Playing and watching cricket in England is something different than our subcontinent. English men of Asian origin and other countries are seen supporting their favorite teams. The fans enjoy the liberty to support their favorite teams and players, and it is not anti-national in that country. We need to acknowledge and appreciate English people for their broader vision. In our country, it is deemed as anti-national if a man supports a team other than his national team. Even these English people appreciate every good performance irrespective of the nationality of that team or player. I never mean that they are less Patriotic but are so generous and Open-minded that they praise players and teams irrespective of their countries. This spirit is altogether missing in the subcontinent. We can't give a standing ovation to a rival player if he outshines our national team. So, it is indeed a treat to play or watch cricket in United Kingdom.The biggest carnival of cricket is underway in England with the best ten teams locking horns against each other for the title race. People across the globe are in United Kingdom to enjoy the beauty of the game. Millions are watching it on television screens. And for Asian masses, it is not lesser than Eid, Diwali or Christmas. In our part of globe, the game is followed with unprecedented passion and interest. Every nook and corner, every shop perch and office, every college and university, even every home is abuzz with speculations, analysis and predictions about the matches and the favorites. Cricket pundits and analysts are busy in television and Radio studios to make threadbare analysis of matches and players. Print and social media are not behind. Cricket lovers support their favorite teams and players with the photos and comments posted on different social networking sites.
World cup 2019 is still open for all but the hosts, England are favorites to clinch the title. England has been playing some exceptional cricket in this format for the last two or three years. English team is a formidable side with many match winners. The top order of the English team is one of the best in the competing sides in the tournament. The likes of Eion Morgan and Jos Butler in the middle order make it a mercurial side. The duo can topple any bowling attack on a given day. The pace battery is very strong. The likes of Chris Woakes, Mark wood , Liam Planket and Willey can hit the deck hard and can test any good batting side with their short pitch armory. Also, Adil Rashid and Mooen Ali re-inforce the spin department as well. Mooen Ali gives the captain the liberty to include extra batsmen as he can bowl a good spell of ten overs. English team is a brilliant Fielding side as well that too in home conditions. One may say that England is the favorites but the game of glorious uncertainties can drown any team.
Another hot favorite and a strong contender of the tournament is Indian team. The trio of Rohit , Shikhar and Virat can pile up runs against any good bowling attack.MS Dhoni , KL Rahul and Kedhar Jhadav give stability to the middle order, and Hardik Pandya who is probably the best alrounder in the tournament, is in good touch. His bat is like a silver bullet. He can hit the ball to any corner of the ground. He is equally effective with the ball. The bowling department of Indian side is one of the best in the tournament. Bhuvneshwar Kumar who is capable to swing the ball in the beginning can dominate proceedings against any side. Mohammad shami is the Waseem Akram of Indian fast bowling attack. He can rattle any batsman with his fierce Yorkers and short pitch stuff. And the sensational fast bowler, Jasprit Bumrah is probably the truimph card for Virat Kohli. He is the best death bowler of the tournament. The Indian spin attack is as always the best in the tournament. Yuzvender Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have been displaying their extraordinary skill at the top level for last couple of years. And we should not forget Ravinder Jadega who can play a cameo down to the order, is handy with his spin options and is a brilliant fielder as well.
Another side to be looked for in this world is Australia. Yes, the five times world cup champions are asserting authority with every match. Flamboyant David Warner, cool Steve Smith and Shaun Marsh are the batsmen who can do wonders for the team. Fast bowling is the strength of this team. Patt Cummins, Mitchell Stark, Coulternile can pose threat for any opposition. The hippy haired spinner, Adam Zampa is capable of turning the ball. This team has the ability to qualify for the top four.
Kiwi side is also a strong team. Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor are the old war horses who can change the complexion of the game at anytime. Colin Munro and Martin Guptil can destabilize any good bowling attack on a given day. The alround options of Jimmy Neesham and Collin De Grandhome strengthens both bowling and batting departments. Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult and Matt Henry can intimidate any strong batting side. Mitchel Santner is not a bad spin choice at all. The team is an athletic side and can save handy runs in any ground.
The Proteas have justified the tag of chokers. They are virtually out of contention. The star studded side has failed as a unit. Quinton Decock is looking in a good nick but rest of the batsmen has failed to live up to their potential and expectations. Their top order is looking shaky though their fast bowlers are doing quite well. Imran Tahir who is almost about to enter 40s, is leading from the front. But, I fear if this team qualifies for semis.
West Indies had a dream start of the tournament by decimating Pakistan to 105. The comprehensive victory against 1992 champions was something worth to watch. The short pitch armory was quite reminiscent of great West Indies pace attack of 70s and 80s. But, this team again suffered that lack of killer instinct when they had removed half of the Kangaroos side for just 48 runs. They let the initiative slip out of their hands because the late middle order of Australia took the score to 288 from 48 for 5. So, lack of consistency is the major reason of failures for this team.
Last but not the least; the most unpredictable team is Pakistan. It is this team that can succumb to weak team like West Indies but can beat the best and the most favorite team in the next match. The volatile side is the underdogs of the tournament. They can beat any side on a given day. Their strength is their top order and fast bowling lineup. The likes of Fakhar Zamaa'n, Imaamul Haqq, Babar Azam , Mohammad Amir and Wahaab Reyaz can do miracles on a given day. But, this team also lacks the persistent approach. Their recent performance is not encouraging enough. They have lost almost their last eleven matches on a trot. But, the last win against English side might have infused a new lease of life into their veins. I can't rule them out of the contention given their mercurial nature.
Rest of the three teams i.e. Srilanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are playing for pride. These three teams stand nowhere in the contention. Let us hope that rain does not spoil the sport, and the matches are not washed away. And hope that controversies remain aloof from the big bonanza of cricket.
(Author is a Teacher and Columnist)