The Cricket World Cup begins at the end of May, and India, Bangladesh, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, West Indies, and England (the hosts) will all be in action. Excitement is starting to bubble up, meaning now is the perfect time to play prognosticator and choose which nations are most likely to claim the biggest prize in cricket.
India is on a roll this year and is coming in as a heavy favorite. It won its first Test series in Australia since 1948; it also dominated New Zealand, showing its wealth of talent in the process. Team captain Virat Kohli, in addition to being one of cricket’s best, is both inspiration and stabilizer and has led the team admirably. Meanwhile, the young Kuldeep Yadav is a game-changer, and will greatly help an Indian team that also has former captain MS Dhoni and veterans Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan on its side. In short, the Men in Blue have talent, leadership, and experience. All they have to do is perform to the best of their abilities, and they’ll have a great shot at the Cup.
The English are perennial favorites, and may even have been better than India these past four years. Their batting has been mighty impressive, led by Jonny Bairstow and his 1,025 runs, Joe Root (936), Jason Roy (890), and Eoin Morgan (756). All four are in the top five in ODI run total and are very tough outs. And even beyond this quartet, there are plenty of talented players on the English roster, including Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid, Chris Woakes, and Moeen Ali, among others. Plus, England is hosting! If recent history is any indication, it will win, just as India and Australia did in 2011 and 2015, respectively.
Pakistan isn’t quite on the same level as India or England regarding favorite status, but it shouldn’t be counted out. None other than legendary Warwickshire batsman Ian Bell is on record suggesting Pakistan could be a surprise challenger at the World Cup. He does agree that India and England are the favorites, and for what it’s worth, the world cricket betting odds are almost certain to agree the closer we get to the World Cup. Listings aren’t prominent just yet, but it’s a virtual certainty that the odds will reflect a clear top two. Pakistan has an argument as a sort of third favorite one tier down, however. It’s a talented team, led by the inimitable Sarfraz Ahmed, which did some real damage at the ICC Champions Trophy just last year.
Australia is the most successful team in this event’s history, bar none. But it’s also fallen on tough times of late, most notably following involvement in a ball-tampering scandal last year. Then again, the Aussies are defending champions, and they remain a threat. That they will have Steve Smith and David Warner back (after their year-long suspensions due to the aforementioned scandal) is a huge positive. Smith and Warner are, after all, two of the sport’s premier batsmen, having scored over 7,774 runs combined.
The ICC Cricket World Cup will stretch from the end of May through the middle of July. It is expected to be a major draw, as always. And with these four teams all in the mix at the top, we could see some of the best action we’ve seen in years.
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