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In his first blog for PakPassion.net, Pakistan all-rounder Sohail Tanvir writes about Pakistan’s preparations as they head into the World Cup, his concerns about Pakistan’s new-ball attack, explains why Pakistan’s unpredictable tag could work in their favour and looks forward to an exciting and run-filled World Cup.

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Whenever you discuss New Zealand, you always think of them as being 'one of the strong sides'. But the Black Caps are rarely known as the favourites for a world tournament. With teams such as England and India ruling the roost, Kane Williamson's men once again go into the tournament as a team many expect to qualify for the semi-finals, but not a team that's considered likely to win the prestigious trophy. The Black Caps have a leader who is captaining his side in a World Cup for the first time, after the retirement of Brendon McCullum, while the likes of Grant Elliott have also retired. However, with the likes of Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Trent Boult and Tim Southee still forming the core of the team alongside Kane Williamson, the players will have high expectations from themselves.

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If their recent form is any guide, England could well be looking at their maiden World Cup title in 2019. Currently ranked as number in ICC's Rankings for ODI Teams, this side has the firepower and the track-record to take on the very best the world has to offer and are strong contenders to win the ICC tournament.

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Given their ranking in ICC’s ODI Rankings, Afghanistan are the true underdogs of this World Cup, but then, who doesn't love an underdog? Many Afghan cricketers learned the game in refugee camps in Pakistan when their families had to immigrate due to Soviet invasion in the 1980s and their progress to qualify for the 10-team ICC tournament is truly remarkable. In recent times, Afghanistan’s World Cup preparations have been far from ideal as the Afghan cricket board decided to replace the national team captain, Asghar Afghan. Afghan had been the captain for all three formats for almost four years. He was replaced by 28-year-old all-rounder Gulbadin Naib who has been in and out the side since he made his debut 10 years ago but given the support he has garnered from his teammates, he could well lead his side to some big achievements in the tournament.

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With the love and expectations of a blossoming nation trying to find their foot step in global context, the Bangladesh World Cup squad is heading for ICC’s premier 50-over tournament in England this summer. From the perspective of World Cup preparation, this has been an ideal World Cup for Bangladesh. A Tri-nation win, for it’s first multi-nation tournament trophy, must be a moral boasting effect on a team which has very little past success. Being outwitted by their opponents almost always away from home, the Tigers in Green is heading towards the 2019 Cricket World Cup with the sweet memory of reaching the Champions Trophy Semi-Final in the same country couple of years back. Still, the question on everyone's minds is, will Bangladesh’s 'Green Tigers' rise to the challenge and finally get rid of the minnow tag? The stage is set for Bangladesh to announce itself in the cricket landscape, let’s take a little walk in the path of Bangladesh’s upcoming World Cup journey. 

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India have been one of the best teams in the world over the last few years in limited overs format. They have been lagging behind the world number one ranked England side and have done extremely well against all the opponents during that time. The ICC tournaments invariably has the Indian team as the favourites for some time now due to their consistent performances over the years and the two-time champions were the semi-finalists the last time in 2015. The Indian team has always been a batting heavy team but now armed with a potent bowling attack as well they are one of the teams to watch out for. 

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A year ago, Australia were in a serious crisis. They had lost their two best players in David Warner and Steven Smith. Many at that point had predicted them to bow out in the group stage of the 2019 World Cup. This view was reinforced by their abysmal ODI form between June 2017 and March 2019 which consisted of only 4 wins out of 26. But people had forgotten that this was the Aussie team they were talking about. They have won the World Cup title five times, and this is a team which thrives in challenging environments and relishes the big occasion. True to their reputation, the Australians picked themselves up and in the last few months, managed huge triumphs over India and Pakistan. In those series, they were able to fill some gaps in their squad left by absence of their two main players. Now with the return of Steve Smith, David Warner as well as Mitchell Starc, Australia look as strong as ever and are arguably the most balanced team in the World Cup. This has also serves as a reminder for the whole world, if it needed reminding that Australia are and have always been serious contenders for the World Cup. 

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Former Pakistan fast-bowler Mohammad Zahid has been a loyal friend of PakPassion for many years and has contributed blogs on many subjects over the years. Unfortunately, due to personal commitments, Zahid has not been following Pakistan cricket to that extent.

We are therefore proud to introduce our latest blog contributor, Pakistan fast-bowler Sohail Tanvir who will be providing his take on issues related to Pakistan cricket on a frequent basis.

Also rans, always there, there and there abouts – some of the tags that have accompanied the South Africa side throughout their World Cup participation history. It does indeed defy belief that a side which has boasted the likes of Jacques Kallis, Lance Kluesner, Jonty Rhodes, Allan Donald and Ab de Villiers is yet to win the World Cup. But could 2019 be the year when the Proteas finally defy the 'chokers' tag?

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To say that Sri Lanka enter the 2019 World Cup in total and utter disarray would be an understatement. When Chandika Hathurusingha took over as coach in December 2017, there was hope that the tough taskmaster could revitalize Sri Lanka’s fortunes as he did with Bangladesh. These hopes have been quickly dashed with Sri Lanka possessing an abysmal ODI record having since the 2017 Champions Trophy lost 33 of 44 ODIs and been whitewashed 5-0 by South Africa in their last series.

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