Monday, February 7, 2011

World Cup Predictions: Leading Wicket Taker

In a seven-part series, our own Matthew Wood goes head to head with Subash Jayaraman of The Cricket Couch and Dave Siddall of World Cricket Watch to send down their predictions for this year's World Cup.

Matt Wood

A quick glance at the stats from the last couple of World Cups reveals that the leading wicket taker has taken on average about 2.5 wickets per innings. In 2007 it was the indomitable Glenn McGrath while in South Africa Chaminda Vaas managed the most scalps. With that in mind, only a few of the bowlers on display this tournament have any chance of approaching those numbers: Malinga, Steyn, Brett Lee (involuntary shudder), Zaheer Khan and Pakistani pair Wahab Riaz and Umar Gul. Others may have the talent, discipline or unpredictability but these are the bowlers who are both in-form and better suited for the conditions available. They’re all pacemen, yes, but I remain unconvinced that any of the spin bowlers on show will be more than defensive stoppers. Lee will almost assuredly break down, so we can eliminate him; Pakistan produce the expected as often as they do adult film stars; leaving Khan, Malinga and the best fast man in the world, Dale Steyn. Steyn’s consistency sees him more likely to take a “Michelle” against a minnow, but Malinga’s slingers can be too much for even the best batsman to face – let’s go with the Sri Lankan.

WC Leading Wicket Taker Prediction: Lasith Malinga


Subash Jayaraman

There are couple of requirements for players to be featured in the leading wicket taker column. 1) Their respective teams need to make a deep run in the tournament 2) Face as many weak opposition teams as possible in the early round. Chaminda Vaas was the top wicket taker of the world cup in 2003 based on the fact that he took 12 of his 23 wickets against Bangladesh, Kenya and Canada. Of the total 10 matches he played in that tournament, he took more than half his share in just 3 matches against what could be called as weak opposition.

Looking at the 2011 World Cup Schedule, Group A has more number of weaker teams (Kenya, Canada and Zimbabwe) than Group B (Netherlands and Ireland). Bangladesh cannot be called a weak ODI squad anymore. It is not 2003 anymore and they are playing at home, where they have beaten New Zealand 4-0 in a recent series.

Therefore, by my hypothesis, the top wicket taker will emerge from Group A from the teams of Sri Lanka, Australia or Pakistan. Since the team has to make a deep run in the tournament and potentially play in the finals, I am more leaning towards Sri Lanka (Lasith Malinga or Muralitharan) than Australia (Brett Lee or Shaun Tait) or India (Zaheer Khan) or Pakistan (Umar Gul) or South Africa (Dale Steyn). Since Matt and David are already going for the pacers to be highest wicket takers, let me pick Muralitharan. This can be his swan song from all forms of international cricket.

WC Leading Wicket Taker Prediction: Muttiah Muralitharan


David Siddall

The leading wicket taker in the tournament will come from a team that goes a long way in the competition. Currently if you were asked to name the best quicks in the world [excluding the likes of the Mohammads Amir and Asif] the same names would crop up time after time – Dale Steyn, Zaheer Khan, James Anderson, Morne Morkel, and Lasith Malinga. Of those names Dale Steyn is the best bowler in the world.

We mustn’t forget spin however, as it is likely to be a huge factor in the sub-continent and a determining factor in the outcome of the World Cup. I’m of the opinion that the leading wicket taker won’t be a spinner for two reasons: 1) attacking spinners are thin on the ground with Muttiah Muralitharan, Graeme Swann and Harbajhan Singh seemingly the only exceptions and 2) spinners tend to bowl in those languid middle overs where consolidation and keeping the scoreboard ticking over are the main concerns for the batsmen.

Thinking strategically about the aforementioned quicks and every angle explored leads to one figure being the leading wicket taker in the tournament. Lasith Malinga might not be the best bowler in the world, but unlike Dale Steyn he is head and shoulders above his fellow countrymen’s pacemen. When you also consider that he is the finest exponent of “death” bowling in one day cricket with a wicked yorker and a devilishly disguised slower ball, the justification for the slinger becomes even more apparent. A strike rate of 32.9 isn’t half bad either.

WC Leading Wicket Taker Prediction: Lasith Malinga


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