The upcoming edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 has been shrunk to 10 teams – a decision, which was mocked by the Ireland captain William Porterfield as “an absolute joke” and “an absolute disgrace” in a press conference back in 2015 World Cup. Despite strong protest from the Associates and Affiliates as well as a few low profile full members, the International Cricket Council (ICC) did not back out from its stand. As a result, now we have the much talked about ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier (CWCQ) coming up in Zimbabwe next month, in which four Test-playing nations will battle it out with six Associates for two available spots (Seven top-ranked ODI teams along with the host England are qualified already) in next year’s flagship cricketing event in England.
With Nepal and UAE finishing in the top two at the recently concluded ICC World Cricket League Division 2, the ten teams for this Qualifying event are now finalised. The teams are divided into two groups and top two teams from each group will qualify for the playoffs.
Let’s have a closer look at both the groups discuss the possibilities of each team.
Group A: West Indies, Ireland, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, UAE
West Indies: Despite missing some key players, two-time former world champion West Indies are the strongest team in the competition, without any doubt. From Group A, the Jason Holder-led Windies are the red-hot favourite to make it to the playoffs. Though Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard and Darren Bravo have decided to skip this tournament to play in the Pakistan Super League, the team still has the big names like Marlon Samuel, Chris Gayle and Kemar Roach who can add value to the squad.
Ireland: After getting Test status last year, this CWCQ will be Ireland’s first major competition. They will be playing their first ever Test match against Pakistan later this year, but before that, the Porterfield-led side will face a stiff test to qualify for the 2019 World Cup. In Group A, after they are the second most fancied team after West Indies. They have an experienced squad as eight players among the 15-member squad have played more than 100 ODIs. Furthermore, Ireland are coming to Zimbabwe with form on their side. In last December-January, they won six out of their seven 50-over fixtures against teams like Afghanistan, Scotland and UAE in Dubai.
Netherlands: Peter Borren-led Netherlands booked their spot at the CWCQ by finishing top of the ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Championship. Netherlands won ten of their 14 matches in the WCL Championship, finishing three points clear of second-placed Scotland. In Group, they will be the dark horse for a playoff spot.
Papua New Guinea: Papua New Guinea were the final team to qualify for the CWCQ from the WCL Championship, as they finished in fourth spot. they won eight of their games in that competition, but finished with 16 points. The CWCQ will give them an opportunity to qualify for their first-ever Cricket World Cup, after receiving ODI status in March 2014. All-rounder Assad Vala will lead the squad in this tournament.
UAE: UAE will look to grab a spot at their third Cricket World Cup at this Qualifiers. Though they are not the much-fancied side in the tournament. UAE booked their place at the CWCQ thanks to a second-place finish at WCL Division 2, where they won three out of their five games to go through on net run rate. Experienced Rohan Mustafa will lead them in this Qualifiers.
Group B: Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Scotland, Nepal, Hong Kong
Zimbabwe: Since making World Cup debut back in 1983, Zimbabwe have appeared at nine editions of the competition and are currently ranked 11th in the ODI rankings. In Group B, they will be a strong opponent. Also, they are boosted by the return of Brendan Taylor, who took a two-and-a-half-year break from internationals before coming back to the fold in October 2017.
Recently the author got in touch with Zimbabwe’s batting coach Lance Klusener regarding their chances in this Qualifiers. The former South African legend spoke about the recent ODI series triumph against Sri Lanka in their own backward and how it is being a morale-booster for the boys going into this competition.
“Look, we are desperate to qualify [For the world cup]. They boys know the magnitude of the task and they are taking inspirations from our series win in Sri Lanka. That series has given the change room a self-belief. Now the boys know, anything is possible,” Klusener said.
“The return of Brenden and Jarvis from England has boosted the morale of the entire team. We all know what Brendan is capable of. His experience will be invaluable,” the South African further added.
Leg-spinner Graeme Cremer will lead this team.
Afghanistan: The spirited Afghans are arguably the strongest team in Group B. Fresh from their series win against Zimbabwe in Dubai, the Asghar Stanikzai-led team should be confident about their chances. Though they should guard against the complacency factor as each match in this Qualifier will be vital and defeat can hamper their chances of a second World Cup appearance.
In this competition, the cricketing world will be keen on the watching 16-year-old mystery spinner Mujeeb Zadran bowling in tandem with leggi Rashid Khan. Furthermore, after missing most of the last year due to an ICC suspension, flamboyant wicket-keeper batsman Mohammad Shahzad is also making a comeback.
Afghanistan will be the team to beat in this edition of CWCQ.
Scotland: A dark horse of Group B, Scotland will have its task cut out to qualify for next years’ World Cup. They won eight out of their 14 games in the WCL Championship to finish second in the standings and confirm their place at the CWCQ. They recently featured in a Tri-Series in Dubai, where they managed a victory over UAE. This time, the Scottish side knows they have to do something out of the box to qualify for the playoffs.
Experience Kyle Coetzer will lead Scotland in this campaign.
Nepal: With a breathtaking last-ball victory over Canada in their final game at WCL Division 2 earlier this week, Nepal confirmed their place in this competition. Following an impressive debut in World T20 back in 2014, the Paras Khadka-led Nepal are dreaming for their maiden 50-over World Cup spot. Don’t be surprised if Nepal spoils the party of a higher-ranked team in the Group B.
Hong Kong: After winnings eight matches in the WCL, Hong Kong qualified for this edition of CWCQ. They chasing their first ever World Cup spot and Babar Hayat will lead them in this tournament. They are probably the least fancied team in Group B.
The tournament will be held from March 4 to March 25, with matches are scheduled in Harare, Bulawayo and Kwekwe.