Ian Chappell sees Australia as Strong favourite for the World Cup

Michael Roberts

“If all goes to script, this should be a home Cup win for Australia” is the headline title of an article by Ian Chappell in the Sunday Mail of Adelaide on the 8th February (unfortunately inaccessible on internet unless you fork out cash).  However, there are other reports from Chappell which are accessible but only in ways that confuse the picture he is drawing.

270915-ian-chappell-700 zeenews.india.com

I. Ian Chappell says Australia face a challenge from South Africa and New Zealand in cricket World Cup … Herald Sun, 8 February 2015

AUSTRALIA has won four World Cup trophies and a fifth is well within their grasp as they start as strong favourites in the 2015 tournamentThe biggest hurdle will be South Africa, and they stumble at shadows on reaching the knock-out stage of a World Cup.

Outside of that pair New Zealand, who have a habit of making the semi-finals but fail to take the next step, are the strongest side. One constant lament is the predictability of the World Cup in the league stage. The eight teams (four each from the two groups) to reach the quarter-finals are too easily predicted. The predicted qualifiers from group A are Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and England.

Australia is almost certain to top this group with a game in Auckland shaping as their stiffest test. Australia has wicket-taking bowlers, with Mitchell Johnson and Starc leading the way, and plenty of powerful strikers sprinkled through the line-up.

David Warner, Aaron Finch and Shane Watson are a powerful trio to commence proceedings but Michael Clarke and Steve Smith are orthodox batsmen who can shore up any early setbacks. Then Mitchell Marsh, Glen Maxwell and James Faulkner arrive on the scene to put the finishing touches to a line-up that can chase down or set very demanding targets. Australia’s only weakness is the lack of a penetrative spinner but their pace options are good enough to make this a minor irritation.

New Zealand has improved under the aggressive and enterprising leadership of Brendan McCullum. He’s one of the few openers who can match it with Warner, and with Kane Williamson in great form, the New Zealand batting is in good shape. As usual the Kiwis have a string of solid medium-fast seamers and under their own conditions, they’ll take some beating.

England has only performed moderately in Australia and they lack wicket-takers to back Jimmy Anderson against the stronger batting sides. Stuart Broad and Steve Finn are both down on pace, while the formulaic captaincy of Eoin Morgan doesn’t help. The batting lacks the punch to post really big totals unless Ian Bell and Morgan have a day on, and the powerful Jos Buttler finishes strongly.

Sri Lanka is a solid side without having the match winning bowlers needed under Australian conditions. The batting still relies heavily on the elegant stroke play of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene and the consistency of captain Angelo Matthews. Sri Lanka will beat the teams they should but will struggle to spring a surprise.

Neither Scotland, the disappointing Bangladesh nor the passionate Afghanistan teams are likely to cause an upset, so the four qualifiers are predictable.

Predicted group B qualifiers: [India; South Africa; Pakistan; West Indies].

South Africa, with a couple of match winners in the multi-talented A B de Villiers and the formidable Dale Steyn, will head this group. They make a habit of mowing down the opposition early but their tactics tend to let them down in the knockout stage. They try and limit the opposition’s scoring opportunities and wait for them to make mistakes. This works well against lesser opponents but falters against better and more aggressive sides like Australia.

India has struggled in Australia because of profligate bowling and patchy batting. If they get Rohit Sharma back from injury and Virat Kohli returns to his early season form, the batting will be fine. However, to borrow from Gough Whitlam; “God save India because nothing can save their bowling.”

India should rely more heavily on a spin duo of R Ashwin and Axar Patel. If the pace bowlers can tighten up on line and length and take a few early wickets, Ashwin and Patel could profit on the larger Australian grounds. India also need M S Dhoni to be at his innovative best as a captain rather than the ‘asleep at the wheel’ skipper we saw on occasions in the tri-series.

In the past Pakistan has been a talented rabble but this time they tend more towards inconsistent moderates. They are missing two spearheads in the off-spinner Saeed Ajmal and injured pace man Junaid Khan, which severely dents their chances.

Sadly, the West Indies are a shambles, as they squabble with their administrators and cope with the shock omissions of the competitive Dwayne Bravo and explosive Keiron Pollard.

The batting – too reliant on a fading Chris Gayle – and the bowling, is a far cry from the days of the ‘fearsome foursome’. The West Indies need to be wary of a feisty Irish side, as this first up encounter has the potential for an upset which could result in them missing out on a quarter final spot.

The most likely quarter-finals are Australia v West Indies; England v South Africa; Sri Lanka v India and New Zealand v Pakistan.

The most likely semi-final outcome is Australia v India and South Africa v New Zealand.

Going on the form of the summer Australia should beat India, although played at the SCG it gives the visitors their best chance of an upset. The other semi-final would be enticing, given it’s played in Auckland and neither New Zealand nor South Africa has ever made a final. This could become a battle of who least wants to lose.

It’s just a pity the likely progression from the stage of predictability to the state of intriguing will take so long.

II. World Cup 2015: Sunil Gavaskar, Ian Chappell favour India to beat Pakistan again …. item from Press Trust of India in Sydney, 11 February 2015

Legendary cricketers Sunil Gavaskar and Ian Chappell tipped India as favourites in their much anticipated World Cup clash against Pakistan, saying that past history and better acclimatisation to Australian conditions could tilt the balance in favour of the defending champions. India have beaten Pakistan in all the cricket World Cup matches – in 1992, 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2011. Both Gavaskar and Chappell said that Pakistan are unlikely to break their World Cup jinx this time also, although both sides go into the showpiece event as struggling teams.

“Both teams are going into the World Cup not in great touch. Pakistan are also struggling as they had lost to New Zealand recently, it could be even stevens. But I think India will start as slight favourites because of their past records,” Gavaskar said.

He said the absence of off-spinner Saeed Ajmal in the Pakistan squad due to suspect bowling action – though he was later cleared by the ICC – will have a huge impact on the 1992 champions.

“Without a doubt, Ajmal was half the Pakistan side and they will be hit hard without him. He is a wicket-taking and a
containing bowler. He is just like Muttiah Muralitharan in his prime days in the Sri Lankan side,” the former Indian captain told NDTV.

Chappell agreed with Gavaskar and said India will start as favourites as the defending champions have acclimatised to the conditions better than the Pakistanis as they have playing in Australia for the past two months. He also said the current Pakistani side lacked match-winners.

“They (Pakistan) won the World Cup in 1992 but at that time they had so many match-winners in Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram, Inzamam-ul-Haq. They don’t have those match-winners in the current team. The loss of Junaid Khan is also a big blow for them,” he said.

“India have been playing in Australia for the past two months and they have acclimatised more to the conditions than  the Pakistanis. Moreover, India played really well in the  Tests against Australia in Adelaide. They even had a chance to win the Test and lost it in the last hour. So, taking all these into consideration, India start as favourites,” said the former Australia captain.

Former India batsman V V Laxman felt Indian players can cope with pressure better than the Pakistanis and that was why they have been winnings more matches in ICC events than their western neighbours.

“Pakistan are a dangerous side, no doubt about that. But they lacked consistency and they recently lost to New Zealand in the UAE under familiar conditions. So even in current form, India are the favourites. Moreover, India can cope pressure associated with a high-voltage clash better and that is why India have won more matches against Pakistan in ICC events, including all five World Cup matches,” Laxman said.

Asked about Sachin Tendulkar missing out for the first time in a World Cup clash against Pakistan, Laxman said, “India will miss Sachin.

He has bagged three MoM awards in India’s five World Cup wins against Pakistan so far. Nobody can replace him.

“Having said that India have many match-winners in the current team, more in batting than in bowling. The batting is deep with captain M S Dhoni batting at number six. Rohit Sharma, who has hit highest individual score of 264, is a match-winner. Dangerous Suresh Raina is there in number five and then Ajinkya Rahane at number four. Virat Kohli is having the best patch of his career. Pakistan faces a formidable Indian batting line-up,” he said.

Gavaskar said in an India-Pakistan match, it’s more of a contest of temperament than of skill sets.

“It’s not much of skill sets but of a temperamental thing. Everybody from both sides of the border will be glued to the match. When India played Pakistan in the 2011 World Cup semifinal at Mohali, for many in India beating Pakistan mattered more than winning the World Cup. For them since the Indian team has beaten Pakistan, they had won the World Cup. The same is in Pakistan I believe,” said Gavaskar.

“Tendulkar and Javed Miandad can get over this temperamental aspect to be able work on their skills, so they are different. When Tendulkar or Miandad is dismissed, then either side feels that they can get into the rest of the team,” he added.

This World Cup will be the first one which does not have either Miandad or Tendulkar.


Leave a comment

Filed under Australian cricket, cricketing icons, player selections

Leave a Reply