The ICC World Cup was kickstarted by a blistering performance from England, the pre-tournament favourites for most pundits. They are also in my top four for the tournament and showed why with a clever and clinical performance against South Africa.
South Africa are not a bad team, indeed they have some real matchwinners, but some of the teams in this World Cup are so strong that it’s going to be tough for any team that is not a complete all-around unit with top-class in-form players in all positions.
While my heart beats for Sri Lanka, and I hope things click and we build up some momentum with a collective effort, my predicted top four at the start are England, India, Australia and then either New Zealand or West Indies.
We also saw West Indies in action on Friday and they started with a captivating performance full of pace and aggression from their fast bowlers. Great to see “Dre” Russell back for them in ODI cricket; if he stays fully fit, he could light up this World Cup with bat and ball.
Sri Lanka, in their warm-up games, have played average cricket. It’s not been too bad, but neither has it been especially good.
Their batting has been steady, and it has been good to see Dimuth (Karunaratne) scoring some runs. As the new captain with very little ODI cricket experience in the recent past, he needs to lead from the front with the bat and be tactically smart on the field.
There have also been some promising innings by Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews and Thissera Perera. Isuru Udana has looked assured and controlled while both Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal have been dangerous with the new ball.
The biggest headache I see is the batting position of Kusal Perera. I personally don’t think he should be batting No. 3 and prefer him playing a floater role like Josh Buttler for England, coming in around No. 5 depending on the match situation. The Sri Lanka think tank need to settle on that quickly as we can’t be chopping and changing things too much.
By the time you have read this, we will have already watched our first game against New Zealand. Their bowling is varied and potent while they also have a strong and destructive batting line-up. It was a tough match for us to start but then again there are no easy games this year.
India are exceptionally strong and well-balanced. Their biggest advantage is the pace bowling unit led by Jasprit Bumrah, the best pace bowler in ODI cricket in the world right now. They are also blessed with the swing and all-round ability of Hardik Pandya.
Their batting is strong with great experience and, except for the first warm-up game, everyone including M.S. Dhoni and Lokesh Rahul have contributed.
Opponents will definitely be trying to target Rohit Sharma with the ball nipping back into him and then against Virat (Kohli), I expect them to bowl a little wide of off-stump with two slips and a gully. He has shown a slight weakness in that channel, but then again he is such a brilliant player and intelligent batsman that he might be able to adapt and thrive.
India’s spin bowling is also strong with Yuzvendra Chahal, Kedar Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja. Yadav took some stick in the IPL but he has the ability to comeback strongly and really improve the penetration of their bowling. (Gameplan)