Australia: Following the recent Ashes defeat the Ozzies have fought back and the reigning champions are still a formidable side in the shorter form of the game. That said there are still question marks over the fitness and form of Ponting and if Hauritz fails to recover in time they lack at attacking spin option.
Prediction – Quarter Finals, Australia are still a good enough side to get through the first round, but a 4th consecutive world cup is probably beyond this side.
Key Player – Cameron White: In the last two years White has proven himself to be one of Australia’s most consistent batsmen, he has the ability to take the game away from the opposition with the willow in hand and his leg breaks could make a return to the international scene in spin-friendly conditions.
Canada: On paper the Canadians look extremely inexperienced, of their Squad 8 have played less than ten ODIs and their most experienced player has played only 54. Like many others I don’t expect Canada to make a huge impact on the tournament.
Prediction – Group Stages, Canada may be able to win against one of the other associate nations in their group but I can’t see them pulling off any shock victories.
Key Player – John Davison: Although now 40 years old Davison is one of Canada’s most experienced players and the only squad member currently playing professionally overseas. He boasts a useful international record with his off spin and will probably be Canada’s most important bowler.
Kenya: Unlike Canada, the Kenyan side does boast a more experienced line up and in Tikolo and Odoyo they do boast some useful cricketers. Having said that, they lack the overall quality and experience to challenge the Test Match nations.
Prediction – Group Stages. While Kenya have a couple of good batsmen their bowling looks too light to restrict better teams to a score the Kenyans will be able to match.
Key Player – Steve Tikolo: Arguably the best player produced by an associate side, his runs will be the foundation of any big scores the Kenyans make and his off breaks could also come in handy.
New Zealand: New Zealand are always a good one day unit, they have a sound team ethic and their work in the field is usually fantastic. The kiwis boast a side which can score big runs. Unfortunately their rather one-paced bowling looks like it could let them down in batsmen friendly conditions.
Prediction – Quarter Finals, New Zealand definitely have the quality to get past the group stages and with their batting strength I wouldn’t put it past them to reach the semis, but they lack bowlers who will intimidate the opposition.
Key Player – Daniel Vettori: The captain is a fantastic cricketer, in my opinion the most underrated one-day spinner in the world. His bowling will be crucial if his side are to win and he’s capable of getting quick runs down the order.
Pakistan: The side at the centre of last summer’s spot fixing scandal look a worried unit, it has cost them three of their best players in Butt, Asif and Amir. They still boast proven quality players and on their day Pakistan are capable of beating anyone but I have a feeling they’ll struggle in this tournament.
Prediction – Group Stages, This is a prediction which could well land me in trouble but I just don’t see Pakistan having the consistency or discipline to challenge this time round, if there is a shock early exit then my feeling is that it would be Pakistan.
Key Player – Shahid ‘Boom-Boom’ Afridi: Boom-Boom is perhaps the epitome of this Pakistan team, on his day he can win a game with bat or ball but a lack of consistency lets him down. I would still expect him to have a magic innings along the way though.
Sri Lanka: The Sri Lankans look to be the strongest and most balanced side on paper and will, of course, benefit from playing in home conditions.. Their batsmen look to be finding form at the right time and any team that has Malinga, Mendis and Muali should be alright with the ball.
Prediction – Winners, My gut feeling is that a sub-continent side will win this world cup and with the balance of the Sri Lankan side I feel they could just edge it. They’ve got batsmen which will score runs, two quality spinners in Murali and Mendez and seamers who know how to bowl well in home conditions.
Key Player – Muttiah Muralitharan: Who else? This will be Murali’s last appearance in international cricket and I just have a feeling that he’ll revel in the spot light. The all time leading international wicket taker deserves his fairy tale ending after a fantastic career, I think he’ll get it too.
Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe are another side who have been surrounded by controversy. As a side they are beginning to improve in recent years, but the recent Sean Ervine u-turn is likely to unsettle their preparations and shows all is not rosy in the back room.
Prediction – Group Stages, Zimbabwe have some good players but lack a truly strong and consistent core in the team, I think they’ll come undone against the test match nations but will play some exciting cricket along the way.
Key Player – Elton Chigumbura: Before he decided to go back into international retirement I’d have had Sean Ervine down but that was obviously not to be. In the all rounder’s absence a lot of responsibility will fall on the captain’s shoulders and they’ll look to him to score the bulk of the runs.
Bangladesh: Bangladesh are no longer the whipping boys of international cricket, the tigers have proved in the last few years they can beat anyone in an ODI, what they really lack is consistency, if they find that, they could be the surprise package.
Prediction – Quarter Finals, I’m prepared to go out on a limb here, if Bangladesh play to the best of their abilities, in home conditions, I back them to get through to the knock out stages.
Key Player – Tamim Iqubal: There is no doubt Tamim is key to any Bangladeshi success, if he fires at the top of the order that confidence comes through the rest of the team, when he fails the team has a habit of capitulating.
England: Before the start of the ODI series down under England were the form side in world cricket but there’s no hiding the fact our boys haven’t played well since winning the ashes. England need their best bowlers return and their best batsmen to get back in form if they’re going to challenge.
Prediction – Semi Finals, I’d love to back England to go all the way, there’s no doubt they’re getting there but I feel this tournament could be one too soon after an already gruelling winter schedule.
Key Player – Eoin Morgan: I was torn between Morgan and Swann, but in the end I feel that Morgan is the man England will look to, it’s in the batting department England have fallen down in recent weeks, If Morgan regains the form he showed last year then suddenly England will look a different team.
India: The Indians have a fantastic blend of youth and experience and are rightly amongst the favourites for this tournament. The Indian mentality is that they can chase down any score, and do on most occasions; however the bowling doesn’t look as strong as other teams in this tournament.
Prediction – Semi Final, In home conditions, with the players available to them and the support they’ll receive from the locals I can see India getting to the semis. I just think the Sri Lankans and South Africans will edge them out with superior bowling ability.
Key Player – Sachin Tendulkar: The little master is still, probably, the best batsman in the world and with the aura that surrounds him in the eyes of the Indian fans I have little doubt he’ll be amongst the runs in what could well be his last world cup.
Ireland: Ireland surprised a lot of people in the last world cup with their sheer energy and commitment and have definitely improved since that tournament, however while their best players can still be poached by England they are going to struggle to make a genuine impact.
Prediction – Group Stages. While the Irish are a decent side, I doubt many of them will have played in the subcontinent before and that could well be their undoing.
Key Player – Ed Joyce: having played for England in the last world cup Joyce is back playing for the nation of his birth, although it never worked out for him in an England shirt. Joyce has shown he’s a quality batsmen and, perhaps most importantly, has the mental toughness to play the anchor role.
Netherlands: Like Ireland, the Dutch are a team who make up for what they lack in world class talent with stacks of energy and bravery, however they lack the spine of talented professionals of the Irish or Kenyans and are likely to rely heavily on Ryan ten Doeschate.
Prediction – Group Stages, I expect the Dutch to please and entertain but ultimately, Like Ireland, I think they’ll struggle in unfamiliar conditions.
Key Player – Ryan ten Doeschate: There can be little doubt that the Essex man is the Netherlands best player, in his time at Colchester has shown himself to be a match winner with bat and ball and will be key for the men in orange.
South Africa: The bridesmaids of international cricket, in every tournament South Africa look like a safe bet but they have that horrible habit of falling at the last hurdle. On paper they look like potential winners but, as the cliché goes, the game isn’t played on paper.
Prediction – Final, I have a feeling Graeme Smith’s men will do what they always do in these tournaments, look strong, play well but come away without any silverware.
Key Player – Imran Tahir – If Tahir can replicate the domestic form that has seen him leap frog into South Africa’s squad them he’ll be as dangerous as any bowler in the competition. Alongside a powerful seam line up he could be their x-factor.
West Indies: Another Jekyll and Hyde team, the West Indians have the batting line up which would take them a long way, but all too often the batting misfires and their bowlers, who aren’t the strongest in the tournament, are left with too much to do.
Prediction – Quarter Finals, The West Indies rely too much on a few individuals.They should have enough talent to get to the quarters, but don’t be surprised if they lose out in the group stages.
Key Player – Kieron Pollard: I’ve gone for Pollard over Chris Gayle mainly because of how effective his bowling was in last years IPL. Pollard and Gayle are probably two of the most destructive batsmen in the world, if they were to both fire I wouldn’t want to be bowling.