Pakistan (rank: 6)
Tagline: The walking stereotypes
It is clearly orientalist to label Pakistan "mercurial", because they are merely a talented team that sometimes underperforms. There is obviously no greater cliché in cricket coverage than to call Pakistan unpredictable. Right now, they are barely a middling side, having lost series to South Africa, Australia and England over the past few months, before going down to Afghanistan in a warm-up match. Except that all of this is quite transparently a set-up for a campaign in which they lose their first few matches, rally late in the round-robin stage, scrape through to the knockouts on the back of a couple of rained-out games and an abominably streaky innings, before brutally kerb-stomping their way through the semis and final, leaving us reporters no choice but to hail the glorious, mystical, voodoo of Pakistan, making racists out of us all.
Disaster scenario: In the semi-final against India, Jasprit Bumrah bowls a furious spell of reverse swing, Kuldeep Yadav takes a bunch of wickets, and with six needed off the last ball, Hardik Pandya hits it out of the ground, forcing Pakistan to relinquish pretty much all remaining bragging rights.
What will happen if they win? Or rather, what will happen before they win? Anarchy, obviously. Mickey Arthur is sacked; Shahid Afridi is installed as new coach, picks himself in the XI, then produces one of his famed comeback performances (7 for 42, 86 off 37 balls) to lead the team to a monster win in the final.
New Zealand (4)
Tagline: Nice guys in the streets, monsters on the pitch.
There is no team nicer than New Zealand. They are all smiles, rainbows, butterflies, and unicorns. Their captain will turn up at any pre-match press conference, whip out that charming smile, produce long appreciations about their opponents, and speak at length about how he admires the other team's batsmen and respects their attack. Next day, New Zealand's batsmen show up and respect that attack to all parts of the ground. Their bowlers, new ball in hand, will admire your batsmen, one after another, in quick succession, all the way back to the pavilion. They will play nice, whisper sweet nothings, act as if they are your friends. Then on the field, New Zealand will f*** you up.
Disaster scenario: Vanquished opponents can at least take solace in the fact that regardless of how well the cricket team does, the real catastrophe for New Zealand will be if their rugby team fails to defend their world title later in the year.
What will happen if they win? A nice, orderly open-top bus parade in Auckland or Wellington, while the rest of the world ponders how ridiculous it is that a nation of less than five million holds two major sporting trophies at the same time.
Tagline: No longer doing the Nagin dance
Virtually no team has slipped so far beneath the radar in the approach to this World Cup than Bangladesh. They're far from being favourites, but they are not abominably bad either, having just won a tri-series in Ireland. Through the course of that tournament, Mustafizur Rahman and Mashrafe Mortaza got themselves into wicket-taking form, while Soumya Sarkar and Tamim Iqbal shone with the bat. Last time, everybody - including perhaps the Bangladesh team itself - was surprised when they made it into the knockout stages. In the years since, they've acquired the mentality, and the attitude, of a serious team.
Disaster scenario: Another traumatic, tournament-ending loss to India, who stunned them in the 2016 World T20 by taking three wickets in three balls, then again in last year's Nidahas Trophy final, when Dinesh Karthik walloped 29 off eight balls to rip the trophy from Bangladesh's grip.
What will happen if they win? Given the way Bangladesh celebrated one of their Nidahas Trophy wins perhaps the ICC will supply each member of the team their own ceremonial dressing room door to shatter on the podium.
West Indies (8)
Tagline: Can you believe they had to qualify?
West Indies have a new, seemingly more benevolent, board, and they've got the band back together. Self-proclaimed lord of the galaxies Chris Gayle opens the innings alongside Evin Lewis. Shai Hope, Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmyer make a formidable middle order, and then, of course, you have Andre Russell, who has never met a death bowler he couldn't bully into the stands. We've barely even touched on Carlos Brathwaite - the hero of the last big ICC final - and Jason Holder, who is one of the smartest, most supportable captains on planet cricket. It remains to be seen if all these T20 stars can burn quite as brightly in close proximity to each other, but no one will deny the West Indies campaign shapes up as one of the most watchable.
Disaster scenario: A lucrative T20 tournament is announced in the middle of the World Cup, and Holder wakes up to find half his team has left in the dead of night.
What will happen if they win? They will have won the most recent T20 and ODI global trophies, as well as their most recent Test series (against England). West Indies cricket will have to be pronounced undead.
South Africa (3)
Tagline: Team Tracheal Obstruction
With one of the more dynamic attacks in their ranks, and a solid top order as well, South Africa have the potential to be champions. But are they going to do that thing they have done at World Cups for the last 20 years? You know... the thing that, by now, everybody expects them to do? No team is as plagued by their reputation as South Africa.
Disaster scenario: It was 20 years ago, in England, that South Africa suffered their most infamous World Cup defeat, when Allan Donald dropped his bat and got run out with one to get off two balls. In their worst nightmares, South Africa find themselves in an identical situation, and because the sequel has to be bigger than the original, both batsmen drop their bats in a panic, and sprint in the wrong direction (i.e. away from the pitch).
What will happen if they win? Two decades of trauma will fade into memory, tears of joy will be copiously spilled, and upon taking the winning wicket, Imran Tahir will raise his arms aloft and race clean out of the stadium to perform an ecstatic lap of the planet.
Tagline: But ranked first in our hearts.
Are you indifferent to Afghanistan's fortunes in this World Cup? If so, it might be worth asking yourself if you are a monster. Already cricket's greatest 21st century story, Afghanistan come into this World Cup with a couple of world-beating players, a serviceable top order, and the support of every right-thinking neutral fan. Though they rarely have the chance to play the better established teams, Afghanistan have usually beaten Associates, and in the Asia Cup last year, they even managed to thump both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. They will need a lot of luck to make it past the round-robin stage, but there is plenty of skill here.
Disaster scenario: They get completely wiped out in the round robin, much as were in their inaugural Test last year.
What will happen if they win? The nation that most needs it will have a victory to rejoice in. Also, 10,000 journalists from all around the world will descend.
Tagline: We so excited
Has there ever been a more dominant pre-World Cup run ever? Hah! Gaze upon this batting order, ye heathens, and despair. Jonny Bairstow. BOOM. Jason Roy, KAPOW. Joe Root. PHWOAR. Eoin Morgan. BLAMMO. Do you get it yet? Who dares challenge these titans? What mortal fails to tremble? Their totals know no bounds. 400? Easy. 450? Puh. 500? Not enough! Infinity? AAAAAAHHHHHH.
Disaster scenario: England turn out not to be god's gift to ODI cricket, as usual.
What will happen if they win? The English media shows restraint, taking pains to avoid being even slightly insufferable, remembering that other teams have won World Cups before.
Tagline: Please not them again
That's enough, Australia. Stop it right now. There was a time when it seemed as if these guys would finally stop being a World Cup force. A year ago, their ODI side appeared to be in a shambles, having lost nine out of ten ODIs to England, before going on to lose to India and South Africa as well. The fallout from the sandpaper saga had also left two of their best batsmen in limbo.
But in the months since, like relapsing junkies, Australia have returned to fearsome ODI form. Not content with having won five of 11 World Cups, and three of the last four, Australia have won series against India and Pakistan this year, and have seemingly integrated David Warner and Steven Smith back into the side more or less seamlessly. Will world cricket have much to gain from another Australia triumph? Unclear. Does Australia give a crap? Nope.
Disaster scenario: Warner, having seemingly developed even more of a chip on his shoulder during his year in exile, is banned again by the ICC from going near any cricket balls, when it becomes clear his personality is now way more abrasive than any sandpaper ever could be.
What will happen if they win? Australia remain kings of one-day cricket for another four years. Aka: life.
Tagline: Just warming down from the IPL
Having concluded the greatest cricketing showcase on the planet only two weeks ago, India are apparently treating their post-IPL excursions as just an exhibition tournament, having named a captain who has barely won a match over the last couple of months. Perhaps it will seem like a serious step down from the trophy they just won, but still expect the likes of Jasprit Bumrah to flaunt his pinpoint yorkers, and Hardik Pandya to show off many death-overs sixes, while MS Dhoni imparts his big-match zen. It's the off season, but it's never too early to start training for next year's IPL.
Disaster scenario: The elder buddy-younger buddy relationship between Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli breaks down. Just kidding. That will never happen. They are rock solid.
What will happen if they win? World cricket will bow evermore to its new overlords.
Sri Lanka (9)
Tagline: Thank god we didn't have to qualify
Let's not go too deep into the state of this team. It's embarrassing. They've lost close to 75% of the matches they've played since 2017. They don't want you to talk about it.
Could they spring a few surprises? Er, there's an outside chance. So long as the captain can get his senior players pulling in the same direction, and if the coach and chief selector/manager can get along, and maybe if they suddenly fix their slapstick fielding, and they find a way to consistently bat 50 overs, plus take wickets through the middle overs, and keep oppositions quiet in the death ove… look, this team sucks.
Disaster scenario: The most important folks in the Sri Lanka set-up - the administrators - miss their flights, and are unable to make their expensive, board-funded trips to the UK.
What will happen if they win? The sun rises in the west, gravity ceases to exist, and the ICC chooses to expand the next World Cup, shunning short-term profits in favour of growing the game the way it is supposed to.