With 14 nations in action over 49 matches in two different countries, there’s a fair bit to get your head around before the start of the 2015 ICC World Cup.
Never fear – The New Daily is here to help.
Here we take a look at all sides involved and predict an Australia-New Zealand final at the MCG. Fingers crossed…
ODI ranking: 5th
World Cup best: Finalists (1979, 1987, 1992)
Star Man: Jimmy Anderson
Odds: $9 to win (Sportsbet)
Prediction: Look a better side without Test captain Alastair Cook bogging them down at the top of the order. Ian Bell is in good touch with the bat but quicks Anderson and Stuart Broad will need to have big tournaments if they are to make the last four. Face Australia and New Zealand in their first two matches in a very tough start. Out in the quarter-finals.
ODI ranking: 1st
World Cup best: Winners (1987, 1999, 2003, 2007)
Star Man: David Warner
Prediction: Tick all the boxes but dealing with the expectation of being heavy favourites is Australia’s biggest challenge. Outstanding depth in all-rounders gives the co-hosts plenty of options. Will rely on Glenn Maxwell’s part-time spin if Xavier Doherty is not selected – and there’s a slight query on their death bowling. But that’s being picky. Explosive batsmen, led by Warner, and fiery quicks should lead Australia to a fourth World Cup in five attempts. Will beat New Zealand in the final.
ODI ranking: 4th
World Cup best: Winners (1996)
Star Man: Kumar Sangakkara
Prediction: Not being talked up at all but write off a side containing Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Angelo Mathews and Tillakaratne Dilshan at your peril. Made the last two World Cup finals. Not in the greatest form recently but speedster Lasith Malinga is a welcome inclusion. How they play Australian/New Zealand pitches remains a question but a seven-match warm-up series against the Black Caps will help. Out in the last eight.
ODI ranking: 9th
World Cup best: Super 8 stage (2007)
Star Man: Shakib Al Hasan
Prediction: Thrashed Zimbabwe 5-0 in November and December to give them confidence. Beat New Zealand on home soil in 2013 but the gap between their best and worst is too big. Mushfiqur Rahim and Anamul Haque will need big tournaments with the bat if they are to reach the quarter-finals and all-rounder Shakib will also prove crucial. Missed the knockout stages in 2011 due to net run-rate. Another close call looks on the cards. Probably unsuccessful again.
ODI ranking: 6th
World Cup best: Semi-finalists (1975, 1979, 1992, 1999, 2007, 2011)
Star Man: Kane Williamson
Prediction: Have been backed hard by punters in recent months in response to their excellent form. Play all their group matches in New Zealand and could stay in the country until the final. Captain Brendon McCullum will give them fast starts at the top of the order and Williamson is genuinely world class. The 24-year-old averaged 70 in one-day international cricket in 2014 and already has two hundreds this year. A varied pace attack, led by Tim Southee, will make the most of local pitches. Finalists.
ODI ranking: 11th
World Cup best: N/A
Star Man: Mohammad Nabi
Prediction: Just making the World Cup is a big achievement for the war-torn nation. Will hope to avoid big defeats and their game against Scotland in Dunedin looms as their best chance of a victory. Surprised Ireland by 71 runs in Dubai in January. Skipper Nabi is handy with bat and ball and quick Hamid Hassan averages almost two wickets per match. Out in the group stages.
ODI ranking: N/A
World Cup best: Group stage (1999, 2007)
Star Man: Preston Mommsen
Prediction: Won the qualifying event in New Zealand last year to reach the tournament proper. Skipper Mommsen hit a superb 139 not out in the final win over the United Arab Emirates. Ex-Yorkshire paceman Iain Wardlaw will lead their attack but a quarter-final appearance looks highly unlikely for a nation who have never won a World Cup match.
ODI ranking: 3rd
World Cup best: Semi-finalists (1992, 1999, 2007)
Star Man: AB de Villiers
Prediction: 4-1 loss to Australia earlier this summer may prove a timely wake-up call. Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel will bowl well on Australian pitches and in De Villiers, they have arguably the game’s best batsman. Add in Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, Vernon Philander and Imran Tahir and you get a very handy side. Will be desperate to shed ‘chokers’ tag but could run into New Zealand, on home soil, in the last four.
ODI ranking: 2nd
World Cup best: Winners (1983, 2011)
Star Man: Virat Kohli
Prediction: The defending champions are well acclimatised but that’s about the only positive that can come from their Australian tour. Have been Down Under since November and have still not won a competitive match in any form of cricket. Rely too much on Kohli and Rohit Sharma with the bat and their bowling this summer has been pedestrian at best. Will miss Ishant Sharma. Opener against Pakistan in Adelaide will be huge. Expect significant improvement, but not enough to make the decider. Semi-finalists.
ODI ranking: 7th
World Cup best: Winners (1992)
Star Man: Misbah-ul-Haq
Prediction: Series losses to Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand – twice – since August does not make good reading. Won the tournament in 1992 on Australian soil but their side these days simply does not compare. Had the chance to recall spinner Saeed Ajmal, ranked first in one-day cricket’s bowling rankings, after an injury to Mohammad Hafeez, but left him out due to reported fears that his new action – modified after being banned by the ICC – has impacted his bowling significantly. Leg-spinner Yasir Shah is a very promising talent but anything more than a quarter-final appearance would be surprising for Misbah’s men.
ODI ranking: 8th
World Cup best: Winners (1975, 1979)
Star Man: Chris Gayle
Prediction: Perennially in disarray off-field, West Indies – now captained by 23-year-old paceman Jason Holder – are missing several big names. Star spinner Sunil Narine withdrew from the squad, claiming he was not confident enough with his new action (also re-modelled after being found illegal). Narine sits second in the ICC’s one-day bowling rankings. Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard were bizarrely left out but in Gayle, Marlon Samuels and Darren Sammy, they still have match-winners. Lack consistency, though, and will be scrapping with Ireland for fourth spot from Pool B.
ODI ranking: 10th
World Cup best: Super 6 stage (1999, 2003)
Star Man: Brendan Taylor
Prediction: Can hardly be confident after a thrashing in Bangladesh late last year. New coach Dav Whatmore has a big task ahead but a stunning victory against Australia in 2014 proved his side are capable. Taylor has the experience, having played two World Cups, and his runs and the all-round ability of Elton Chigumbura could prove handy. Qualification for the last eight looks beyond them here, though.
ODI ranking: 12th
World Cup best: Super 8 stage (2007)
Star Man: Ed Joyce
Prediction: Will fancy their chances of another World Cup upset after posting famous wins against Pakistan in 2007, and England four years later. Have a settled, solid squad and won a tri-series against Afghanistan and Scotland in January. The likes of Joyce, captain William Porterfield and Paul Stirling give them depth with the bat and left-arm spinner George Dockrell is a likely type. Pace bowling is their query but don’t rule out a surprise quarter-final berth.
ODI ranking: N/A
World Cup best: Group stage (1996)
Star Man: Khurram Khan
Prediction: Beat Afghanistan 3-1 in a home series last year but the minnows in Pool B are stronger. Cannot see them winning a game at the tournament. Off-spinner Mohammed Tauqir – at the ripe old age of 43 – recently replaced talented batsman Khan as captain. He and coach, Aaqib Javed, will hope for a series of respectable efforts.