Contenders, outsiders and also-rans: World Cup team-by-team guide

David Lloyd considers which sides will prosper over the next six weeks – and who will fall short
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The Independent Online

Australia

23 May 1999. That was the last time Australia lost a World Cup match (to Pakistan).

Since then they have won 28 of 29 games – and tied the other one. Winning a fourth consecutive World Cup is not beyond them but a lack of quality spin leaves Ricky Ponting's men vulnerable on the subcontinent. Losing Mike Hussey weakens the batting but there is still enough firepower to trouble most teams – unless the ball turns sharply. Pace, playing it and bowling it, is their strength.

Prediction: Beaten semi-finalists.

Rising star: Callum Ferguson – Hussey's replacement.

Pakistan

Any other team would have been shaken beyond repair by recent events involving Messrs Butt, Asif and Amir. Pakistan, though, are so used to crises they seem to take them in their stride. Clearly, they are hurt by the loss of two top notch bowlers but it would be foolish to underestimate this side in conditions they know so well. Still plenty of experience (think Younis Khan and Shoaib Akhtar) but they are unlikely to go all the way.

Prediction: Out in the quarter-finals.

Rising star: Ahmed Shehzad – teenaged batsman.

Sri Lanka

Winners in 1996, the last time the World Cup was held in their neck of the woods, and many people's tip to be there or thereabouts again. Lasith Malinga, all hair and round arm thunderbolts, will be one of the sights of this tournament, and few would begrudge Muttiah Muralitharan a bit more joy before retiring from international cricket. But the batting may lack enough sparkle to earn them the prize they have set their hearts on.

Prediction: Out in the quarter-finals.

Rising star: Angelo Mathews – action man all-rounder.

New Zealand

Like England, the Kiwis have threatened on several occasions to lift one-day cricket's premier prize but a clutch of semi-finals is all they have to show for their efforts so far. Given some deeply depressing recent form (defeats in 14 of their last 16 completed ODIs with most of the losses on the subcontinent) it would be a surprise if they did much this time. But New Zealand almost always rise to the big occasion and will be dangerous last-eight opponents.

Prediction: Out in the quarter-finals.

Rising star: Tim Southee – swings both bat and ball.

Zimbabwe

The late loss of all-rounder Sean Ervine, who decided against a return to international cricket in favour of prolonging his Hampshire career, is a major blow to Zimbabwe's hopes of a springing a shock or two. But there's no doubt cricket, at least, is on the up again in that country and they ought to be the best of the rest at this World Cup. Additionally, if they can catch New Zealand or Pakistan on a particularly bad day then a big win is possible.

Prediction: Lively also-rans

Rising star: Prosper Utseya – prospering spinner.

Kenya

World Cup semi-finalists in 2003 but firmly back among the minnows these days. Hard to see their mix of old and new causing shock waves this time.

Prediction: May win a game

Rising star: Seren Waters – Surrey-schooled opener.

Canada

Fourth World Cup – after 1979, 2003 and 2007 – but little chance of them stretching any of the bigger boys. Likely to leave empty-handed.

Prediction: Whipping boys

Rising star: Nitish Kumar – 16-year-old batsman.

South Africa

Deserve to be considered hot prospects because they have the lot – except a track record for doing themselves justice. There are runs galore in the top order, from captain Graeme Smith down, and pace aplenty with the brilliant Dale Steyn leading the way. And now, perhaps crucially, they have a "mystery" spinner in Imran Tahir. But until South Africa take the biggest prize, we – and probably they – will continue to wonder.

Prediction: Beaten finalists

Rising star: Imran Tahir – missing (spin) link.

India

When they won the World Cup in 1983, few people predicted their triumph. This time, countless millions are already handing the trophy to Mahendra Singh Dhoni and wondering who might finish second. It will not be anything like that easy, of course, but if India can handle the weight of expectation then they have the individuals – brilliant batsmen, accomplished bowlers and a charismatic leader – to see off all challengers.

Prediction: Winners

Rising star: Sachin Tendulkar – star who never stops rising.

Bangladesh

There is not a huge amount about Bangladesh's recent one-day form to encourage talk of them being serious contenders (some home wins against New Zealand and Zimbabwe but losses to England, India and Sri Lanka) but every tournament needs a surprise package. The Tigers should be able to get through their group. Then, with plenty of spinners and a dashing batsman like Tamim Iqbal, a quarter-final win is perfectly possible.

Prediction: Beaten semi-finalists

Rising star: Abdur Razzak – key spinner.

England

At least England are trying something different this tournament (Kevin Pietersen to open the batting) because too often in the past they have been boringly predictable – as in the "back to basics" approach used during the 2007 World Cup. Eoin Morgan is a big loss, though, and one wonders who will keep the scoreboard ticking against spinners on turning pitches. England's varied attack gives them a chance but scoring enough runs is likely to be the problem.

Prediction: Out in the quarter-finals

Rising star: Ian Bell – time to be a world-beater.

West Indies

Signs that the old giant is stirring again? Not really, looking at a string of losses to Sri Lanka and South Africa. West Indies have some stars – Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Shiv Chanderpaul spring to mind – but the sum of the parts seems unlikely to trouble too many teams, especially in a part of the world where they tend to struggle. Avoiding an early exit will be top of their agenda but may prove beyond them.

Prediction: Fifth in the group

Rising star: Kieron Pollard – six-hitting all-rounder.

Ireland

Enjoyed a shock win against Pakistan in the last World Cup and they could wreck someone's hopes this time, but unlikely to proceed beyond the group themselves.

Prediction: Dangerous minnows

Rising star: Paul Stirling – Talented 20-year-old batsman.

Netherlands

Famously beat England in a World Twenty20 match at Lord's a couple of years ago but 50-over matches give them less of a chance. Not to be taken lightly, though.

Prediction: No double for Dutch

Rising star: Alexei Kervezee – classy opening bat.

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