Strengths – A powerful batting line-up, stacked with Match Winners and plenty of variation in bowling. Lot of part -time bowlers means that skipper Dhoni will have plenty of choices to fall back on if one of the frontline bowlers have a bad day on the field. Overall Team India has a great balanced outfit.
Weakness – There is no one who can bowl genuinely fast, so Indian bowlers will have to mainly rely on clever variations to prevent the rival batsmen from hitting through the line. Fielding is another area of concern as other teams are a step ahead in this area. No 2nd Wicketkeeper means Team India will be keeping their fingers crossed and hope that skipper M.S Dhoni does not get injured during the World Cup.
Opportunity – It’s Team India’s last big chance to win the World Cup before the rebuilding process starts. I expect the team to play around the great maestro – Sachin Tendulkar and make it a memorable event for the superstar. The Dressing Room atmosphere is excellent and the players are well aware of their key roles. Low and slow tracks should suit the Indian batsmen and bowlers alike.
Threat – Much will depend upon how individual players and the entire team as a whole handle the preassure of expectations of a billion fans. On the field the main threat to Team India will come from Australia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
My Prediction – Team India will make it to the Semi Finals atleast.
Key Players to Watch Out For – Sehwag, Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yusuf Pathan and Harbhajan Singh.
Strength – Good and robust batting side, a potent pace attack with 2 genuine quick bowlers in Brett Lee and Shaun Tait. The Aussie Team has the right mix of youth and experience and looks a very balanced side on paper. With Someone like Mitchell Johnson or Steven Smith likely to bat at Number 8 proves that the Aussies have a great depth in their batting line-up and can chase big totals or set good totals effectively.
Weakness – Lack of a quality Spinner will hurt Australia at some stage of the World Cup. Jason Krejza is a decent spinner but against good quality players of spin bowling he may struggle. The Aussie attack lacks balance, and after their first Warm Up match against India, Questions have been raised on the abilities of the Aussie batting line-up to handle top class spinners.
Opportunity – They have a golden opportunity to make it four in a row. Captain Ricky Ponting having led Australia to 2 successive World Cup titles, now has a chance to record a hat-trick. Having lost to England in the Ashes and their No.1 Ranking in Tests, The Aussies would be more than keen to hold on to their Numero Uno status in ODI’s.
Threat – The Threat to Australia comes mainly from the sub-continental teams like India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan as these teams not only have better spinners but also players who excel in “home” conditions.
My Prediction – Australia will qualify for the Semi-Finals atleast
Key Players to Watch Out For – Ponting, Clarke, Shane Watson, Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson.
Strength – A combination of big-hitters and a potent pace attack with a decent spin attack to follow the pacers makes Pakistan a very dangerous side which is very well known to play fearless cricket. They bat deep with someone like Razzaq batting at Number 8, In Umar Gul and Shoaib Akhtar, they have 2 fast bowlers who can devastate any batting line-up and in Afridi, Ajmal and Abdul Rehman they have a spin attack which can be extremely effective on the slow sub continent tracks.
Weakness – Pakistan as a Team over these years have a tendency to blow hot and cold. Consistency is the name of the gane and Afridi’s side must look to fire in every game. They are sure to miss the banned fast bowlers in Asif and Aamer and Salman Butt as as specialist Opener. Their Opening batsmen are inexperienced when compared with other contenders esp of the likes of India, South Africa and Australia. Even though Hafeez and Shehzad are in top form there is a tendency that they both can struggle against quality pace attack from Australia, South Africa and India.
Opportunity – It’s a great chance for Pakistan to show the world what they are capable of. If they make it to the Knock Out stage, they will become a very dangerous side. The tag of dark horses suits them and enables them to perform harder (eg – 2009 ICC World Twenty20 Victory)
Threat – Pakistan has a great tendency to self destruct themselves as a team. The Threat Perception for Pakistan comes from within this extremely talented bunch of Individuals.
My Prediction – Pakistan will qualify for the Quarter Finals atleast.
Key Players to Watch Out For – Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Younus Khan, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Akhtar & Umar Gul.
Strength – A great Pace attack and a strong batting line-up. They also have 3 spinners which means skipper Graeme Smith has sought to cover all the bases. Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel are geniunely quick and can extract pace and good bounce even on dead tracks. Players like Amla and Kallis can bat right through the 50 overs, making it easier for the rest.
Weakness – South Africa have a very long tail, with Du Plessis at No.7 and Johan Botha at No.8 their lower order lacks a finisher. Also apart from Botha, their other spinners are too inexperienced. Team South Africa are strong in certain departments but do not look good as a unit and have struggled playing on Indian conditions recently.
Opportunity – The Proteas have always been a very competitive side. They haven’t gone beyond the Semi-Finals in the ICC World Cup’s so far so it gives Smith’s team an added desire to take these final 2 steps to glory. Smith himself must look to shed his over attacking style in ODI’s and look to bat through the innings.
Threat – The Proteas have always been extremely vulnerable to quality spin bowling and would be wary of teams Like India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka who have geniune top class spinners in their line-ups.
My Prediction – South Africa will qualify for the Quarter Finals atleast.
Key Players to Watch Out For – Amla, Kallis, Steyn, Morne Morkel, Botha & Graeme Smith.
Strength – Top Order Batsmen and a quality attack with lots of variety in both, pace and spin departments. With Tharanga, Dilshan, Sangakkara and Jayawardene at the top of the order and the likes of Murali, Mendis, Malinga and Perera forming the core of the Sri Lankan bowling attack, Sri Lanka certainly looks very strong on Paper.
Weakness – An untested middle order. Should Sri Lanka lose early wickets, it will expose a middle order comprising Samaraweera, Kapugedera, Angelo Matthews and Chamara Silva – A relatively weak middle order to face quality bowling attacks.
Opportunity – Touring teams have always found it hard to beat Sri Lanka on their home pitches. As the team from the emerald island is scheduled to play all their matches (barring the Final) at home. they would look to make it count. They were undone the last time by Adam Gilchrist’s brilliance in the 2007 World Cup Final but this year they certainly have the arsenal to go all the way.
Threat – The main threat to Sri Lanka’s World Cup campaign comes from teams which have depth and variety like India and Australia or unpredictable sides like Pakistan or the West Indies.
My Prediction – Sri Lanka will qualify for the Semi- Finals atleast.
Key Players to Watch Out For – Dilshan,Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Malinga and Muralitharan
Strength – Good, in-form team that gels well. In Strauss and Bell they have 2 classical batsmen, while Swann and Anderson are classical test bowlers who can make it count on their day. In Pietersen, Collingwood, Bresnan and Yardy, England have ODI specialists who can turn a match on their own.
Weakness – First and Foremost, they have to convince themselves that they can be as good in limited overs Cricket as they are in Test Cricket. Pietersen must look to bat through the innings and not over attack just like Graeme Smith from South Africa. Their other concern is lack of firepower in the lower order which comprises mainly of bits and pieces player.
Opportunity – Having won the World T20 Championship last year, England have an excellent chance to register a “double” in limited overs cricket. It will also enhance their reputation as a truly great all round side.
Threat – Historically, English batsmen have struggled on the low and slow pitches of the sub-continent, particularly against quality spin bowling, and this time it will be no different.
My Prediction – England will qualify for the Quarter- Finals atleast.
Key Players to Watch Out For – Pietersen, Collingwood, Anderson, Strauss and Swann.