Prospects Few will enjoy facing their spin attack, particularly the irrepressible Rashid Khan, and most Indian pitches should suit them. But they lost every game at the 2019 World Cup, despite getting into winning positions against India and Pakistan, and have a pitiful ODI record against the bigger teams. A landmark World Cup win is overdue.
Coach: Jonathan Trott Not the most obvious white-ball coach – his strike-rate was discussed endlessly during his England career – but Trott has a shrewd, inquisitive cricket brain. The only coach in the competition who has never been to the country he represents.
Players to watch: Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran A dynamic, boom-or-bust opening partnership, who recently added 256 against Bangladesh and 223 against Pakistan. If they fire, Afghanistan could take some big scalps.
Prospects Won four of the last six World Cups but suffered bruising defeats to South Africa and India last month. A formidable top order, including a born-again Mitch Marsh, will keep them in runs. Their squad looks light on bowling, particularly spin, and much will depend on how a great but ageing attack deals with more punch-drunkenness.
Coach: Andrew McDonald An understated, holistic coach who is more front-seat passenger than back-seat driver. Has been an avid follower of the Boston Red Sox baseball team since watching the film Good Will Hunting. But if Australia fail in India, it will be his fault.
Player to watch: Mitchell Starc Top wicket-taker in both his World Cup appearances, with an overall record of 49 wickets at 15. Even at 33 he has the pace, the angle – and the yorkers – to make stumps fly with new ball and old.
Prospects Their form has declined after some outstanding results in 2021 and 2022, and the controversial omission of the legendary Tamim Iqbal could become a distraction. Will struggle to make the knockout rounds, even in Asian conditions, though history suggests they will take down at least one big team.
Coach: Chandika Hathurusingha An open-minded if blunt Sri Lankan who is in his second spell as coach. Hathurusingha left under a cloud after a highly successful, if often confrontational, stint between 2014 and 2017. Has a son named Cullen, reportedly after the legendary All Black Christian Cullen.
Player to watch: Taskin Ahmed That rarest of birds, a top-class Bangladeshi fast bowler. Taskin, who has gone to the next level under the bowling coach Allan Donald, is tough, smart, skilful and ambitious. He bowled Bangladesh to a famous victory in South Africa last year and is the undisputed attack leader.
Prospects: It’s the last dance of a 24-carat generation that taught England to love white-ball cricket. England went into 2019 as hosts and the undisputed world No 1. This year they are fifth – but most people have them as second favourites. Jos Buttler will lead the oldest squad in the tournament, along with New Zealand, and niggling injuries to key bowlers are a concern. But it will be a big surprise if such habitual winners don’t reach the last four.
Coach: Matthew Mott A relaxed, relentlessly positive Australian who has won his last four World Cups (ODI and T20) with Australia’s women and England’s men, including two last year. Mott is both old-fashioned and progressive: he has done plenty of his best work over a beer and is an earthy psychologist with a gift for enabling players to achieve things they didn’t know were possible.
Player to watch: Dawid Malan An elegant, strangely unloved opener whose career record – average 61, strike rate 96 – is that of an all-time great. Until last month Malan was down as a back-up batter, despite that record, but the scales fell from a few eyes when he sparkled against New Zealand. At 36, this is his last chance to change the mood music of a peculiar England career.
Prospects: Hosts, world No 1 and increasingly strong favourites; the next six weeks could be one long formality. India have batters who deal in double hundreds, never mind single, and a varied attack that routed Sri Lanka for 50 in the recent Asia Cup final. It’s unthinkable they won’t reach the last four. When they do, an inexplicably poor record in knockout games will come into sharp focus.
Coach: Rahul Dravid One of the all-time greats – as a human being, never mind cricketer – though the pressure of a home tournament will test even his equanimity. As a player he was nicknamed The Wall for his airtight defence, and Jammy because his father worked for the jam-maker Kissan.
Player to watch: Shubman Gill A glorious strokemaker who has produced high art in industrial quantities. Gill goes into the World Cup with an astonishing record: in 35 ODIs, he averages 66 with a strike rate of 103.
Prospects For a team that sits 14th in the ODI rankings, qualification was an end in itself. The Netherlands have a nice mix of youth and experience, power and craft, but they are the rank outsiders. One big win would make it all worthwhile.
Coach: Ryan Cook An analytical coach who deals in marginal gains and big ambitions. His stated goal is to reach the semi-finals, and he has effectively banned use of the word “associate” due to its connotations of inferiority. Cook, the son of the great South African opener Jimmy, also believes in Total Cricket after studying the philosophy of Dutch football genius Johan Cruyff.
Player to watch: Bas de Leede Stylish, fearless all-rounder whose father Tim played in two World Cups. Fresh from an outstanding first season with Durham and an astonishing performance against Scotland – 123 off 92 balls and five for 52 – that secured a World Cup place.
Prospects Runners-up in the last two tournaments, and the only team to reach the semi-finals in the last four, but there is a growing feeling that they are slightly over the hill. Just don’t call them underrated, because everybody does and therefore they aren’t.
Coach: Gary Stead A meticulous coach who has lost two World Cup finals against England at Lord’s: T20 with the White Ferns in 2009 and ODI with the Black Caps in 2019. It’s no way for fate to treat somebody who used to clean the windows of the Lord’s Pavilion and sell scorecards while on the MCC groundstaff in 1990.
Player to watch: Trent Boult A masterful left-arm swing bowler who interrogates batters with his skill and intelligence, especially with the new ball. Returned to the team in September after a year on the franchise circuit and promptly took eight English wickets in two games.
Prospects: Very funny. Pakistan traditionally use the sublime and ridiculous as starting points to go further east and west, so anybody who knows how they will perform at this World Cup is either an idiot or a time-traveller. They have the world’s No 1 batsman in Babar Azam and, despite a costly injury to Naseem Shah, a bowling attack that could break into Fort Knox. Second in the world rankings, but they flunked the recent Asia Cup.
Coach: Grant Bradburn A relaxed New Zealander who coached Scotland with great success from 2014-18 and once busked during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on a day off. Has introduced The Pakistan Way, which is basically Bazball by a less catchy name. At least call it Zindabazball.
Player to watch: Babar Azam A stylish and remarkably consistent No 3. Nobody, not even Virat Kohli, has scored more ODI runs at a higher average, though not everyone is satisfied with Babar’s strike rate. Whether he maintains his form while dealing with the pressure of being a Pakistan captain in India could be decisive.
Prospects: Lads, it’s South Africa. It is unfathomable that, in 16 attempts across both white-ball codes, they have never reached a World Cup final, so any optimism should be shared with caution. But there is reason for optimism. South Africa have a devastating batting line-up and a strong, diverse attack, so they should be in the hunt for a semi-final place. Should.
Coach: Rob Walter A white-ball only coach appointed at the start of the year, Walter has empowered his team to attack like never before, especially with the bat: no team has scored more quickly this year. The biggest test – a World Cup, with all the psychological rubble that tends to disturb – is about to come.
Player to watch: Heinrich Klaasen A World Cup debutant at 32, Klaasen is an awesome death hitter, arguably the best in the world, and recently pillaged 174 off 83 balls against Australia.
Prospects: Romped through the qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe and look the best of the four outsiders. They have since reached the Asia Cup final ahead of Pakistan, though they were then skittled for 50 by India. Bowling is their strength, though injury to the brilliant leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga is a serious blow.
Coach: Chris Silverwood Had little luck with England as a player or head coach, but has broadened his horizons with Sri Lanka and won the T20 Asia Cup last year. One of the world’s more genial karate black belts.
Player to watch: Maheesh Theekshana A mystery finger spinner with a bottomless toybox – look out for his reverse carrom ball – and an endearingly dreadful fielder. Theekshana, who took 21 wickets at 12 in the qualifying tournament, may miss the early games with a hamstring problem. That he has been included despite injury shows his importance.