Welcome to the third instalment of my Cricket World Cup preview. Today I look at the first of the test-playing nations in Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
Zimbabwe (Group B)
Fixtures: vs South Africa, Seddon Park, Hamilton, vs UAE, Saxton Oval, Nelson, vs West Indies, Manuka Oval, Canberra, vs Pakistan, The Gabba, Brisbane, vs Ireland, Bellerive Oval, Hobart, vs India, Eden Park, Auckland.
Squad: Elton Chigumbura (c), Regis Chakabva (wk), Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Hamilton Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Solomon Mire, Tawanda Mupariwa, Tinashe Panyangara, Sikandar Raza, Brendan Taylor (wk), Prosper Utseya, Sean Williams.
Zimbabwe come into the World Cup with an experienced side, led by all-rounder Elton Chigumbura. Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor have been the stars of the side in all three formats for a few years now, and they will again lead the batting. Taylor is a class player and last year became the first Zimbabwean to be awarded an IPL contract. Sikandar Raza and the experienced Stuart Matsikenyeri will most likely open after Matsikenyeri replaced the out-of-form Vusi Sibanda. Solomon Mire, Chigumbura, Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Regis Chakabva and Sean Williams provide plenty of batting and bowling options in the lower middle order, and the side definitely has the capacity to win a few games.
From a bowling point of view, however, there are a few questions still remaining. The pace attack seems to be lacking a leader, and while Tendai Chatara, Tawanda Mupariwa and Tinashe Panyangara are good bowlers none of them are particularly dominant. The other issue is that of the frontline spinner. Prosper Utseya would fill this role, but his off-spin was deemed illegal, and he can only bowl his slow or medium pace deliveries. It raises the issue of why he was picked, but he won’t be much use as a spinner. The other spinner picked, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, has a modest international record, and may struggle against the best players in the world. Overall, Zimbabwe are a strong batting side, but it will be interesting to see how the bowlers perform.
Bangladesh (Group A)
Fixtures: vs Afghanistan, Manuka Oval, Canberra, vs Australia, The Gabba, Brisbane, vs Sri Lanka, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, vs Scotland, Saxton Oval, Nelson, vs England, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, vs New Zealand, Seddon Park, Hamilton.
Squad: Mashrafe Mortaza (c), Al-Amin Hossain, Anamul Haque, Arafat Sunny, Mahmadullah, Mominul Haque, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Nasir Hossain, Rubel Hossain, Sabbir Rahman, Shakib Al Hasan, Soumya Sarkar, Taijul Islam, Tamim Iqbal, Taskin Ahmed.
Bangladesh bring a strong side to the tournament, and while there are many in it who have never played in a World Cup before there is still an experienced core of players. Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan are both world-class, and Shakib will be ably supported in the middle order by Mushfiqur Rahim, Mominul Haque, Nasir Hossain and Mahmadullah. The bowling attack is led by captain Mashrafe Mortaza, and includes Al-Amin Hossain and Rubel Hossain. The spin attack includes Shakib and Mahmadullah as well as Taijul Islam and Arafat Sunny. Anamul Haque will join Tamim at the top of the order and Soumya Sarkar will likely bat at three. Sarkar will also be relied upon to become a back-up opener and back-up seamer if needed. This could prove too much, as he is still young.
There are, however, many young players in the squad, and this inexperience could cause some issues. Al-Amin and Nasir Hossain are returning from recent form slumps, and this is not ideal considering their importance to the side. Plenty of pressure will be placed on Anamul at the top of the order, and this could prove too much considering his fairly modest international record. Bangladesh will most likely aim for the quarter-finals, but the attack lacks a strike bowler, and this will hurt their chances. They will also not have a long time to adapt to the extra pace and bounce of the wickets, and the batsman and spin bowlers performance may be affected. Despite this, Bangladesh have a strong side and have a fairly strong chance to progress.
Tomorrow: I start previewing the top 8 teams in the world when I look at the West Indies and Pakistan.