ICC World Cup 2019: 3 Potential Dark Horses in the Tournament
The world cup is less than four months away, with most teams seem well settled while some are trying to fix a few slots here and there. Only a single or a couple of ODI series are left for the teams before the tournament begins and no doubt, the teams for the world cup look more or less predictable at this point of time.
Going by recent form and strength on paper, England and India start the tournament as outright favourites. The consistency and dominance they have shown in the past couple of years is unmatched by any other team in the world in the given period. At the same time, there have been a few teams, who have not been tagged as favourites yet, but have impressed one and all in patches, and might spring in a few surprises at the world cup.
Here we look at 3 such teams who might prove to be the dark horses in the upcoming world cup:
The least experienced team among the teams participating in the 2019 world cup, Afghanistan have risen as rapidly as anyone can imagine. Having many of their players excelling in T20 leagues around the globe, the Afghans will not be an easy challenge for the giants, as evident from the Asia Cup, where they actually deserved to be in the finals.
Having won 12 of their 20 ODIs in 2018, Afghanistan were the fourth most successful side in 2018. And that includes wins against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, West Indies, a tie against India and two last over finishes against Bangladesh and Pakistan.
With Rashid Khan and Mujeeb, they have one of the most potent spin attacks in the tournament. Also their batting is in solid form, with Rahmat Shah, Afghan Asghar and Mohammad Nabi being amongst the runs all through the year. Going into the world cup, the never say die attitude of the Afghans will hold them in good stead.
It would not be a surprise if they beat a few non-subcontinent teams as well as the likes of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The fact that English conditions do not assist swing as much as they used to, minimizes the little weakness in their batting. A top 6 finish is well on the cards for the Afghans, who will be playing their second ever world cup, provided their spinners live up to the expectations and the team hold their nerve during crunch situations.
The Bangla tigers are no more a team that just makes up numbers in big tournaments. With quarter-final and semi-final appearances in the 2015 world cup and the 2017 champions trophy respectively, Bangladesh have grown to be one of the best teams from the subcontinent after India. The experienced quartet of Tamim Iqbal, Mahmudullah, Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib will be the key to their batting prowess.
With 13 wins from 20 games, Bangladesh were the third most successful team in 2018. Having excelled in the champions trophy two years ago, they do have the knowledge and experience required to succeed in the world cup in similar conditions. The fact that the pitches are not conducive to swing anymore adds to Bangladesh's strengths.
Due to consistency in the last 3 years, Bangladesh qualified for the world cup ahead of the West Indies. Also they have beaten the likes of Sri Lanka, West Indies, South Africa, New Zealand, Pakistan and India in the last 3 years, though most of the wins were at home. And they are well on track to repeat some of those scintillating wins against the more fancied oppositions in the upcoming world cup.
The perennial dark horses in all ICC tournaments, except the 2015 world cup where they entered as one of the favourites, New Zealand are the major dark horses for the 2019 world cup as well. A team well balanced on paper, New Zealand have not had the success they would have liked in the past couple of years. But cometh the world cup, New Zealand always find themselves in the top 4.
With 8 wins from 13 games in 2018, New Zealand could have done better, but going into the world cup, they have a lot of positives in terms of individual brilliance. The form of Taylor, Williamson, Nicholls and Latham makes their middle order one of the most formidable ones. The growth of Grandhomme has been a big plus for the Kiwis. Boult has been at his devastating best when the conditions are even slightly favourable.
The Kiwis might not seem to be as strong as India, South Africa or England, or a Smith-Warner added Australia, but they do have their bases covered and look a well balanced side on paper. Moreover, going by the records, it would not be a surprise if they make it to the semi-finals or even the finals in the upcoming world cup.