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Cricket World Cup 2015- Realistic Evaluation of the Teams!

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How important is history when determining the future? I’ve seen quotes saying that the future is not always determined by the past, but somewhere when we look to predict who would win out of multiple choices, our brain is hardwired to look at history. So how much of history is the right quantity to look? Is it 2 years, 4 years, 8 years or previous editions of the World Cup?

I am trying to keep it as recent as possible and also will attempt to delve a little into how combinations, conditions also might contribute to feeling comfortable with predictions. I am taking into account how some of the top teams have performed in conditions usually counted as tough (AUS/NZ/SA/ENG) in the last 2 years in ODI’s. Last two years because a world cup combination is usually picked on the performance in the last 2 years.

As we get into the 2015 World Cup, the world has changed quite a bit since 1992, when the tournament was last played in Australia and New Zealand. Back then the bowlers were far better, and 250+ chases were rare. But what stands still amidst the test of time is that the World Cup is usually won by sides that are exceptional in one or more of the three skills of batting, bowling, fielding and keeping mental reserves handy for managing pressure.

In 1992 Pakistan, won it for having a penetrative bowling attack that gathered steam as the tournament came to its end. In 1996 Sri Lanka won it on the basis of a deep batting line up, and a bowling line up useful for the conditions for restricting the opposition. From 1999 and 2003, the tournament was won on sheer dominance with a team that ticked all boxes and set new standards for each of batting, bowling and fielding, apart from finding metal reserves of steel when they were cornered. 2007 was again won by Australia on the basis of a team that had peaked in new benchmarks of excellence, with them being hardly challenged?

In 2011, because of a non-challenging format, India braved ordinary performances with the ball and fielding against England and South Africa, to qualify for the knockouts, despite their rather one-sided exceptional batting exploits. In the knockout games, their bowling and fielding picked up, albeit for a short duration of 3 matches, with the batting pulling them out of the woods of pressure to win the World Cup. South Africa over the years from 1996-2011 have ticked all boxes except for the mental resolve which decides to take a break when they need it most in a knockout game.

The 2015 World Cup is likely to be played on pitches that aid batting, wickets slower than the usual wickets as seen in the Australian summer so far. With 2 new balls, and lesser scope for the ball to reverse swing, the onus will be on having a strong opening partnership to have wickets in the end to push the scoring. Unless the opposition strives hard to attack and take wickets, most of the top batting sides will willow their way to 270+ scores, as England found out in the final of the tri-series against Australia after allowing Australia to waltz their way to 278 after having them on the mat at 4/60.

One dimensional sides that are good at one of the skills will find it tough to survive in conditions for this years world cup, as you are bound to have good true pitches for batting in Australia and New Zealand, but the side that may stretch its neck ahead may well be sides with a strong top heavy batting side, a mix of all rounder’s and penetrative bowling. On the look of it, I have done some number crunching around where to keep my expectation and wits around the teams.

The sides are ranked on a string of parameters and grouped into slots. All matches played on bounce, seam and swing aiding countries taken into account (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, England) over a 2-year period (Jan 01-2013 to Jan 31 2015). I have awarded points if a team’s batting run rate is above a pre defined number (5.25), and if their bowling run rate is below the same number (5.25).

Similarly factored are their batting and bowling averages, with the threshold for points defined as 30.00. Also awarded are additional points if their batting run rate is greater than bowling run rate, and the batting average is greater than the bowling average. The biggest factor is the % of wins (excluding no result matches from the denominator of total matches), where higher points are awarded based on which bucket the % falls in. This should give an accurate factor of trying to get closer to the question of what to expect from the top 8 sides in this year’s World cup. So in short the 3 metrics taken are the following

  1. a) Win % of sides
  2. b) Batting and bowling run rates
  3. c) Batting and bowling averages

So here go the numbers and the inferences below them

 

 

Figure 1- Record of Teams playing in Swing/Seam/Bounce/Seam conditions (AUS/ENG/NZ/SA)

[CLICK on the image to see it clearly]

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 10.58.27 am

 

Figure 2- Rankings/Seeding of sides based on recent history.

[CLICK on the image to see it clearly]

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 10.58.43 am

Favorites

Australia, New Zealand and South Africa (8,8 and 9 points respectively).

They tick each of the skills boxes easily and rank high on mental resolves to come out of tough situations

One Dimensional side

LEVEL 1

India, England, Sri Lanka

Despite India’s perceived weak bowling, overall India packs the best punch among sides ranked 4-8 in my simulation, with their batting coming to their rescue. What’s statistically not factored is the fielding and shoulders dropping when things don’t go well for India. England and Sri Lanka have shown signs of late blooming a month before the world cup, but overall have had disappointing results under such conditions. But largely all the one-dimensional sides seem to have famine when it comes to performance once their passports are stamped. The one-dimensional sides are unfortunately dependent on good days when most skill sets come together for them, for a short period like India did in 2011. I’d pick one of these sides for the semi finals, and maybe all of them for the quarterfinals.

LEVEL 2

Pakistan, West Indies

This level basically has sides struggling to make an impact with their batting or bowling, with marked differences between their batting and bowling averages, which brings out the mercurial nature of these sides. While Pakistan were more or less similar in 1992, but their bowling had the experience and penetration, with decent batsmen and a leader who led his men to believe that they were cornered tigers. This time around, Pakistan may spring a surprise or two but recent history suggests that they may just about make the quarters. West Indies seem like an aged cobra without any fangs in their batting and bowling and hardly look the side that is going to be challenging anyone in this format. Too much rests on young Holder’s shoulders, and given the pressure that’s required to win a few straight games, the Caribbean’s don’t even have the surprise element of a wild card candidate to make it to the quarter finals.

Sides expected to struggle

Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, UAE, SCOTLAND

These sides hardly get games to play in these conditions, and out of the mix, Scotland is the only side with some experience in some swing aided conditions, but their lack of experience facing international opponents nullifies their familiarity with part of the conditions. The bigger challenge for some of these sides would be last 50 overs, and challenge sides.

Sides that are here for the experience and may spring a surprise

Ireland, Afghanistan

Both sides have shown previously that they are willing to rise up their game, and give it their best, when it comes to believing that they belong at this level. Ireland has been involved in giant killing acts in the previous 2 world cups, and while Afghanistan makes its debut in the format in the 50 over World Cup, after promising performances in the T20 world cups over the past 5 years. Afghanistan also showed that they could put up a brave face in the longer format of the game against top sides, as seen in the Asia cup in 2014.

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