The International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup 2019 is less than a week away and the excitement is reaching its peak with every passing day. In the first of our two-part tournament preview, we bring you a list of five teams who we think will enter the contest with the tag of underdogs and will overachieve if they qualify for the last-four.
Afghanistan will be taking part in their second-ever ICC World Cup this time around. In the 2015 edition, the Afghans played six matches and finished with just one victory. However, since then a lot has changed and the team from the war-torn country is now a pretty decent force to be reckoned with, especially in the presence of star players like all-rounder Mohammad Nabi and leg-spinners Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman. However, looking at the conditions in England, expecting this Afghan team, who are extremely talented, to qualify for the final-four might prove to be a step too far, especially because of the league-like format.
Sri Lanka feature regularly in the ICC mega events but this time around they are expected to finish in the last two, largely because of internal politics in the country's cricketing authorities. The Islanders are one of the five teams in the history of the sport to lift the World Cup, which they did back in 1996 under the leadership of Arjuna Ranatunga. The team's strength is their batting department where players like Kusal Perera and Angelo Mathews can hurt any bowling lineup. However, the team certainly does not have the tools to qualify for the final-four and are strong contenders to finish on the bottom of the table after the round-robin stage.
Bangladesh are now a permanent feature in the ICC mega events as the team will be taking part in their sixth World Cup. But this is going to be the first time when Bangladesh will enter the contest not as a minnows anymore as the team have made great strides in the world of cricket in last four years. The Tigers have a poor record in World Cups where they only managed to win 11 matches in 32 outings. But the Mashrafe Mortaza-led unit will be the real dark horses in the upcoming edition, especially after an impressive show during the ICC Champions Trophy two years back which was organised in same conditions where they managed to qualify for the last-four. The team's strong point is their batting and the spin department and teams should be ready for few surprises.
West Indies is a renowned name in the world of cricket, more so because of two back-to-back wins in the first two editions of the ICC World Cup in 1975 and 1979. However, the Caribbean giants are going through crisis phase for a while and had to take part in the qualification round to cement their place in this edition of the mega event. Of late, Windies have shown pretty impressive form and can be a dangerous customer for any opposition as teams will not be comfortable playing against them. Team's strength lies in the hard-hitting players like Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer and Andre Russell whereas their weak point is their bowling department.
Pakistan is a team which is being loved by many cricket followers, mostly because of their mercurial nature. Twelve months ago, the Men in Green were in line to become one of the favourties to life the title on July 14. However, after suffering 10 defeats in a row leading up to the tournament, Sarfraz Ahmed-led unit are now one of the underdogs in the mega event, which might not be a bad thing after all the team have historically thrived with the such a tag. However, the Green Caps will feel relatively confident going into this year's World Cup as their record in England is pretty decent in the mega events where they've won twice (World T20 in 2009 and Champions Trophy in 2017) and finished runners up (1999 World Cup) in four previous competitions. The team from the subcontinent have already won the World Cup back in 1992 under the leadership of Imran Khan. This time around, their strength is once going to be the bowling unit.