WORLD CUP 2015 PREVIEW WITH IMPACT INDEX

It will not be any surprise that South Africa and New Zealand are among the four favourites for this World Cup, even from Impact Index’s point-of-view.

And yet, they both have one aspect each where they are severely vulnerable.

South Africa still has a poor Pressure Impact (of falling wickets) – which means their choking problems can resurface any time (which we had identified before the 2011 World Cup too; it happened in the quarter final). New Zealand, interestingly, appears to have a problem chasing – they have the joint-lowest Chasing Impact with West Indies and Sri Lanka amongst the 8 major teams.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Let’s look at each of the 8 main teams first through Impact Index to identify some talking points.

Here are all the squads through Impact Index. Afghanistan, Scotland and UAE are not in this as they have not played enough matches.

Teams

Overall Impact

Batting Impact

Bowling Impact

Form Impact

Conditions Impact

Australia

2.73

1.75

1.73

2.56

2.77

South Africa

2.55

1.87

1.74

2.8

2.52

India

2.51

1.73

1.36

2.31

2

New Zealand

2.35

1.49

1.56

2.73

2.39

Sri Lanka

2.35

1.58

1.46

2.69

2.23

Pakistan

2.24

1.48

1.38

1.96

2.21

England

2.15

1.32

1.7

2.17

2.23

West Indies

2.1

1.33

1.24

1.94

2.31

Bangladesh

2.03

1.18

1.31

1.94

1.75

Ireland

1.88

1.22

1.06

2.12

Zimbabwe

1.62

1.03

0.91

1.82

1.48

All Impact numbers on a scale of 0 to 5.
Form Impact measures ODI impact since Jan 2014.
Conditions Impact measures ODI impact of players in Australia and New Zealand.
So, from this we can say that our four favourites for the semi-finals are Australia, South Africa, India and New Zealand.

We look at the sides closely.

AUSTRALIA

Strengths: Absorbing pressure, wicket-taking propensity, high impact in familiar conditions.
Weaknesses: None

This should make them strong favourites, of course. That steely quality of absorbing pressure (of falling wickets) could also help them get past the one thing that could logically trip them – the pressure of playing such big games in front of their home crowd. A bad start (they play England and New Zealand early on) could do to them what happened to Allan Border’s team in the 1992 World Cup but the format is not as unforgiving now as it was then. Still, a loss or two early on could lead to Australia playing South Africa in the quarters, which would be a shame for the tournament. Australia’s team has great balance because of the many all-rounders they have – Faulkner, Maxwell, Marsh and Watson. The specialist bowling has variety – Starc has the highest Wickets Tally Impact in the world in the last 2 years. Johnson has been economical and consistent, Hazlewood has been high impact in his few games. They have some form issues though – Watson has been off-colour, as has Bailey. If Clarke plays, it will almost certainly be at the cost of Bailey, or at least should be. Australia were the highest impact team in the 2013 Champions Trophy but they didn’t get too far, partly because of bad luck. They would be hungry to rectify that this time. Very clearly, they are the favourites this year.

Highest Impact batsman: Michael Clarke
Highest Impact bowler: Mitchell Johnson
Highest Impact player: Shane Watson

Player to watch out for: James Faulkner

IMPORTANT IMPACT OBSERVATION:

Australia’s biggest strength is the number of all-rounders they have. This is what makes them the highest impact side in this tournament despite South Africa having higher impact specialist batting and bowling.

SOUTH AFRICA

Strengths: Scoring a high proportion of runs, high rate of scoring, excellent recent form.
Weaknesses: Absorbing pressure (of falling wickets), relatively low big match performers.

The weaknesses column for South Africa is the key one – both pressure and big match play will be in evidence from the quarter-finals. Their key batsmen Amla and de Villiers are in tremendous form. Their bowling is high impact too, led by Morne Morkel in this format – the highest impact South African ODI bowler ever. They are actually the highest impact bowling and batting side due to the specialists in their side. And yet, Australia is higher impact than them because Australia has more quality all-rounders. South Africa struggles to bowl their fifth bowler and Miller’s batting seems to have a reputation based on his T20 performances; he has been very mediocre in this format.

Highest Impact batsman: Hashim Amla
Highest Impact bowler: Morne Morkel
Highest Impact player: AB de Villiers

Player to watch out for: Quinton de Kock

 

IMPORTANT IMPACT OBSERVATION:
South Africa is still prone to choking as their Pressure Impact (ability of batsmen to absorb the pressure of falling wickets) is the joint-lowest amongst the eight main sides in this tournament (along with England). They had the same problem in 2011; it has not been sorted. They will be at their most vulnerable from the knockouts.

AB de Villiers: Highest impact player in the world in ODIs since 2011 World Cup.
AB de Villiers: Highest impact player in the world in ODIs since 2011 World Cup.

INDIA

Strengths: Ability to chase down scores, high proportion of runs scored, restrictive bowling.
Weakness: Taking wickets, low impact in this part of the world.

India is almost 25% better than any other side in this tournament when it comes to chasing targets. This should make that decision very easy for any team that wins the toss against them. They haven’t done well in this part of the world either. The bowling weakness manifests (especially with Jadeja still not entirely fit and Ishant Sharma out) eloquently through the Impact observation that the only bowling side among the 8 main sides here weaker than India’s is West Indies (despite Jadeja’s and Ashwin’s high Economy Impact in different conditions, though the bounce here should help them). This Indian team also scores on two other counts – not only is their batting high impact, the team also tends to play well in big matches. This is also primarily why this team is the highest impact Indian side to ever play the World Cup (word of caution – 2007 team was the highest impact before this) – despite inconsistencies, they tend to deliver during the big moments in this format. This factor could significantly be in play when the knockout rounds start and just a maximum of 3 games remain to the summit.

Highest Impact batsman: Virat Kohli
Highest Impact bowler: R Ashwin
Highest Impact player: MS Dhoni

Player to watch out for: Shikhar Dhawan

IMPORTANT IMPACT OBSERVATION:
India is the best chasing side in this World Cup, by a distance. They are almost 25% better than the next best side in this aspect. Interestingly, they did not chase even once in the recent triangular series in Australia.

Virat Kohli: Highest <attr class=
Chasing Impact batsman in ODI history." width="1131" height="1600" /> Virat Kohli: Highest Chasing Impact batsman in ODI history.

NEW ZEALAND  

Strengths: Absorbing pressure, restrictive bowling, current form.
Weaknesses: Propensity to score low proportion of runs, chasing down targets, not enough experience in winning big moments.

Curiously, New Zealand and India reverse each other’s attributes when it comes to chasing but have similarities when it comes to restricting the opposition (thanks primarily to Vettori, in this case). This New Zealand team has been good in these conditions though and their current form has been excellent too. They are also good at absorbing pressure, which could help them overcome the weight of high expectations from their public; even their legendary numbers of sheep perhaps see them as favourites this time. This entirely unfamiliar circumstance of entering the tournament as a favourite can have curious consequences for them. Their batting depends a bit too much on their shining new star Kane Williamson, still young, but the highest impact Kiwi batsman ever (in both ODIs and Tests). Ross Taylor has been outstanding too lately. And besides absorbing pressure, the team also scores at high rates – the recent Ronchi-Elliot partnership a great example of that – which, coupled with characteristic batting depth, makes them dangerous. Chasing down targets is their Achilles Heel, and opposing teams might want to remember this at the toss.

Highest Impact batsman: Kane Williamson
Highest Impact bowler: Kyle Mills
Highest Impact player: Kane Williamson

Player to watch out for: Corey Anderson

IMPORTANT IMPACT OBSERVATION:

Chasing targets down is a distinct weakness for both New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Teams against them could keep this in mind before the toss.

SRI LANKA

Strengths: Absorbing pressure, recent form, big-match performances.
Weaknesses: Chasing, Wicket-taking propensity.

Sri Lanka have the same impact as New Zealand but they are placed below the Kiwis because of their poor impact in these conditions. Their recent form has been good though (third-best after South Africa and New Zealand), despite losing their last two bilateral series. As a batting unit they are very good at absorbing pressure but have a very poor Chasing Impact . Their bowlers lack the ability to pick up wickets and depend a lot on Malinga who produced series-defining performances in both the major trophies Sri Lanka won in the last two years (Asia Cup and a bilateral series in England).  The likes of Karunaratne, Chandimal and Jeevan Mendis haven’t been high impact in the recent past and their batting still depends heavily on Dilshan, Sangakkara and Jayawardene. In fact, Dilshan has the lowest failure rate amongst all batsmen in ODIs in the last two years. It will be interesting to see Thirimanne’s performances as well – he registered two series-defining performances with the bat in the last one year (most by any Sri Lankan). At the quarter-final phase, they could be a dangerous side as their better players tend to be at their best in big matches. They could be a dark horse to reach the semis.

Highest Impact batsman: Kumar Sangakkara
Highest Impact bowler: Lasith Malinga
Highest Impact player: Kumar Sangakkara

Player to watch out for: Sachithra Senanayake

Ravindra Jadeja: The second-highest impact player for India in their ODI history.
Ravindra Jadeja: The second-highest impact player for India in their ODI history.

IMPORTANT IMPACT OBSERVATION:

It is interesting that Sri Lanka have a lot of players with series or tournament-defining performances . In fact, no team in this World Cup have as many between their players. This suggests that Sri Lanka might just be at their most dangerous during the knockout stages.

PAKISTAN

Strengths: Rate of scoring runs.
Weaknesses: Run-scoring propensity, taking wickets, current form.

Pakistan have struggled recently in this format. Now, with two of their highest impact players sitting out (Ajmal and Hafeez), they have a problem with picking enough wickets and scoring enough runs. Still, thanks to Afridi, Akmal and Ahmed, they are still dangerous for the rate they score at. But that is rarely a quality that gets a team far in a tournament like this, and Pakistan don’t look like they will this time. Younis Khan has not been a great ODI batsman. The highly underrated Misbah-ul-Haq (Pakistan’s highest impact ODI batsman in the last 10 years) is their biggest danger-man. With the ball, the massively-built Mohammed Irfan with enough support from Wahab Riaz and Afridi could make some serious dents. Still, if Pakistan make it to the semi-finals, it would be quite a surprise. This is the weakest side Pakistan has ever sent to the World Cup.

Highest Impact batsman: Misbah-ul-Haq
Highest Impact bowler: Shahid Afridi
Highest Impact player: Shahid Afridi

Player to watch out for: Haris Sohail

Hashim Amla: The highest impact batsman going into the World Cup.
Hashim Amla: The highest impact batsman going into the World Cup.

ENGLAND

Strengths: Taking wickets.
Weaknesses: Propensity to score runs, rate of scoring, absorbing pressure.

They are the third-highest impact bowling unit in this tournament. Typically, high impact bowling sides do well in long-drawn-out tournaments like this. England are well-endowed on that front – Finn, Anderson, Broad, Woakes, Tredwell and Jordan provides a great wicket-taking line-up to choose from. Moreover, Moeen Ali has bowled well in Australia in the 5 matches he has played here. Their batting, however, lets them down, disproportionately so. Root and Bell have done well but the rest have been too inconsistent. Morgan is off-colour, Taylor is raw, Buttler is inconsistent – the side is perhaps capable of an upset or two, and if one of those upsets comes in the quarters, they can reach the semis but it is highly unlikely that this will go beyond.

Highest Impact batsman: Ian Bell
Highest Impact bowler: Stuart Broad
Highest Impact player: Stuart Broad

Player to watch out for: Moeen Ali

 

IMPORTANT IMPACT OBSERVATION:
Despite being a relatively low impact side, England has the third-highest impact bowling side in this World Cup, after South Africa and Australia. Good bowling sides tend to do well in these kinds of long tournaments.

WEST INDIES

Strengths: Scoring at a quick rate, High impact in these conditions.
Weaknesses: Everything else.

Sadly, they have little going for them as this is the weakest West Indian side to have played in a World Cup. They have the second-lowest Batting Impact and the lowest Bowling Impact amongst the top eight Test playing nations in this World Cup. West Indies’ Bowling Impact is in fact even lower than Bangladesh’s. Except for their Strike Rate Impact , they are poor and low down the table in each and every batting and bowling parameter. Interestingly, they are fourth on the table (after Australia, South Africa and New Zealand) when it comes to their performances in Australia and New Zealand, thanks mainly to a 2-2 series draw against New Zealand early last year. Narine’s absence will be a huge blow as he has been their highest Economy Impact bowler in the last two years. Their highest impact batsman in this squad, Chris Gayle has a batting failure rate of 71% in the last two years- more than any other specialist batsman from West Indies. Given their low impact squad, their selection policies were bizarre – Pollard is West Indies’ second-highest impact player in ODIs played in Australia (since 2000) and Dwayne Bravo is their highest impact player in ODIs played in New Zealand (since 2000) and both have not been picked. The minnows in their group (namely Ireland, Zimbabwe and UAE) will probably fancy their chances against them.

Highest Impact batsman: Chris Gayle
Highest Impact bowler: Jerome Taylor
Highest Impact player: Chris Gayle

Player to watch out for: Andre Russell

 

IMPORTANT IMPACT OBSERVATION:
As hosts, both Australia and New Zealand will be under pressure from their home crowds. Australia for being clear favourites and New Zealand for starting as a favourite from the beginning of the tournament. However, both these teams have a high Pressure Impact , which augurs well for them, even though the nature of pressure is different.

A CAPTAINCY ANGLE

If you look at the winners of all World Cups so far, each one of those sides has been led by an inspirational captain who has also been an all-time great ODI player for their respective teams. Look at these eight names – Lloyd, Kapil, Border, Imran, Ranatunga, Waugh, Ponting and Dhoni.

Who in the current lot comes close to them? Only Clarke’s and Dhoni’s names really stand out in a lot that also includes de Villiers, McCullum, Morgan, Misbah, Mathews and Holder.

De Villiers is an all-time great player but as a captain, has he shown that level of command over his team and their fortunes? McCullum may have somewhat, but as a player, is he in that league?

Curiously, once again we get Australia, South Africa, India and New Zealand as the four teams to get to the semis, even if not in that order.

 

Jaideep Varma/ Soham Sarkhel
Caricatures: Vasim Maner