There are just two more days left before England and New Zealand do battle in the 2023 Cricket World Cup opener. Lwanele Poswayo is back with Part 2 of his Team-By-Team Guides & Players To Watch as we edge closer to the showpiece in India.
In Part 2, he’ll be looking at the remaining teams contesting this year’s showpiece.
Scott Edwards (c), Colin Ackermann, Shariz Ahmed, Wesley Barresi, Logan van Beek, Aryan Dutt, Sybrand Engelbrecht, Ryan Klein, Bas de Leede, Paul van Meekeren, Roelof van der Merwe, Teja Nidamanuru, Max O’Dowd, Vikram Singh, Saqib Zulfiqar
The Netherlands might seem like underdogs in the World Cup, but there are compelling reasons to believe that the men in orange could spring a surprise or two.
The Dutch team created one of the most remarkable stories of the T20 World Cup just last year – an incredible feat unless you were supporting South Africa – when they defeated the Proteas in a massive upset, making it one of the most memorable moments in ICC tournament history.
In general, the Netherlands performed admirably in Australia, coming close to defeating Sri Lanka, losing by just 16 runs, and nearly chasing down 145 against Bangladesh, despite a shaky start at 15-4.
While a 50-over competition may pose more significant challenges for the minnows, and the injury-enforced absence of pace spearhead Fred Klaassen is a setback, the team possesses valuable experience and a touch of quality within its ranks.
Player to Watch: Scott Edwards
As the captain of a team and bowling attack that is bound to face some challenging days in the field in the coming weeks, it’s safe to say that Scott Edwards will have his hands full.
Nonetheless, the 27-year-old has consistently performed his role admirably, and in addition to his wicket-keeping duties, Edwards will have a significant role to play with the bat in the middle order.
During the qualifiers, he scored 314 runs from seven innings at an impressive average of 62.80, notching up four half-centuries in some demanding situations.
While the challenge won’t get any easier in India, Edwards is a proficient player of spin and excels at sweeping, both conventionally and with the reverse sweep. These skills should serve him well in these conditions.
New Zealand (10.00)
Kane Williamson (c), Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Will Young
Runners-up in 2015 and 2019, New Zealand has since reached another ICC final, this time at the T20 World Cup in the UAE in 2021. Unfortunately, they came off second-best again, losing to Australia. Despite reaching the last four of the same event in Australia a year later, one might wonder whether the moment has passed for this endearing group.
Nevertheless, Trent Boult’s return to the fold to spearhead a formidable seam attack is a significant boost. The return to full fitness of captain and talisman batsman Kane Williamson is equally important. However, there is an issue with a top three featuring Williamson, Will Young, and Devon Conway. They might find themselves a step too slow if the pitches are flat, and big scores become the norm.
What’s in New Zealand’s favour is their fantastic World Cup pedigree. They have consistently exceeded expectations and have a strong team culture.
Player to Watch: Glenn Phillips
Glenn Phillips has rapidly become New Zealand’s top batter in white-ball cricket. He led their runs charts at last year’s T20 World Cup in Australia and showcased his ability with a series of quick innings during the recent drawn series with England.
It’s clear that number six is too low for Phillips to bat in this format, so expect him to be promoted if New Zealand are serious about winning the tournament.
Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Mohammad Rizwan, Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Salman Ali Agha, Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Wasim Jr
A few weeks ago, it seemed like Pakistan’s World Cup preparations were falling into place. They were finalists at the T20 World Cup last year, and the team appeared to be on the rise. The Asia Cup was expected to put the finishing touches on their preparations, but heavy defeats to India and Sri Lanka left their tournament hopes in disarray. To make matters worse, they lost a couple of key players to injuries.
Paceman Naseem Shah, who had enjoyed a brilliant 12 months, forming a strong new-ball partnership with Shaheen Afridi, has been ruled out of the World Cup. This is a significant loss for Pakistan. Hasan Ali has been named as his replacement, and while Pakistan still has great depth in their fast-bowling department, spin remains a concern. The inability to pick up regular wickets in the middle overs continues to hold Pakistan back.
Captain Babar Azam leads an experienced and, importantly, settled batting line-up that features Mohammad Rizwan and the emerging Saud Shakeel. However, the lack of finishing power in the batting order could be a potential drawback.
While Pakistan is a good side with a strong pace attack, they may not be as strong as some of the other teams in the tournament. A semi-final spot could still be within their reach, but it won’t be an easy journey.
Player to Watch: Barbar Azam
Pakistan boast several top-notch performers in their squad, but much of their World Cup campaign rests on the shoulders of their captain and star batter, Babar Azam. With 19 ODI hundreds and counting, Babar is a giant in the 50-over format, boasting an impressive average of 58.16 at just 28 years of age. It’s quite remarkable to think that his best days may still be ahead of him.
Even during Pakistan’s struggles at the Asia Cup, Babar managed to score 207 runs at an average of 51.75. However, his team will need even more from his bat if they are to mount a meaningful bid for the World Cup.
South Africa (10.00)
Temba Bavuma (c), Gerald Coetzee, Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Marco Jansen, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen, Lizaad Williams
South Africa’s 2019 World Cup campaign was one to forget, but since then, they’ve built strong foundations in white-ball cricket. As they head to India for the upcoming tournament, their squad covers most bases and features high-class performers.
In terms of batting, South Africa boasts a lineup with a variety of skills. They have an opening pair that complements each other well, followed by Rassie van der Dussen in the anchor role, the class of Aiden Markram, and the power of Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller. Klaasen and Miller recently showcased their brilliance against Australia, forming a breathtaking partnership of 222 runs in just over 15 overs, with Klaasen scoring an astonishing 174 from only 83 balls.
On the bowling front, South Africa has a wealth of quality. Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi stand out among the pacers, and Keshav Maharaj is a very effective left-arm finger spinner. However, the absence of the injured Anrich Nortje is a significant blow, and his absence will be keenly felt.
Beyond personnel, the big question mark for South Africa is whether they can perform in knockout matches of ICC events. They’ve missed strong opportunities in the past, such as the infamous 1999 World Cup semi-final against Australia. Whether this group carries any lingering mental baggage from past events remains to be seen. Nonetheless, even without Nortje, South Africa presents a formidable white-ball team known for playing confident and aggressive cricket.
Player to Watch: Heinrich Klaasen
Heinrich Klaasen is arguably one of the best white-ball batsmen in the world at the moment, and what better stage to showcase his skills than in his maiden 50-over World Cup in India?
Klaasen recently sent a clear message to the cricketing world when he scored a remarkable 174 against Australia. However, his rise has been in the making for some time now, and he left a lasting impression during The Hundred tournament in the summer.
Before that, Klaasen outperformed the likes of Harry Brook and Aiden Markram in the Indian Premier League (IPL). He finished as the leading run-scorer for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the 2023 edition of the IPL, amassing 448 runs in just 11 innings at an impressive average of 69.00, with a strike-rate of 146.80.
Klaasen has proven himself to be a player for all conditions. At 32 years of age, he is undoubtedly at the peak of his powers, and the stage is set for him to create defining moments in his career. His journey could potentially become a defining moment in the history of South African cricket, and the two might be intricately connected.
Sri Lanka (26.00)
Dasun Shanaka (c), Kusal Mendis, Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Perera, Dimuth Karunaratne, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya De Silva, Dushan Hemantha, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dunith Wellalage, Kasun Rajitha, Maheesh Theekshana, Matheesha Pathirana, Lahiru Kumara and Dilshan Madushanka
The numbers might suggest that Sri Lanka is a team on the rise, and they enter this World Cup with the momentum of reaching the final in the recent Asia Cup.
Between 2021 and 2022, Sri Lanka managed to secure series victories over South Africa and Australia at home. They also put up a strong performance in a few matches during an away series in India.
Head coach Chris Silverwood has been working on building a more solid team, often opting for an extra batter in the ODI line-up to ensure higher and more consistent scores. The goal is to make the team more competitive on a regular basis.
However, despite these efforts, Sri Lanka faced tough defeats at the hands of India during the Asia Cup, even with an additional batsman in the lineup. They only narrowly won against Pakistan when they seemed to be cruising towards victory for most of their run chase. In the final, they were bowled out for just 50 runs by India.
Player to Watch: Matheesha Pathirana
Matheesha Pathirana emerged as one of the standout talents in this year’s Indian Premier League, and just a few months later, he finds himself leading his country’s bowling attack in a World Cup, marking his debut on this grand stage.
The Chennai Super Kings made a shrewd move by securing the services of this exceptional fast bowler, whose bowling style bears a striking resemblance to his compatriot Lasith Malinga.
Pathirana’s performance in the IPL, where he claimed 19 wickets at an impressive economy rate of 8.00, has set the stage for his World Cup campaign in India. He also had a strong showing at the recent Asia Cup.
Known for his pace and a deadly yorker, delivered with a unique action that has become his trademark, Pathirana is no longer an unknown entity but is poised to make a significant impact in the tournament.