousaf Pathan, Amit Mishra, Praveen Kumar, Nayar

Batting: 8.5/10

As ridiculously talented as the batting order looks no matter how you play it, India has had similar batting line up resembling the pinnacle of Awesomeness before, before amounting to much ado over nothing.

With the absence of Sehwag (a big , big loss, DESPITE his meek ODI record), Sachin and Gambhir open the batting.  I am just a mere human to write much about Sachin. While there is the common argument about him not performing on the really big stage, or not being the Sachin of old, the truth is that he has matured into a consistent contributor at the top, to a situation where a 35-50 score can be considered a failure for him. Something tells me that he wants to go out with a bang in 2011, and the stage for that starts with every series from here on. Gambhir is what I’d call not an over-achiever. A very good player of spin, especially, he might have been a perfect middle order bat in another day and era. Dravid shores up the No. 3 position . He hasn’t displayed anything yet of late to prove that he’s back at his best, but he hasn’t done anything to warrant a boot either. Yuvraj is the clear and present danger at 4. Raina was the toast of India (along with Rohit Sharma) after IPL 2 till he got brutally exposed against the short ball. Pathan, much like Watson can be stunningly dangerous, but has yet to consistently display his T20 form in the the 50 over format.

Rounding things off is Dhoni – who juggles himself up and down the order to his heart’s content. While it may be argued that Yuvraj and Raina might be a better fit than him at No.4 for making more of opportunities, Dhoni can still be expected to come in at No.4. Moreover,  I am really not going to argue against an average of 50.14, and a jaw-dropping 88+ when he comes in at No.4!! It can be safe to say that he might not be as explosive, but he certainly doesn’t give away his wicket easily.

The worry is that I always get the feeling before any such crucial tournaments that the key middle order players such as Yuvraj, Raina and Y.Pathan hardly get much of a bat or rhythm before the good games.

Bowling : 7/10

Zaheer Khan could have single handled added more bite and consistency to the bowling. Without his presence , what looms is an exhausted Ishant Sharma, an inconsistent Praveen Kumar, and RP singh, and Ashish Nehra.

RP on his day can be fairly handful, as can Nehra too. The thing with Nehra is that he’s injury prone. I mean not just regular shit, but he’s more prone to injury than a one legged blind nude man walking on glacier in Antartica trying not to slip or catch a cold.

Bhajji can be expected to be the only main spin option to feature in the XI, unless India surprise by including Mishra in, giving them a decent leggie threat. But with Bhajji, it’s all binary. On his day , he can be all charged up and bowl a great spell , while on others, he’s just terrible , absolutely horrific to watch, making matters worse with his pout.

Another tendency India has shown of late is their fetish to get smothered at the death overs. The main culprit of this is the lack of an experienced bowler such as Zaheer who can effectively use the old bowl. The other is trying out options such as Bhajji who tries to get too cute and bowls a shocking number of wides down the leg side in an attempt to cramp or york the batsmen.

In Y. Pathan, Yuvi, Raina, Sachin (and Sehwag when he was around), India had the option of some fairly decent part timers, but somehow, I feel that they haven’t been properly utilized. Sachin of course isn’t the same with the ball as he was before, but I feel Yuvi and Raina have to be pushed a lot more into taking their bowling seriously and used accordingly. Pathan can be an effective option to try something different at the beginning (t20 exp). As is Raina , with his unique, stop-before-drop action.

In all, till they show us something, I think 7/10 is a fair rating.


Keep an Eye on: Nehra.

Though there are a bunch of batsmen to choose from, I’m going to go with Nehra. He has done it in South Africa in the past, and though he’s not the same threat as he was before, he still can surprise. If fit, and if selected in the final XI (both are big IFs), expect him to be the 2 for 40 odd kind of guy in the games.

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