April 9, 2014

Lessons for 2015

Michael Jeh
New Zealand will always be competitive - especially given that they are one of the hosts for the next World Cup - but they will need one of their marquee players to stand up in a sudden-death game  © Getty Images

As the dust settles and the much-talked-about dew continues to fall in Chittagong, there is much to dissect and even more to learn, looking forward to the ODI World Cup in early 2015.

While I am no fan of franchise-based T20 tournaments that pit mercenaries against each other for the singular purpose of entertainment with no higher motive, the World Cup T20 format remains appealing. The fact that no team has won it twice speaks for the value of the concept as a global tournament with an open field; despite T20's reputation as an unpredictable mistress, every team that has won the tournament has deserved to do so. I was initially curious as to whether the nature of T20 would lead to a shock result in its world championship but it must be said that the finalists each time have generally been the two best teams. Perhaps the only exception might have been when Pakistan were knocked out courtesy Mike Hussey's amazing innings in Gros Islet, but even that speaks to Pakistan's unpredictability and Australia's self-belief under pressure.

For the first time in many years, a team managed to execute a simple game plan with unerring accuracy. The prize? A World Cup, no less. Sri Lanka proved that there is no need for complicated plans, even when bowling to the very best finishers in the business. Just bowl yorkers, bowl them accurately, and even players of the calibre of India's formidable middle order are rendered impotent. No need for fancy slower balls and funky field placements. It's just a matter of having the skill to execute it on a big stage. Just ask Nepal's Jitendra Mukhiya - his death bowling was as impressive as that of any full-time professional, proving that it can be done by even amateur cricketers who don't clutter their minds with too many fancy theories.

Even in a shortened format, captaincy is a crucial element. Lasith Malinga (and friends!) almost made the biggest blunder when he positioned himself at midwicket and promptly dropped Virat Kohli. I believe MS Dhoni erred by leaving R Ashwin's spell too late in the final. For India to win, they needed early wickets, not a death bowler. Easy in hindsight, though.

Similarly, Faf du Plessis got it horribly wrong with his choice of opening bowlers when India chased 172 in the semi-final. In a sudden-death game, I've always believed that if you exert early pressure, you control the finish, even if Dale Steyn had bowled out. Darren Sammy miscalculated too when West Indies chased slowly in their semi against Sri Lanka, relying on the late kick that never came because of the rain. With the threat of storms in the air, Sri Lanka played smarter cricket by bowling Malinga early in the game, while Chris Gayle's bizarre innings went in the opposite direction.

It is ironic that England, arguably the poorest (major) team in the competition, were the only conquerors of the eventual champions. It could be argued that Australia had an equally poor tournament, only beating Bangladesh, but their pedigree was not in question, only their execution and selections. It was never going to be easy to win in Bangladesh with two mediocre spinners - and even then, never to play them in tandem. England too were unlikely to challenge in these conditions with just James Tredwell. It all seems so obvious now but I must confess to expecting Australia to go further, based on their batting depth and fielding.

No boundary is too big for the modern cricketer these days but the hitting zones may need to change. It's not as easy to slog- sweep in Australia with the extra bounce

What can we learn from this for the World Cup next year? Very little, I imagine. The pitches will definitely favour the two home teams and South Africa. Exponents of the doosra, like Sunil Narine, Saeed Ajmal and Ashwin, will be effective, but don't expect miracles from Samuel Badree and Amit Mishra on those pitches. West Indies will need to find some quicks to be considered a serious challenge - Krishmar Santokie's cutters won't cut it with the new ball in Australia and New Zealand. They might also need to invest in an opening batsman who is technically correct outside off stump. Dwayne Smith was barely able to hit anything that moved away from him, a serious problem when bowlers target the traditional corridor on fast pitches.

South Africa, so long as Imran Tahir can bowl quick through the air and retain the mystery of his wrong 'un, may prove to be a well-balanced outfit next year. They will need to find a replacement, though, for the likes of Albie Morkel, who is clearly a liability with the ball these days and cannot be carried as a batting allrounder. New Zealand will always be competitive but one wonders if their lack of depth will eventually count against them in a long tournament. Courage and scrapping can only take you so far - eventually you need one of your marquee players to stand up in a sudden-death game, unlike Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor's limp showing in that final innings against a very clever Rangana Herath.

The size of the outfields in Australia is no longer the disadvantage they used to be for Asian teams. No boundary is too big for the modern cricketer these days but the hitting zones may need to change. It's not as easy to slog sweep in Australia with the extra bounce. Hitting down the ground, pulling and upper-cutting may be the areas that are most productive when looking for boundaries.

Opening batsmen with traditional techniques may have to be found. It won't be easy against the new ball. Players like David Warner, Hashim Amla and even Alastair Cook may set themselves to bat 40 overs. Aaron Finch, devastating in T20 cricket, has had a much poorer time of it in ODIs. I'm not convinced that an ageing Tillakaratne Dilshan and a bottom-handed Kusal Perera will thrive, but if the "old men" of Sri Lanka return for one last swansong, their impeccable techniques will be useful templates for the next generation to follow. For that reason, I'm unconvinced about Pakistan's batting unless they discover new talent that is built on solid foundations. Let's not forget, though, that they won it last time it was held in this part of the world.

India's bowling is my main concern for them in 2015. Their batting pedigree is undoubted but when the ball doesn't swing, they are going to need to find some bowlers who offer more than the admirable Bhuvneshwar Kumar does. England won't find the conditions that daunting but I just can't see where their match-winners are going to come from. Ravi Bopara may become the finished article, Eoin Morgan is dangerous, and perhaps Jos Buttler can finish spectacularly, so don't write them off just yet.

I still think that the team with the best fast bowling attack, coupled with technically correct batsmen who can bat long into the innings and score heavily at the death will dominate next year's World Cup. The Mitchell Johnson factor keeps looming large in the rear-view mirror. A lot can happen in 12 months, of course, but I don't think anything that has happened in Bangladesh these last few weeks will be useful as a predictive tool.

And that's the beauty of cricket. When conditions change, different teams come into the reckoning. Home countries have rarely won World Cups but both hosts will be mightily disappointed if they don't feature in the last four.

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and is a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

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Posted by Talalthegreat on (April 13, 2014, 7:21 GMT)

NZ, SA, Aus and SL in the semis. I bet AusvSL final. Also even tho teams havent won at home too often, India did it and so did Sl in 1996(It was in SL,Pak and Ind). I think aus have a very good chance of winning it. PS India, Pak, WI and Eng have absolutely no chance. India and pak batsmen will be found out. India's poor death bowling and obviously that as usual Ashwin will be toothless in these conditions. Just watch Ind in NZ 2014 or India in Aus 2012 to know that Ahswin is useless here. All these teams have unimaginative captains

Posted by Lion83 on (April 12, 2014, 12:57 GMT)

Conditions in Australia will be different to subcontinent but in recent times wickets in Australia lost some pace and bounce and most teams play around the world regularly these days. So Teams like SriLanka India and Pakistan back them selves to perform well alongside Hosts Australia, New zeland and South Africa. SL is always a team for big tournaments and they are far ahead than their asain counterparts and will reach semifinals with Aus , Other two semi final spots are up for grab.Eng AND WI have no chance.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (April 12, 2014, 4:57 GMT)

South Africa's World Cup curse began the last time it was held in Australia & NZ. SA were fresh out of isolation, & the ICC changed the schedule to include the Saffas, who caused much excitement & speculation.

SA's 1st played Cup holders, Aus, & 1st ball Allan Donald clearly found the edge of Geoff Marsh's bat. The whole world heard it - except the Kiwi ump! (Marsh did not walk.) It was immaterial as SA's bowling destroyed Aus - 170/9 before SA beat them by 9 wickets. But, it was a bad omen.

SA reached the semis in 3rd position on points, but in the most controversial finishes to a WC match, fell victim to the bizarre rain rule - so bad it was replaced by Duckworth Lewis! SA needed 23 off 13 balls, but after 3 raindrops Gooch insisted on leading England off. When they returned, 12 minutes later, SA then needed 23 off 6. That was changed to 22 off 6, and then changed again to 22 off 1 ball.

The crowd were furious, England embarrassed, & SA have never won a World Cup semi final since!

Posted by KingOwl on (April 12, 2014, 2:24 GMT)

It will be an Aus-SL final. I think next time, SL will win, despite Aus having the home advantage. In recent triangular tournaments in Aus, it has always been SL, which stretched Aus, but could not quite beat them in the finals. But, with the recent T20 WC win, SL will be up to it.

Posted by st_aubrun on (April 11, 2014, 7:54 GMT)

Pakistan's fast bowling willo be strengthened by Mohammad Irfan, who could be the surprise package of the 2015 event bowling in the high-140s from over 7 feet high on bouncy tracks. Mohammad Amir, history's youngest bowler to 50 test wickets, will also have served his ban (to be seen if he has lost or gained on the 150+ speed he had prior to the punishment). There are/will be other fast bowlers in the Pakistani production line and Ajmal and Afridi are well-suited to OZ tracks. The batting will remain suspect though, but if there is a patch of 3 or 4 games where the right Pakistan decides to turn up from a batting perspective, then the country will be a major contender to repeat their antipodean performance of 1992.

Posted by t20cric on (April 10, 2014, 17:48 GMT)

The other problem is that we toured Australia so long ago that most of the Pakistani players have never played there.When it comes to openers I have no idea who will pair with Ahmed Shehzad but it should be a left hander (maybe Nasir or even Sami Aslam/Imam-ul-haq). It might be a smart move to bring Younis back cuz of his experience. Pakistan also need a proper wicketkeeper cuz Umar only performs with the gloves or with the bat (never both) so M. Rizwan or Sarfraz could be wicketkeeper. Fawad should become permanent in the ODI side cuz his ability of rotating strike is very useful. There will be a tough choice between Sohaib & Umar as both play a similar type of innings & both are pretty inconsistent(both can play only if Umar is wk). Haris Sohail should be backup middle order batsman. So squad should be Ahmed, Nasir, Fawad, Younis, Misbah, Umar, Hammad, Afridi, Amir, Ajmal, Junaid, Irfan, Haris, Rizwan, Sami, Anwar, Raza. We will only play Aus in UAE between now & WC though.

Posted by t20cric on (April 10, 2014, 17:01 GMT)

I'm really worried for Pakistan in the upcoming 2015 wc. Our batting is just as good (or bad) as always but even bowling seems weak. Mohammad Akram, our bowling coach is really incompetent cuz he can't get the best out of the talented young bowlers (Junaid, Talha, Bhatti etc.). M. Amir will be back before the world cup but there is no guarantee that he will be selected & even if selected we don't know if he will be his regular self again. Irfan will likely be really good on those pitches but his fitness will be an issue & it would be safer to make him bowl 7-8 overs per game instead of all 10. With Junaid, Amir & Irfan we have strike pacers & maybe Anwar or Hammad Azam as allrounder. In spin department we have Ajmal (he will recover from world t20) & Afridi but we should also bring Raza Hassan cuz he is new & young spinner. When it comes to batting we have more problems like who will open & the fact that our batting is brittle, we also have a shortage of lefthanders. cont..

Posted by CricketPissek on (April 10, 2014, 11:46 GMT)

As with any World Cup, the question is - who will Sri Lanka face in the Final? :-D Good analytical article. India has this new bowler called Shami who I saw play in a Test match recently. He may play a key role if he stays fit and learns a lot about bowling during India's tour of England in the summer. SL v NZ Final for me, and SL to win it :)

Posted by 9ST9 on (April 10, 2014, 7:18 GMT)

SA vs Aus final anyone? i don't want to go beyond that but then again 2015's still a long way away - we will have a clearer idea in about 6~7 months time

Posted by   on (April 10, 2014, 3:17 GMT)

world cup winning contenders: Sri Lanka, Australia. NZ has always been a very good side outside Subcontinent, ODI winning series in England and SA, whilst drawing in Australia in 2008-09. But they are not ruthless enough to go beyond Semis. Same can be said about SA. England and Pakistan inconsistent. Without KP they have lost aggression and flair in batting. Bowling, broad and anderson good but what about the rest. Batting ordinary lower middle order especially after morgan gets out. WI also ordinary. Can be explosive but too many bits and pieces players and as a result weak middle order. India no chance. Dhawan out of form and rohit gets into his shell to easily. Poor death bowling and spinners failing to take wickets in middle overs. Like England captaincy lacks imagination. Often get a feeling that they use same tactics but expect different results.

Posted by electric_loco_WAP4 on (April 9, 2014, 23:50 GMT)

No.1 team and hosts Aussies firm favs. for tourney.NZ,SA,SL to make semis.SA the likeliest threat for the hosts.But their big game/tourney crediantials are always a '?'.

Posted by Jimmyvida on (April 9, 2014, 22:23 GMT)

With Yuvi back in form and Sehwag, Pathan and Zaheer in the mix, the rest don't stand a chance. Never mind India's pathetic fielding.

Posted by   on (April 9, 2014, 20:12 GMT)

I just hope Pakistan is portrayed and analyzed as a massive underdog for 2015 World Cup as Pak cricket is at its best when it is an underdog and completely underestimated!

Posted by jb633 on (April 9, 2014, 18:36 GMT)

The Sub Continental sides wont feature heavily in the next world cup. I feel over the last ten years conditions have become the overall decisive factor in how sides compete. Sri Lanka have a very average record in Aus and I can't see any seamers bar Malinga and Kula that are up to it. Pakistan and BD simply don't have the batsmen to cope. India don't have the seam bowling to threaten. England don't have the firepower and WI don't have the seam bowling either. For my money it will come down to NZ, Aus or SA. SA need to sort out their thinking from now until then. They need to maximise the ability of AB and bat him at 3 at all times. Even as an Englishman I have to admit I can't see past Aus. In their own conditions they bat down to number 10 and their lack of a spinning option will not be exposed as guys like Watson and Faulkner can fill in overs. NZ will compete I feel but they do have a collapse in them that always worries me in a knockout competition.

Posted by android_user on (April 9, 2014, 14:43 GMT)

I think NZ's chances are pretty high. Williamson could be the key and McCullum's pro-active captaincy plus home advantage could be their clincher. Australia and SA are outright favorites. Amongst the sub continent teams probably India has the best chance purely based on the strength of their batting. They might just get away with their poor pace bowling stocks in the limited overs game. Besides, wrist spinner Mishra could extract some spin. SL and Pak have batting line ups which are too fragile.

Posted by   on (April 9, 2014, 12:32 GMT)

for India, depends how theone day leg of tour down Under goes and the tour of England in June will give us a fair assessment of what the bowlers can actually deliver.Australia would be next favourites , but the selectors have to get selection right.All in all SA,NZstart at the top Australia in third, India in 4th and Eng/SL competing for fifth spot.

Posted by   on (April 9, 2014, 12:28 GMT)

I don't think SRL would be competitive inWC down under though they have done well recently, simply because their batting looks dodgy and Matthews who will need to do lot of work with bat.Dilshan and Jayawardene look over the hill and don't think they will have any impact if they try and stretch their careers till that point.Thirimane looks street smart, but they need Ashan Priyanjan to step up to the plate like Sohaib Maqsood has done for PakistanPakistan wont be a force next year, simply they dont have any half decent Fast bowlers.England would be dark horse, and NZ look a solid team but their key players seem to get injured all the while.SA would be red hot favourites this time and I dont bank on them choking this time.WI would stand no chance since they would be coming off an absolute thrashing in SA.

Posted by rizwan1981 on (April 9, 2014, 12:00 GMT)

I am a Sri Lankan but my money is on New Zealand because they have two world class all rounders in Anderson and Neesham . Also , the black caps are probably the best fielding team in the world

South Africa are also a very good unit but then they will choke in the semi-final or final. The Springboks are also weakened because they carry two passengers in Amla and Thahir who are terrible fielders.

Sri Lanka is on a high but its unlikely Mahela , Sanga and Dilshan will be able to reproduce the same magic CONSISTENTLY. But I hope Mathews and Thirimanne will excel and produce a surprise or two.

Posted by ladycricfan on (April 9, 2014, 11:54 GMT)

vijay/pujara, dhawan, kohli, rohit, raina, dhoni, jadeja, ashwin, bkumar, shami, yadav/mohit.

Posted by CodandChips on (April 9, 2014, 10:59 GMT)

@first_slip @Joe-car according to statsguru in ODIs Dhoni averages 61.33 in Australia in 17 matches, 76.00 in New Zealand in 10 matches, 36.50 in England in 17 matches (better than many) and only 25.08 in South Africa in 15 matches. Make of it what you will. At the end of the day his average of 50 is not only better than other finishers, but better than most so-called "proper batsmen". Hence why he should bat 5

Posted by CodandChips on (April 9, 2014, 10:36 GMT)

@Joe-car thanks for enlightening me re Strauss. But please don't forget he struggled in more than one series vs Morkel.

re Ashwin I actually think he looks like a classy batsman. Didn't he also bat ok in New Zealand? (please correct me if I'm wrong). As a bowler, I don't rate him, but he seems to have a knack of sometimes picking up wickets when bowling badly.

@first_slip I never rated India's bowling. I just said they would be "dangerous". I still think New Zealand, Australia and South Africa have better chances- possibly even my own country England as well. But that depends on who is in each group? Can anybody remember please?

Posted by android_user on (April 9, 2014, 10:09 GMT)

Nice article but I won't call Brad Hogg a mediocre spinner. 20/20 is the worst format to analyse anyone's ability. Agree with Codandchips. Dhoni must bat higher. He scored good runs in NZ as well. Don't see a reason why he should be held back.

Posted by Joe-car on (April 9, 2014, 9:20 GMT)

@CodandChips____Strauss in his debut series against SA in SA scored a mountain of including few hundreds because we kept bowling short and wide to him. It was only in his last series against SA that he didn't store many runs and he was clearly past it. He subsequently announced his retirement shortly before the series ended. He is the best finisher in world cricket in low and slow pitches but clueless when it comes to bouncy pitches. He has had ample opportunies and has failed each and every time. The less we talk about Aswhin's record outside the SC the better.

Posted by first_slip on (April 9, 2014, 9:19 GMT)

@CodandChips, Dhoni can play fast bowling in Home Conditions no doubt, but In Australian Pitches? hmm. Ashwin can bowl leg stump negative lines and get away in T20s but will not in Australian in 50 over games, Kholi might score Runs but others would not and Indian Bowling? lets not discuss about that shal we?

Posted by CodandChips on (April 9, 2014, 8:52 GMT)

@Joe-car how many runs did Andrew Strauss score against South Africa? He seemed to have plenty of trouble vs Morkel.

Re Dhoni 5 he is probably the best ODI finisher on the planet. I'm not cricketing expert (and don't pretend to be) but how many finishers have an average of 50? Why bat him at 6/7? He always has to dig India out of trouble. At 5 he has plenty of time and can prevent the crisis. Also Dhoni plays pace and the short ball pretty well.

Ashwin at 7- he can bat. Was India's 2nd best batsman in the test series vs England. Don't know what he's like outside India mind.

Posted by Joe-car on (April 9, 2014, 8:20 GMT)

@CodAndChips___Dhoni at 5 and Aswhin at 7 in Aus? You don't seem to know all that much about cricket, but you're one funny bloke I'll give you that. Thanks for the laughs mate.

Posted by CodandChips on (April 9, 2014, 7:51 GMT)

I once again reckon New Zealand have a good chance. Guptill, McCullum and Taylor are 3 of the best on the planet. Add in Williamson, Ronchi, Anderson and Neesham and the batting is excellent. Mills, McClenaghan, Southee and McCullum is an excellent bowling attack. Factor in home conditions and they've got a real good shout. Agree re lack of depth.

I think England will have a chance if the use this summer wisely to develop the right squad- both personnel and balance/tactics. The side I'd pick for the ODIs vs Sri Lanka: 1.Hales 2.Lumb 3.Taylor 4.Root/Ali 5.Morgan 6.Buttler 7.Willey 8.Broad 9.Jordan 10.Tredwell 11.Anderson

India will be dangerous with correct balance of side. Pujara has to open to provide top-order stability. Sharma is capable of batting in the middle order. 1.Dhawan 2.Pujara 3.Kohli 4.Sharma 5.Dhoni 6.Binny 7.Ashwin 8.Jadeja 9.Kumar 10.Shami 11.Yadav

Posted by wapuser on (April 9, 2014, 7:46 GMT)

I think the question is who will face Sri Lanka in the final.

Posted by Joe-car on (April 9, 2014, 7:37 GMT)

The author says that he's more worried about India's bowling than its batting. He should be more worried about its batting, because I don't see India posting anything over 250 or chasing anything over 280 in those conditions. The thing with Aus pitches is that they are hard and bouncy. Indian Kryptonite. As for Warner scoring tons of runs in SA: name any left hand bat who's played against SA who hasn't scored tons of runs against them and I'll show you a dog that can resist a bone.

Posted by ErangaMahesh on (April 9, 2014, 7:32 GMT)

Who will come to play the final with Sri Lanka?

Posted by android_user on (April 9, 2014, 7:04 GMT)

SL and Pak will be fine only concern is about Indian bowling.I think NZ will come to finals I like their bowling attack.

Posted by first_slip on (April 9, 2014, 6:53 GMT)

No Pundit give chance to SL in Any ICC event, but they go to finals easily, and their ODI record is good In Australia and NZ last few years, and they god good fast bowling all rounders in the team and good spinning all rounders coming through the ranks, dont count out SL ever

Posted by sasmit_cricket on (April 9, 2014, 6:43 GMT)

Nice article but I disagree with "It all seems so obvious now but I must confess to expecting Australia to go further, based on their batting depth and fielding." I am not saying Australia would have won but had they not dropped Umar Akmal's catch and Hadds hadn't missed stumping of Gayle, we might have had different result. Fielding was the weakest link in Australian showing in Bangladesh.

Posted by Crkt012 on (April 9, 2014, 6:13 GMT)

InternationalCricketFollower maybe turn the TV on for some Australian games (non 20/20). David Warner's technique was good enough for over 450 runs in South Africa in Test cricket. All batsmen can look technically challenged in the chase for quick runs in 2020. Don't confuse a high strike rate in Tests with a lack of technique. Warner's technique has improved to the point where he is currently the best performing opener in Test cricket. As the article says, the conditions in Australia will be different to the subcontinent and they will suit Warner's style well.

Posted by InternationalCricketFollower on (April 9, 2014, 5:24 GMT)

Warner has no technique. If Warner thrives next year, any batsman could.

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Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

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