While a few teams had a pretty stable squad, some really didn’t, and there were some shocking squad inclusions (and exclusions) so, at the half-way stage, I thought to look at some of them.
The squad itself was not a big issue, but the captaincy was. Mohammad Shahzad had been the regular captain but then they went with Ashgar Afghan and then, suddenly, Gulbadin Naib. Former captains Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan were there too, but they weren’t in consideration. Gulbadin, technically an “all rounder” is a fringe play for Afghanistan, so to have him named captain was a bit of a risk. As for Shahzad, one of the big names of Afghanistan cricket found himself kicked out of the side entirely, with the official word that he was unfit, but he himself said he wasn’t. He has even threatened to quit cricket over the fiasco.
While the top 11 was pretty settled, the issue came with who was going to hold the drinks. It had been widely predicted that Matthew Wade and Josh Hazlewood would be there, but when the squad was announced they were nowhere to be seen, while Shaun Marsh and Kane Richardson were. If not for a sudden decision by Cricket Australia to axe an in-form James Faulkner, he’d have been a walk-up start too, but now he is a T20 professional due to the unfair axing. He still could have been called up, at least when Marcus Stoinis was looking like missing out, but it wasn’t to be. Not the biggest problems considering what other teams were going through but some big issues just the same.
Surprisingly, perhaps, Bangladesh’s only question was who would be captain. While many wanted Shakib al Hasan to take the reigns, and Tamim Iqbal as well as Mushfiqur Rahim were considered, in the end they went with a guy who has been a consistently good captain in Mashrafe Mortaza. While the others might be better players, they decided to have a professional captain and, so far at least, it’s worked pretty well! Let the players play and the captains captain!
Alex Hales was meant to be in the squad but suddenly he was criticised for smoking marijuana, and then, while he wasn’t meant to be punished, suddenly he was kicked out of the squad and replaced with Jofra Archer, who wasn’t meant to be eligible. Changing rules meant that the West Indian born bowling all-rounder was suddenly there, and played in every match, as England’s best player. Alex Hales can whinge about the unfairness of his absence but for England having Jofra Archer at their disposal has proven to be a goldmine, even if it was a bit manipulative.
India’s only issue was backup players, as their top 11 was very settled, and ultimately it seems like they just tossed a coin, or perhaps a few coins, and picked seemingly random players to fill in the backup slots. Not that it really matters.
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This side was pretty easy to pick, and there was no discussion about it at all. Lucky New Zealand. It’s probably why they’ve done as well as they did.
One of the big talking points was the absence of Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz, who weren’t even in the squad in spite of being regular players for Pakistan. While the official word was that they were out of form, and numbers seemed to suggest that the claims were right, they ended up bringing them in as late changes anyway, and they’ve each played in every one of Pakistan’s matches, with Mohammad Amir the best player. Good job Pakistan, eventually at least, though the original decisions were a bit weird. Maybe they were just pretending to have a bad squad.
Abraham Benjamin de Villiers, or A B de Villiers for short, and sometimes just AB, retired a year before the World Cup but, secretly, he un-retired just in time for the World Cup, only for the powers that be to say no to it, and decide instead to give Dale Steyn another chance. Dale Steyn got injured and sent home, and as it turns out that one big batsman there would have been enough to have won all of the matches they lost, especially given the form of Hashim Amla, as they had 3 narrow losses and even their 1 blowout, against England, was one they could have won. They probably lost the most out of their bad selections.
To make sense of Sri Lanka’s selections is nearly impossible. They changed captains some 6 times, and chopped and changed players all over the place with the final team being a dog’s breakfast as they were widely predicted to finish the tournament bottom of the table and winless. Even the win over Afghanistan was a minor upset, but the win over England was huge and suddenly they are a theoretical chance of making the semi-finals. And this is while they are busy putting in complaints about the way that the ICC is treating them. Somehow, by a pure fluke, they seem to have got everything together, and the 9th ranked team are looking a bit better than that.
Marlon Samuels should have been there, along with Dwayne Bravo and Keiron Pollard, while Alzarri Joseph should have been there too, and, as for Darren Sammy, why not? They had no idea who their best squad was, other than Andre Russell being a part of it, along with the captain Jason Holder, and yet, somehow, the 7th ranked team beat New Zealand in the warm-up and their first proper game against Pakistan, both by huge margins, and then they were about to beat Australia, and then didn’t, and then they lost to everyone. Would any of those 5 names made a difference? It’s hard to say. Certainly, the players that are there have done their best, but it just seems like maybe they could have had a better side.