Whilst it is incredibly likely that the well-established teams will lift the World Cup, the performances of the less well-known teams usually provide an excellent spectacle. Some of the most famous “smaller” teams in the World Cup history include Bermuda and in particular Dwayne Leverock, and more recently Ireland, who beat England in the 2011 edition after the fastest ever World Cup century by Kevin O’Brien. This year, the Irish will be joined by Afghanistan, Scotland, United Arab Emirates, and to a lesser extent Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
Bangladesh have been a consistent fixture in the World Cup over the last few tournaments but have only succeeded in making it out of the group on one occasion, that in 2007 before finishing in second last position, ahead only of Ireland, in the Super Eights. Any chances of Bangladesh progressing from the group lay mainly with all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, who has showcased his talent many a time on the international stage and with Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League. Tamim Iqbal will hope to provide the Tigers with momentum at the top of the innings, with the signs of him putting his fitness worries behind him look good after a steady knock of 81 against Pakistan in their World Cup warm-up match. Bangladesh to possess useful lower-order batsmen, including Shakib, wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim and off spinner Mahmudullah, but it is at the top of the order where they will struggle if Iqbal misses out. Captain Mashrafe Mortaza will lead the bowling attack as well as the whole side, whilst Rubel Hossain will equip Bangladesh with an adequate attack. Nevertheless, the Tigers have additionally opted for youth in their squad to supplement the more experienced players. Anamul and Monimul Haque have both played less than 30 ODIs, whilst Arafat Sunny is yet to hit double figures in terms of appearances, and this may turn out to be their downfall yet again in the group stages. Despite such problems, it would be foolish to disregard Bangladesh as a potential threat, and can certainly cause an upset with Shakib and Tamim in the side.
Zimbabwe are the other team that most cricket fans would recognise. However, they have come a long way from Henry Olonga and Andy Flower. Nevertheless, Zimbabwe’s batting still seems to be their strength. Sikander Raza and Chamu Chibhabha will open the innings and have the potential to exploit the PowerPlay overs, whilst Hamilton Masakadza will be their key man before the middle order is concerned, and he must take his chance having missed the previous three World Cups due to inexperience, injury and form. Brendan Taylor will be the name that most fans are likely to recognise, having made his ODI debut 11 years ago against Sri Lanka, and will undoubtedly play a key role in the middle order. However, Zimbabwe may be hindered in the bowling department by the lack of an out-and-out fast bowler, especially in Australia. Tinashe Panyangara and Tendai Chetara could be a sufficient opening bowling pair, but ultimately a lack of pace may be their eventual undoing. They are on the other hand well stocked in the spin department, with Tafadzwa Kamungozi and Sean Williams will provide acceptable options but how much the ball will turn in this tournament remains to be seen. A relatively unknown side to most, this Zimbabwe team must grab the chance to perform on the international stage, although Dav Whatmore’s ambition of the quarter-finals may prove to be too unrealistic this time around.
Ireland’s most famous World Cup moment would certainly be the aforementioned win over England in Bangalore four years ago, and it would be unwise to rule them out of doing something similar in this tournament. This was echoed by coach Phil Simmons, who stated “We’ve produced some wonderful performances over the years in World Cups, and there’s no reason why we can’t claim further successes in Australia and New Zealand”. Captain William Porterfield will be participating in his third World Cup, as will the O’Brien brothers Kevin and Niall, the former having produced the magic in Bangalore. Ed Joyce, who will be familiar to England fans after playing 17 matches for them 2006-2010, is also part of that list, as is John Mooney. Their experience will be vital to those at the other end of the scale such as Andrew McBrine and Craig Young who will make their first appearances at a World Cup, along with Andrew Balbarnie, Peter Chase and Stuart Thompson. Max Sorensen has replaced the injured Tim Murtagh who also would have been a debutant. Simmons described these young players as “hungry”, before adding that they will maintain the “fierce” competition in the squad to keep “the more experienced players on their toes”. No doubt the excitement will build before their opener against West Indies, but Kevin O’Brien may again have to produce outstanding performances if Ireland are to make any headlines in Australia and New Zealand.
Afghanistan, UAE and Scotland are very new to the international stage, the latter having appeared twice in World Cups, the UAE having played in only one other World Cup in 1996, whilst Afghanistan are newcomers to the 50-over format of the World Cup. The UAE only began playing ODIs in 1994, and since have competed in tournaments such as the ICC Trophy, the ACC Trophy, ICC Intercontinental Cup, Asia Cup, and last year, the ICC World Twenty20. Afghanistan gained ODI status following the culmination of the 2011 Cricket World Cup qualifying tournament. After playing in similar competitions to UAE, Afghanistan played their first ODI against a Full Member of the International Cricket Council in 2012 against Pakistan in Sharjah, before playing Australia at the same venue later that year. In July of last year they toured Zimbabwe to play their first series against a full member, with the 4-match series ending 2-2. Having been knocked out in the group stages of the World Twenty20, Afghanistan on three occasions, and UAE just once, very little should be expected from these sides, but there is definitely the potential to see a future star in these sides.
Scotland managed to qualify in 1999 and 2007 but did not manage to record a single victory. Having played a triangular warm-up series against Afghanistan and Ireland, it was unfortunately uncapped Durham teenager Gavin Main who missed out on the final squad. Preston Mommsen and Kyle Coetzer will serve as captain and vice-captain for the Scots. Former England all-rounder and ODI captain Paul Collingwood, who will be assisting head coach Grant Bradburn, has targeted two victories in this tournament, however with Bangladesh and Afghanistan amongst their opponents, the potential for his wish to be fulfilled is not beyond the realms of possibility. However, it would be very difficult to see any of these sides progressing, but that will not stop the growth and interest in the sport in their respective countries, which is an extremely important aim for all the so-called “lesser” sides heading into the 2015 World Cup.
Photographs: whythefuzz.com, wikipedia