West Indies World Cup profile: Chris Gayle and Andre Russell's returns pack side with dynamite

Ashish Peter 26/05/2019
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Gayle (r) is back for a final World Cup ride.

They might not be the unstoppable force they once were in international cricket but there is plenty to be excited about for two-times champions West Indies as they get ready to embark on their 12th ICC World Cup campaign.

The Caribbean side qualified for the 2019 edition in England by the skin of their teeth after failing to gain an automatic spot in the 10-team competition, but have shown plenty of positive signs of late in the limited-overs formats.

With a squad brimming with T20 franchise league stalwarts, the Windies are more than capable of beating any side on their day.

On paper, West Indies have failed to record a single bilateral series win in the ODI format since 2014 when they whitewashed Bangladesh by 3-0 at home.

Five years is a long wait for a bilateral series win and it is no surprise that they are ranked eighth in the format currently. However, the return of T20 kingpins Chris Gayle and Andre Russell to the ODI side has changed the complexion of the team entirely.

They gave No1 ranked England a scare in the drawn 2-2 series in February this year and it would be foolish for any opposition to discount their threat.

Record: Champions 1975 and 1979

Squad: Jason Holder (c), Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Sheldon Cottrell, Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Ashley Nurse, Fabian Allen, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope (wk), Oshane Thomas, Carlos Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Evin Lewis.

Strength: Definitely the batting. In Gayle and Russell, Windies have some of the cleanest and biggest hitters of the cricket ball who are difficult to stop when they get stuck in. Add in the likes of Evin Lewis, Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer in the mix and the side possesses the capability to blow any bowling attack away.

Weakness: It doesn’t look the most frightening of bowling attacks, with the side placing their trust in Test stalwarts Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach to lead the line. The lack of a single wrist-spinner is also worrying.

One to watch: While Gayle will be keen to sign off in style in his last Windies hurrah, Andre Russell is coming into the tournament on the back of a monstrous IPL 2019 campaign where he struck a total of 52 sixes in 14 matches while also picking up 11 wickets.

Surprise package: While Gayle and Russell are drawing all the attention, newly promoted vice-captain Shai Hope has become one of the most consistent performers for the team. A batting average of nearly 50 after 52 ODI appearances along with six tons is no mean feat and Hope’s form has only been getting better.

Prediction: Group Stage

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Bangladesh World Cup profile: Experienced Tigers aiming to go one step higher than 2015

Ashish Peter 26/05/2019
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The experienced Mortaza will lead Bangladesh in the World Cup.

This edition marks the sixth ICC World Cup appearance for Bangladesh, who only made their debut in the competition in 1999.

No more the minnows they once were, Bangladesh have established the capability of beating any team on their day over the years.

Mashrafe Mortaza and his men will take confidence from their 2015 World Cup showing, where they managed to reach the quarter-final in their best-ever finish. The Tigers followed up that impressive World Cup campaign with ODI bilateral series wins over the likes of India, Pakistan and South Africa in quick succession to herald a golden period in international cricket.

The past year has seen Bangladesh beat the West Indies both home and away while they went all the way to the final of the 2018 Asia Cup before going down to eventual champions India.

There have been a few roadblocks of late, however,  with Mortaza’s men being convincingly blanked 3-0 by a formidable New Zealand side.

Here, we take a closer look at how the Bangla Tigers are shaping up ahead of the World Cup.

Record: Quarter-final 2015

Squad: Mashrafe Mortaza (captain), Tamim Iqbal, Liton Das, Soumya Sarkar, Mushfiqur Rahim (wicketkeeper), Mahmudullah, Shakib Al Hasan, Mohammad Mithun, Sabbir Rahaman, Mosaddek Hossain, Mohammad Saifuddin, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Abu Jayed.

Strength: One of the biggest assets of the Bangladesh side is its formidable middle-order which includes Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah. The three experienced batsmen have been long-standing servants of Bangladesh cricket and have been consistent performers over the years.

Weakness: One major worrying sign for the Tigers is the number of players currently recovering from injury. Mahmudullah, Mushfiqur, Mustafizur Rahman and Rubel Hossain are all just getting back from injury troubles and it could see them being a tad rusty for the tournament.

Tamim has been among the top five ODI openers in recent years.

Tamim has been among the top five ODI openers in recent years.

One to watch: Veteran opener Tamim Iqbal has been doing the job at the top for Bangladesh for over a decade now and is getting better with each passing year. The southpaw is averaging over 50 since the turn of 2017 with his undeniable talent now being backed by the consistency which had previously been elusive.

Surprise package: Eyebrows were raised over the inclusion of uncapped seamer Abu Jayed, who has only featured at the Test and T20 level so far. The 25-year-old, however, can swing the ball prodigiously and that should work in his favour in English conditions.

Prediction: Group stage

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New Zealand World Cup profile: Historic overachievers seek glory after 2015 heartbreak

Ashish Peter 26/05/2019
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The Blackcaps are gunning for a maiden World Cup crown.

New Zealand’s last ICC World Cup appearance ended in heartbreak with the Blackcaps going down to arch-rivals Australia in the final of the 2015 edition at Melbourne.

That missed opportunity to land a maiden World Cup title for New Zealand will still be on the minds of Kane Williamson and his men as they arrive in England for the global showpiece.

Despite their sparse population and relatively small size compared to some of the heavyweights like India and Australia, the Kiwis have historically punched above their weight when it comes to multi-team ICC tournaments such as the World Cup and the Champions Trophy.

In 11 previous World Cup appearances, the Blackcaps have managed to reach the semi-finals on as many as six occasions with a runner-up finish in 2015 being their best showing yet.

New Zealand come into the World Cup as the No4 ranked team in ODI cricket after what has been a mixed 2019 for them so far. They started the year with a 1-4 reversal at the hands of India but seem to have found their groove back with a 3-0 whitewash of Bangladesh.

Promisingly, Trent Boult and Co ripped through India on English turf at The Oval in their first warm-up game on Saturday.

Here, we take a closer look at how the Kiwis are shaping up ahead of the World Cup.

Record: Semi-finals 1975, 1979, 1992, 1999, 2007 and 2011

Squad: Kane Williamson (captain), Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Colin Munro, Tom Blundell, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Jimmy Neesham, Ish Sodhi, Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult.

Strength: In skipper Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill, the Kiwis have a solid spine in the batting department with plenty of years of experience. The three batsmen are all ranked in the top 11 ODI batsmen currently.

Weakness: A vulnerability against wrist-spin was evident in their 1-4 series defeat to India with Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal running rings around their batsmen. All major teams have a quality wrist-spinner in their ranks and that weakness will need to be addressed promptly.

Ross Taylor has been in sensational form over the last two years.

Ross Taylor has been in sensational form over the last two years.

One to watch: Stalwart Ross Taylor is going through the most prolific period of his career with a batting average of nearly 53 since the turn of 2017. The right-hander will be keen to make up a disappointing individual campaign in 2015 in what could be his final World Cup.

Surprise package: All-rounder James Neesham will be keen to continue his resurgence after recovering from injury troubles which saw him fail to play a single ODI in 2018.

Prediction: Semi-final

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