India skipper Virat Kohli on Thursday said England in their conditions would be the “most strong side” in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup. “England in their conditions are the most strong side in this tournament. But all the teams so strong and well balanced and the fact we have to play everyone once, I think this will be the most competitive World Cup that anyone will have seen,” Kohli said at the official captains’ media conference. All ten teams will play each other in a new-look round-robin stage, with the top four qualifying for the semi-finals – a change in format that makes this year’s edition more competitive than ever. England skipper Eoin Morgan said, “I don’t think anyone is head and shoulders above anyone else. These are the ten best teams in the world, it will be extraordinarily competitive and some quality cricket will be played so we are really looking forward to it.”
“Every captain sitting here would lose their left leg to play in a World Cup final at the home of cricket. It’s something every one of us would have dreamed of as a kid. We are as best prepared as we can be. We just want to play that first game now,” Morgan added. Australia skipper Aaron Finch welcomed both David Warner and Steve Smith back as his team looks to defend the title they won in 2015. “Since Warner and Smith have come back into the set-up they have been fantastic and contributed so much. The morale has been unbelievable. Once it gets underway, particularly against England, and further on for the Ashes, the crowd will play a part but that is expected everywhere in the world. We have plans in place for that, and their squad input and output in terms of the runs they have been making has been fantastic,” Finch said.
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Faf du Plessis, South Africa skipper, is hoping to become the first man to lead his side to a first-ever World Cup crown, after four semi-final appearances. “We are all really excited to try out this new tournament, to play every once I think is great. The way we use our resources will be vital, but every team has X-factor bowlers that will have a big say in the successes of the side.” “I think the bowlers will win it, the teams still in it towards the end of the tournament will be the teams that have done really well with the ball,” du Plessis said. Pakistan skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed, who led his team when they won the ICC Champions Trophy in England in 2017, said that he is feeling confident.
“All the teams are really balanced. I think people are going to watch some great cricket. Since winning the World Cup in 1992, making the final in 1999 here in England and the Champions Trophy in 2017, we go well in England so we are confident we will do well and challenge,” Sarfaraz said. New Zealand were the runners up four years ago and skipper Kane Williamson hopes his side can go one better this time. “There are a few guys in the squad from the last World Cup which is great. But four years in between means there are a lot of new players. There has been talk about rankings, favourites, underdogs but what stands out is how balanced it is. Which means anything can happen on the day which is so exciting,” Williamson said.
West Indies skipper Jason Holder said: “It is a very exciting format. In the past, you could play five or six games, and that could be it. To play every side is great for us. We worked hard with the qualifiers to get here, that means it is the top ten in the world, we want to play them all and give ourselves a shot. The team that wins will definitely deserve it.” Sri Lanka’s new skipper Dimuth Karunaratne said: “We have great experience in England, we came here early to get used to the conditions and we are in good shape, hoping to do our best. It is not going to be easy though. We are confident and taking it each game one by one.”
Gulbadin Naib, the Afghanistan skipper, added, “We are excited to be here, in front of the cricket world and to play the best teams. To present Afghanistan to the world is great and we are looking forward to it. There will be a huge audience at home in all the different provinces. Cricket is not just a sport now, in Afghanistan it has become something else.” And last but not the least, Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Mortaza is confident that his side can spring a surprise.
“We have got a great bunch of boys, a good mix of seniors and juniors coming on. Cricket is a game that anyone on their day can beat anybody. If we start well we can hang in there. We are confident that we can go well, but a lot depends on the start,” Mortaza said.
The Film Shed in London’s trendy east end hosted the 10 captains ahead of the 2019 tournament. The hosts England will kick-off the World Cup against South Africa on May 30 at the Oval. India will open its campaign on June 5 at the Hampshire Bowl against South Africa.