London, May 24 (AP/UNB) — All the usual suspects have gathered for the World Cup at the home of cricket, and yet something is missing.
The rest of the world.
When the first ball is bowled at The Oval on Thursday, only 10 teams will be vying to be world champion, the smallest number since 1992.
After the hugely popular, successful, and entertaining 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, the format was slashed from 14 teams to 10. Qualifying was a prize for only two teams. No Associate members qualified.
So, no Zimbabwe for the first time in 36 years. No Ireland for the first time in 12. No other recent competitors such as Scotland, Kenya, Netherlands, or Canada.
Yes, more often than not those teams were fodder for the big guns, but they were improvers who delivered some of the World Cup's greatest moments. The moments broadcasters love to replay during rain delays, and moments when the world took notice of the Cricket World Cup.
Occasions when Ireland upset Pakistan in 2007, England in 2011 with Kevin O'Brien's comeback century, and the West Indies in 2015; when Zimbabwe beat Australia in 1983, England in 1992 with Eddo Brandes' four-for, and India and South Africa in 1999; and when Kenya beat Sri Lanka in 2003. Add Canada's John Davison teeing off against the West Indies in 2003 with what was then the World Cup's fastest century.
Who doesn't like surprises? Well, cricket powerbrokers India, England, and Australia didn't. They led a demand in 2010 for "more competitive" World Cups by reducing the field to the size of the Champions Trophy. That way, they could ensure that, as the favorite teams for TV and advertisers, they would be in the tournament for at least a month of the six-week saga.
But at a time when FIFA is planning to add 16 extra teams to the soccer World Cup, the Rugby World Cup wants to add four, and the Olympics added five new sports, reducing numbers in cricket's showpiece is contrary to administrative mantras about developing the global game.
In spite of all this, the 12th Cricket World Cup ought to be a smash hit.
The English hosts have done more than most to make it so. Immediately after the humiliating group-stage exit four years ago, England transformed itself by selecting short-form cricket specialists, and adopting the positive, aggressive approach of 2015 finalists Australia and New Zealand. They have not lost a home series in four years, won 57 of 86 ODIs, returned to No. 1 a year ago, and broken the world record total twice. Seven players in the England squad have scored centuries, the most of any team.
"We're in as strong a position as we could be at this stage," captain Eoin Morgan says.
If anything will stop them, it will be the weight of expectations. England still seeks a first major ODI title. It has lost three World Cup finals and two Champions Trophy finals. It was favored at the 2017 Champions Trophy, also at home, and fell to Pakistan on a slow pitch in the semifinals.
Conditions have changed. Swing and seam are less impactful as English pitches have become flatter, encouraging higher scores: 300 has become a par score for an ODI. In the England-Pakistan series this month, seven of the eight totals were 300-plus. The other was 297.
India come looking for a third World Cup crown with the most experienced squad in the competition. But there's a feeling that if bowlers can get through the mighty top order of Shikhar Dhawan, captain Virat Kohli, and Rohit Sharma, then the middle order is vulnerable.
There's a wave of newcomers who are set to light up the tournament, among them Afghanistan bowling allrounder Rashid Khan, the top allrounder in ODIs already at age 20, and Jasprit Bumrah, the No. 1-ranked ODI bowler who is on track to become the fastest Indian to 100 wickets.
While they make their World Cup debut, others will make their bow.
This will be the last World Cup for the likes of West Indies blaster Chris Gayle, South Africa's JP Duminy, Imran Tahir and Dale Steyn, Pakistan's Shoaib Malik, and Bangladesh's golden generation which has yet to strike gold. Mashrafe Mortaza, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, and Tamim Iqbal beat and eliminated India in the 2007 World Cup.
This is their last shot at glory.
A toast for good luck. And another for absent friends.
Islamabad, May 24 (AP/UNB) — While India is Asia's obvious contender for the World Cup title, there are four other nations from the continent which could pose problems for highly-ranked teams.
Among them, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are former World Cup winners. Bangladesh and Afghanistan are relatively new to the scene. Bangladesh has improved with every outing at the quadrennial event and has produced some big upsets already. Afghanistan is the newest of the International Cricket Council's full members and had to secure its spot at the World Cup through qualifying, beating some considerably more established teams.
Here's a look at Asia's "other" prospects:
The 1992 World Cup champions have had a scratchy run-up to the World Cup, losing 5-0 to Australia in a "home" series in the United Arab Emirates and then being routed 4-0 in England.
The nine consecutive defeats forced national selectors to make three changes to the originally announced 15-man squad, with seamer Junaid Khan, promising opening batsman Abid Ali and allrounder Faheem Ashraf all dropped after struggling in English conditions.
Experienced pacemen Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz and hard-hitting batsman Asif Ali were the late inclusions.
Ali's selection has its merit after he posted two half-centuries against England, but the two left-arm fast bowlers — Riaz and Amir — were recalled more on the basis of their experience than recent performances.
Riaz hasn't played an ODI since October 2017; Amir has taken just five wickets in the 14 ODIs he has played since Pakistan won the 2017 Champions Trophy in England.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was the national team captain back in '92 when he led his "Cornered Tigers" to victory in Melbourne, Australia. The format of this year's World Cup is the same, where every team plays each other before the top four advance to the semifinals.
Pakistan's unpredictable tag is somewhat of a positive for captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, who likes to go to the World Cup as underdogs.
Ahmed led Pakistan the Champions Trophy title two years ago when his lineup was ranked No. 8 but peaked to beat archrival India in the final.
The batting unit appears fairly settled with Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam and Haris Sohail forming a strong top order. But bowling and, more particularly fielding, could let down Pakistan in crunch games.
Pakistan reached the final the last time the World Cup was contested in England, losing to Australia in the 1999 title decider.
Off-field issues over the last two years have seen the 1996 World Cup champions change captains 10 times across cricket's three formats.
Several players and Sri Lanka Cricket officials, including World Cup winner Sanath Jayasuriya, have been suspended for not co-operating with International Cricket Council anti-corruption investigators.
The problems have had an impact on the team's performance, with Sri Lanka losing the first eight ODIs it played this year and falling far adrift of the team which reached the 2011 World Cup final.
The Sri Lankans tried plenty of combinations before settling on Dimuth Karunaratne to lead the island nation to the World Cup despite playing his last ODI four years ago.
Karunaratne has a modest record in limited-overs cricket, having played 17 ODIs and none since the 2015 World Cup, where the Sri Lankans exited in a quarterfinal loss to South Africa.
The form of veterans Angelo Mathews and Lasith Malinga will be more crucial to Sri Lanka's hopes of qualifying for the semifinals.
Bangladesh got a boost in the lead up to the World Cup by clinching a tri-series tournament in Ireland that included a stunning victory over the West Indies when Mosaddek Hossain struck five sixes in his 20-ball half century.
The Bangladesh performances have long revolved around seasoned players such as captain Mashrafe Murtaza, Shakib Al-Hasan, Musfiqur Rahim and Tamim Iqbal. But recently the likes of Soumya Sarkar, who top-scored in the tri-series with three consecutive half centuries, have been sharing the batting burden and that's a positive for the team.
Mashrafe is a calm captain, while Shakib is a brilliant allrounder who has the capacity to peak in big matches. Bangladesh doesn't have any express pacemen and have also left out Taskin Ahmed back home.
Left-arm seamer Mustafizur Rehman's bowling lacks some penetration, which leaves Shakib and the spinners to stem the flow of runs.
They may not have the depth to reach the semifinals, but certainly do have the capacity to surprise one or two teams at the World Cup. Bangladesh's first win at a World Cup was against Pakistan in '99, and it has produced upset wins over India and South Africa in 2007 and England in 2011 and '15.
Afghanistan qualified for the World Cup ahead of more established teams Zimbabwe, Ireland and Scotland.
And while the Afghans may not win matches against stronger lineups, they gave a glimpse of their potential during last year's Asia Cup where results included a tie with India, a win over Sri Lanka and a last-over loss to Pakistan.
The change of captaincy for the World Cup didn't go well with senior players, with ace spinners Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi criticizing the Afghanistan Cricket Board on social media.
The key to Afghanistan's progression lies with the strength of its spin department, which features Rashid, Nabi and Mujeebur Rehman.
While Nabi and Mujeeb can bowl with the new ball, Rashid has the ability to take wickets in middle overs and tie down batsmen with his googlies and sharp legspinners.
Veteran Mohammad Shahzad and 21-year-old Hazratullah Zazai are the two explosive opening batsmen in their ranks.
Afghanistan's main concern will be who anchors the innings in the middle to ensure big totals.
Dhaka, May 23 (UNB) — Bangladesh cricket team on Thursday moved from the English city of Leicester to Cardiff in Wales, where they are scheduled to play two unofficial warm-up games against Pakistan and India before their main assault of the World Cup.
The Tigers will face Pakistan on May 26 at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff. At the same venue, they will lock horn against old nemesis India on May 28. Right after that, the Tigers will move to London where they will start their campaign on June 2 against South Africa.
Before leaving for Cardiff, Bangladesh spent three days in Leicester. Captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza and the opener Tamim Iqbal, however, missed out the practice camp.
While Mashrafe came back to Dhaka for a short break, Tamim spent three days with his family in Dubai, UAE. Both were back in the UK today.
Before leaving Dhaka on Wednesday, Mashrafe asked the supporters to keep them in prayers. The Tigers’ captain said: “The World Cup will be a different ball game. We have to set our mind to score 300, 320-330 in the World Cup.”
Mashrafe will join the team in Cardiff after the press conference of the participating nations’ captains in London, that he will attend soon after arriving back in the UK.
Bangladesh have exuded confidence going into the World Cup, winning their first-ever title in a multi-national event in Ireland, where they beat West Indies three times in the event including the final.
Dhaka, May 23 (UNB) — Appearing alongside his fellow captains at the official pre-event press conference for the captains of each team participating at this year’s World Cup, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza stated matter-of-factly that the Tigers are now capable of beating “any team in the world”.
The press conference was held Thursday in London. All ten captains were presented at the program.
“Cricket is a game in which any team can beat any opponent. A team like us can exploit the chance if they can ensure a good start to the match. We have the firm belief of beating any team in the world. However, everything depends on a good start,” Mashrafe said when he was asked about the changed mindset of the Tigers.
“We have a good bunch of cricketers. Besides the senior cricketers, we have some young lads who have been playing smart cricket at any stage. We really have a good team with the combination of young and experienced campaigners. We displayed a good brand of cricket in the last series in Ireland as well. Now, we have to start it well in the World Cup when we play the first match against South Africa,” Mashrafe also said iduring the program which was broadcast through social media.
The anchor of the program, at a point, asked Mashrafe if he gets a chance to include another player in the squad from any country who would be the pick. At this moment, Mashrafe told the name of Virat Kohli- the captain of India in the World Cup.
Asked whether he was feeling any nerves as the tournament got nearer, Mashrafe came up with a cool-headed response that showed his increased maturity once again.
“This is (playing in the World Cup) not a new affair for me. I think everyone here will say the same thing. As I said earlier, everything depends on the mental preparation. We are really excited as the World Cup is so close now. It is important for us to start well,” Bangladesh captain responded.
The latest edition of the World Cup will be Bangladesh’s sixth appearance in cricket’s showpiece event. In their first 5 appearances, Bangladesh achieved its best result in the last World Cup which took place in Australia and New Zealand, where the Tigers played the quarter-final against India. Before that, they knocked England out of the World Cup on their way to the last 8.
This time around, the Tigers are well-equipped to do more damage to the opponents. Right before the World Cup assault, the Tigers won their first winners’ trophy in a multi-national event- a tri-series in Ireland- beating West Indies in the final by five wickets. The triumph came as a big confidence booster for the Tigers, as they went unbeaten through the five games, comfortably winning 4 while one game was curtailed by rain.
Mashrafe and his men will start the World Cup journey against South Africa on June 2 at the Kennington Oval, London. The Tigers will be at the center of high expectation on the World Cup.
Dhaka, May 23 (UNB) - Bangladesh all-rounder Afif Hossain Dhrubo is a happy man as he was picked by St Kitts and Nevis Patriots during the players’ draft of Caribbean Premier League (CPL) 2019 at the Gfinity eSports Arena in London on Wednesday.
Afif is the only Bangladeshi player who will feature in this year’s CPL.
The 19-year-old southpaw will get the company of his former teammate Carlos Brathwaite in the team, who previously played for Khulna Titans in the Bangladesh Premier League. Afif also played for the Titans in the same edition.
“It was a sleepless night yesterday (Wednesday) because I was really excited. I think it’s a big achievement for me to be a part of the CPL. I’ll enjoy playing there. It’ll be my first tour to the Caribbean islands,” Afif told reporters on Thursday at the National Academy, Mirpur.
“I was watching the draft on television. I was excited when they picked me. I’ve never played in a foreign franchise league before. So, it came as a new opportunity for me,” the all-rounder explained.
There are a few Bangladeshi players who have been playing in the foreign leagues for years now. But Afif is the only player who is yet to establish his name in the Bangladesh national side. The young lad believes he is lucky to get a big chance in the CPL.
“I’m a lucky guy. I’ll try to take advantage of it as much as I can. I hope it’ll help me in the future,” Afif further said.
In the last season of BPL, Afif played for Sylhet Sixers where he got David Warner as his captain. The all-rounder said Warner advised him to play giving all the capability in the field.
Afif believes it will not be a tough task for him to adapt with the players of his team in the CPL as he has the experience of playing BPL in three seasons.
The all-rounder is known for his unorthodox batting in the middle. He is known for his love to play innovative shots. However, he said he will decide about his style of playing in the CPL after starting practice for his team.
Afif played 31 T20s and scored 509 runs in an average of 21.2. He also scalped 15 wickets, including a five-wicket haul on debut for Khulna Titans back in 2016.
The left-handed all-rounder first came to the limelight for his brilliant show in the age-level cricket for Bangladesh. He got his international T20 cap back in 2018 against Sri Lanka in Sylhet. But he got out of the national set-up right after his first match.