10 World Cup Captains & All That’s Riding on their 15-Man Squads
Just the 10 teams in this edition of the ICC World Cup but there’s a lot riding on the shoulders of the men who have been chosen to lead their nation’s campaign over the next two months in the United Kingdom.
There’s Eoin Morgan, who’s guided his team from a first-round exit from the 2015 World Cup to the top of the ICC ODI rankings, coming into this edition of the tournament. There’s Virat Kohli, the world’s best batsman, who brings with him a power-packed line-up and Aaron Finch, who wears a jersey that’s become synonymous with World Cup success.
But which of these captains can deliver come 14 July?
Here’s a look at the recent results, squad strength and most importantly, the expectations from the World Cup skippers.
Eoin Morgan: England
The most experienced in the lot of 10 skippers is Eoin Morgan, who was handed the captaincy before the 2015 World Cup. That team was knocked out in the group stage of the tournament, which forced the ECB to move focus to white-ball cricket. Four years later, this team, touted as England’s best-ever ODI side, enters the World Cup as the top-ranked one-day team in the world.
Since the last World Cup, England have not lost a home series in four years, posted 15 of their 17 highest ODI totals, won 57 out of 86 ODIs and broken the record for the highest ODI score twice. Seven players in their squad of 15 have scored centuries, the most by any of the teams at the World Cup. Need I explain more… why they’re the favourites?
Mashrafe Mortaza - Bangladesh
Another captain leading his team in a second World Cup is Mashrafe Mortaza who guided Bangladesh to their best-ever World Cup finish in 2015, when they reached the quarter-finals.
Still in his arsenal is Shakib-al-Hasan, the highest-ranked one-day all-rounder in the world who has a bit of a reputation of stepping it up on the highest stage. The team won a tri-series featuring a second-string West Indies side and Ireland earlier this month in which Soumya Sarkar top-scored with three consecutive half centuries.
Jason Holder - West Indies
Jason Holder is also a second-time World Cup captain but unlike the last time in Australia, there’s quite some expectations from this West Indies squad. After administrative tussles, Andre Russell and Chris Gayle are back in the squad and Gayle announced his intent by scoring 2 centuries and 2 50s earlier this year as the Windies drew England in an ODI series. He’s now been named the vice-captain and will be gunning for glory at his fifth and possibly last world cup.
Virat Kohli - India
Among the 7 players who will captaining in their first World Cup is Virat Kohli. With 4,306 runs, he’s the highest-scorer in one-day cricket since the last World Cup and starts the tournament as the top ranked ODI cricketer in the world. In his bowling armoury, he has Jasprit Bumrah, the leading bowler in one-day cricket. There’s MS Dhoni helping from behind the stumps, Rohit Sharma as his deputy, Bhuvneshwar’s swing and the Kul-Cha spin duo. But there are also gaping holes in the team’s plans with the entire squad coming off the back of an intense IPL, having not played international cricket since the 3-2 series loss at home to Australia in March.
Sarfaraz Ahmed - Pakistan
Pakistan is led by Sarfaraz Ahmed who guided the team to the Champions Trophy title in England just two years back when they weren’t even the outside favourites, ranked 8th in the world.
Since then though, they have lost 5 of the 7 series they’ve played, including a 5-0 whitewash at the hands of Australia and then a 4-0 defeat to England, both this year. Just 1 win in the last 14 ODIs and the team called upon Mohammad Amir to strengthen the attack in England, but will that be enough?
Though back in 1992 as well, under Imran Khan, the Pakistan team too had a terrible run of results going into the World Cup… but that run ended in their one world cup title to date.
Aaron Finch - Australia
The defending champions are being led by Aaron Finch with Steve Smith and David Warner returning to the fold only earlier this month. Warner lit up the IPL, finishing as the highest-scorer and Smith has proved his intent with some big scores in the warm-ups. Skipper Finch too now has some solid wins under his belt.
After winning just 2 out of his first 10 ODIs as captain, he enters the world cup on the back of 8 straight international victories. Man of the series in the 2015 world cup, Mitchell Starc, has seen his comeback from injury timed perfectly for England as the team enter the world cup ranked 5th.
Faf du Plessis - South Africa
South Africa has Faf du Plessis in the driver’s seat and he’s the skipper with the best winning record at this World Cup, finishing on top in 25 of the 30 ODIs he’s led his team in.
Taking a cue from his CSK squad, Faf’s Proteas team also has some stalwarts leading the charge with 5 players playing their third World Cup but there’s also a healthy mix of youth in the squad that will be trying hard to shed the chokers tag and possibly win the country’s first World Cup title.
Kane Williamson - New Zealand
New Zealand, the runners-up from the 2015 edition didn't in fact play international cricket for a large chunk of 2018. Not the most ideal of preparations but Kane Williamson’s Kiwis could be counted on to pull off a few big wins in England. Kane struggled with some injuries during the IPL and while his record at home is a good 67% wins, overseas he’s managed to win just 38 percent matches.
Dimuth Karunaratne - Sri Lanka
One of the two captains who was handed the top-job in the last two months is Karunaratne, who last played one-day cricket at the 2015 World Cup, was given the captaincy of the team after their 5-0 whitewash in South Africa. Following the exodus of the big stars following the last world cup, Sri Lanka has lost 55 of the 84 ODIs they played since then. Can a Test specialist not turn their fortunes in England?
Gulbadin Naib - Afghanistan
Gulbadin Naib was handed Afghanistan’s skipper’s duties last month when the squad for the World Cup was announced. Since then, he’s led the team to 2 wins in 3 ODIs against Ireland.
Afghanistan's biggest strength can be described in one word – spinners. They have the best limited overs spinner in the world in Rashid Khan whose variations alone take the pitch out of the equation. Add to that the threat posed by Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi and Afghanistan have a world class spin department that can make any batting unit utterly miserable.