LONDON, May 29 (Xinhua) -- This year's ICC Cricket World Cup is set to be one off the most competitive in recent years as home and top ranked side England come into the tournament as favorites for their first ever world cup title.
India will be hoping their IPL star quality will give them the edge in the big, close games. Defending champions Australia also arrive with the wind in their sails. Recent upturn in form means that Australia land on English soil with an opportunity to spoil their bitter enemy England's chance for a world cup glory.
This is the best England one day side ever. Quality permeates throughout the team. A powerful opening partnership of Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy offer England a massive opportunity to put opposition bowling attacks on the back foot from the start of the innings. While the middle order contains the ever reliable and steady Joe Root and the genius, power hitting of Jos Buttler. Backed up by a strong bowling attack with leg spinner Adil Rashid leading the charge, it will take a serious batting line up to get on top of their attack.
Not many is the truth, England's bowling at the death remains a slight issue. Only the West Indies and Sri Lanka have a worse runs-per-over rate than England in the final five overs. However, they hope that the addition of young paceman Jofra Archa could be the solution to their late innings woes.
Jos Buttler. In a team full of genuine stars, middle order batsman Buttler stands as one of the most destructive batsman in the game today. He has the ability to change the game in an instant and if England have any hopes of winning they will need Buttler live up to his billing.
ODI ranking - 1
World Cup wins - 0
The IPL factor will be key for India. They have a squad that has been blooded with the best in the world, in the game's highest quality domestic competition. An eye catching top order of Sharma, Darwan and cricket's global superstar of Virat Kohli will spearhead any chance India have to win.
Other teams will not see many weaknesses in the Indian team, however a soft underbelly in the middle order will have opposition bowlers licking their lips. The chance to get through the top order and into weak middle order that only averages at 33 per wicket will be an enticing prospect.
Virat Kohli. Who else? Already one of the greatest to play the game, India's talismanic skipper stands out from the rest of the squad. Last year during India's tour to England, Kohli was the only Indian to manage and even flourish in the tricky English batting conditions.
ODI ranking - 2
World Cup wins - 2
Defending champions Australia will be buoyed by the return of star batsmen David Warner and Steve Smith. Both conveniently return after a year long ban for ball tampering and will be looking to put the scandal behind them. Smith scored a century in a warm up game victory against England and Warner has been looking like hitting the form we once witnessed before he was caught cheating in South Africa. These two will be supported by one of the fastest bowling attacks in world cricket, and are a frightening prospect for any batting unit.
Apart from Smith and Warner, the rest of the Australian batting line up is too slow and too inconsistent. Khawaja and Marsh often struggle to get out of first gear and all too often play and anchoring role in a batting line up when it is not necessary. Warner may be a strength but could also be a weakness for them. While no one doubts his talent on the field, his poor temperament and mental fragility remain question marks. Will he be able to cope with the chorus of boos that will be the soundtrack to his summer?
Pat Cummins, now 26, has a chance to cause real damage to Australia's foes. Bowling at 90mph plus, the favorable English bowling conditions could give the paceman a real chance to leave the tournament at the top wicket taker.
ODI ranking - 5
World Cup wins - 5
The best of the rest
While England, India and Australia stand out as the three clear favorites for this year's edition, one should not discount some of the other sides. South Africa will be hoping to banish the perennial tags of "serial chokers." While a number of their stars are in their twilight years or have retired, young prospects coming through and perhaps one final push from iconic batsman Hashim Amla or legendary fast bowler Dale Steyn could maybe see the Proteas finally crack the tournament.
Pakistan on the other hand have been in free fall since their shock win at the Champions Trophy two years ago. A declining batting order and an underwhelming bowling attack, the recent 4-0 series loss to England underlined their recent struggles. Yet, as is always the way with Pakistan, the chance to prove themselves on the biggest stage could pull out the best of them, and the chance to beat India in the group stage could provide the impetus for a memorable tournament.
New Zealand have quality and the team to potentially cause the big boys a few worries. Captain and batsman Kane Williamson is the model of consistency in the batting line up and has added more power to his game recently to make him an excellent all round player. A traditionally strong bowling attack with young paceman Lockie Ferguson could give New Zealand the chance to skittle out a few other teams for not many.
The West Indies biggest issue, as is always the case, is consistency. A team that is full of short format stars, such as Chris Gayle and Andre Russel, should be considered one of the favorites each year, but their lack of consistency lets them down. If the stars all hit form at the right time, then the West Indies may very well end up with a place in the semis.