India, Ranking: 1, Titles: 2 (1983, 2011)
The Rohit Sharma-led India are one of the favourites. The 2-1 series win against Australia with depleted squad must be a morale-booster after the Asia Cup triumph. In Indian conditions, Team India are a force to reckon with, since they have a good combination. The Indian fans are hoping to see a repeat the 2011 win at home. India surely should be among the top four, if not the top two, at the end of the league stage.
Pakistan, Ranking: 2, Title: 1 (1992)
Pakistan captained by Babar Azam are a balanced side with arguably the best bowling attack in the World Cup. While the attack is led by lefthanded Shaheen Shah Afridi, their batting revolves around the classy Azam and Mohammad Rizwan. The lack of runs at the top of the order and lack of allrounders make the batting fragile; it’s one of the reasons why Pakistan bowed out of the Asia Cup last month. Fakhar Zaman and Iman-ul-Haq are quality players, and they must ensure a good start for the rest to build on. Pakistan might not have played in India for some time, but the conditions are familiar, and that should give them the advantage.
Australia, Ranking: 3, Titles: 5 (1987, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2015)
Five-time champions Australia can lift their game at any situation and take the match away from their rivals. They have several matchwinners, and the bowling and batting complement well. However, the lack of quality spinners, Adam Zampa and Glenn Maxwell are the only two, might be a concern, especially during the later stages of the 48-day tournament. Still they have enough ammunition to make the last four stage, and must fancy their chances of adding a sixth title.
England, Ranking: 5, Title: 1 (2019)
Defending champions England are on a high after winning their first Twenty20 World Cup title in Australia last year. After a prolonged wait for a World Cup, England have won two World Cup titles on the strength of aggressive cricket served by a talented bunch of players. The return of Ben Stokes from retirement has increased their chances as the England Test skipper is as a big-match player. The team is loaded with allrounders, which is an asset in white-ball cricket.
New Zealand, Ranking: 6, Title: 0 (runners-up 2015, 2019)
New Zealand are perennial dark horses, who punch above their weight in international tournaments. The two-time finalists lost the 2019 World Cup final against England by the narrowest of margins — a controversial countback on boundaries. Led by Kane Williamson, the Kiwis are well-served by left-arm pacer Trent Boult, whohas a knack of getting the early breakthroughs. Indian conditions may not be their liking, yet don’t write off New Zealand.
South Africa, Ranking: 4, Title: 0 (semifinals 1992, 1999, 2011, 2015)
South Africa will be eager to shed the “chockers” tag, which followed them when they lost the semifinals in Sydney in 1992 World Cup. The team has a strong bowling unit, but the batting will be a cause for worry. The batting depends heavily on Quinton de Kock, Aiden Markram and David Miller, while with Heinrich Klaasen is expected to provide the impetus late. Over the years, the lack of consistency among the batters has haunt them. South Africa batting suffered a massive collapse in the Twenty20 World Cup against the Netherlands last year, and missed out on a semifinal. The team under Temba Bavuma pulled off three straight ODI wins against Australia before travelling to India. Have they turned a corner? Only time will tell.
Bangladesh, Ranking: 8, Title: 0 (Super 8 2007, quarterfinals 2015)
Bangladesh had good run in 2007, but they have not able to reproduce it despite having quality players. The batting looks solid with plenty of experience backed by some quality young players like Najmul Hossain Shanto and Mehdy Hasan Miraz. In the Asia Cup, they defeated a second-string India, who were without five main players, by six runs for their only win the continental championship. Bangladesh lost to Sri Lanka and Pakistan and avoided finishing at the bottom of the table with the win over India. The bowling lacks the bite, falling back on Mustafizur Rahman and skipper Shakib Al Hasan to stem the flow of runs.
Sri Lanka, Ranking: 7, Title: 1 (1996)
Former champions Sri Lanka are in a rebuilding stage after the retirement of some stalwarts. They have plenty of talent, but the lack of consistency and injuries to several key players have dented their hopes. Sri Lanka, who defeated India and Pakistan to win the Twenty20 Asia Cup in 2022, had to take the qualifier route to book their place in the World Cup main draw. In the 2023 Asia Cup, they beat Pakistan and Bangladesh, but surrendered meekly to India in the final. The absence of Wanindu Hasaranga will be felt on Indian wickets, but young talents like Matheesha Pathirana and Dunith Wellalage raise hope. Skipper Dasun Shanaka, who has been disappoining, has to lead by example.
Afghanistan, Ranking 9, Title: 0 (Group stage)
Afghanistan have failed to raise their standard after obtaining Test status. They have some talented players but the rest have not lived up potential. Afghanistan’s strength is their bowling, but their batting often disappoints. The top three batters have the skills to put the rivals under pressure, but they continue to play in Twenty20 mode, which won’t work in ODIs. Even in the Asia Cup they didn’t even qualify for the Super 4 after losing both group matches against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Netherlands, Ranking: 14, Title: 0 (Group stage)
The World Cup will be another learning experience for the Dutch. They could play party-poopers, which they did against South Africa in the T20 World Cup last year. However, the 50-over game is a different beast, and that might be a problem for the Associate Nation, which came through the qualifiers knocking out West Indies. The team possess some quality players who appear in the English County Championship. Hopefully, the experience should stand them in good stead.