Daniel Brettig, assistant editor
This time next year Steven Smith will again be eligible to play for his country, and the question of how he comes back into the Australian team for their defence of the World Cup title won on home soil in 2015 will be one on the lips of many. One thing is certain – the enforced break from the game will have refreshed Smith’s body and mind, while a fresh Australian regime, led by the new coach, Justin Langer, will welcome back an outstanding talent after his atonement for Newlands.

Prediction: The ten-team World Cup will still seem like too long a tournament.

George Dobell, senior correspondent
Cricket’s popularity has declined in England and Wales in recent years. Maybe “popularity” is the wrong word. But its visibility – and as a consequence, relevance – has certainly declined. It has become a niche sport. The 2019 World Cup, albeit only available live on subscription TV in the UK, is an opportunity to attract a new generation of supporters to the game. So I’m looking forward to the ECB making a concerted effort to make the sport a key feature of the English (and Welsh) summer, and more people falling in love with our great game.

Prediction: Part of the joy of these events is the unexpected. But, with very good batting pitches expected, we may well have the first 450-plus score in ODI cricket.

Melinda Farrell, presenter
Nothing thrills at a World Cup quite like the underdog shaking the pillars of the cricket upper echelons. Ireland have shattered those marble columns with glorious disdain on several memorable occasions. There was Jamaica, in 2007, where they sent Pakistan packing to make the Super 8s, Kevin O’Brien and Trent Johnson seeing them home. And who could forget O’Brien’s pink-haired rampage in Bangalore four years later? His 50-ball hundred was the fastest in World Cup history, as Ireland completed the tournament’s highest ever successful run chase to smite their well-to-do neighbour, England. Ah memories. In 2015 they beat West Indies, Zimbabwe and UAE and only narrowly missed the quarter-finals. O’Brien just made a century in Ireland’s first Test, an occasion made possible thanks to his side’s feats in white-ball tournaments, and he will definitely cause twitchy nerves in opposition bowling ranks in the 2019 World Cup. Disregard these giant-killers at your per Oh, wait. Never mind.

Prediction: On his highly scrutinised return to international cricket, Steven Smith to make a squillion runs.

England in May: runs or routs? Getty Images

Andrew Fidel Fernando, Sri Lanka correspondent
The last World Cup, let’s face it, was unremarkable. Beyond that Wahab Riaz spell to Shane Watson, the semi-final at Eden Park, and England’s customary World-Cup shaming, this time by New Zealand, there is not much that stuck in the memory. A lot of this was down to the rules at the time severely favouring batsmen and making gigantic, un-chaseable scores the norm. Only four fielders allowed outside the ring in the last ten overs. In many cases, it would have been less humiliating for bowlers to have had their web-browser histories made public than to have played in this tournament.

Things will be different in England (I hope). For one, the rules have been recalibrated, and bowlers have established a measure of control. Second – maybe there will be a little of that English swing, granting bowlers a little extra edge. And there is a crop of very exciting fast-bowling talent hitting their peak in time for this World Cup – I’m talking the likes of Trent Boult, Kagiso Rabada, Mitchell Starc, Mustafizur Rahman, Jasprit Bumrah and Hasan Ali. A “World Cup of the bowler” is probably too much to wish for. But maybe this time, bowlers won’t be treated like extras in a disaster movie.

Prediction: The South Africa campaign will be the emotional rollercoaster of the tournament.

Mohammad Isam, Bangladesh correspondent
I am most looking forward to seeing Bangladesh progress into the semi-finals of the World Cup. It would be the right type of progress for a team that finally came of age in the last edition of the 50-over tournament. It would not be a huge surprise if they do reach the final four, but to get there, their preparation and execution have to be immaculate. The next 12 months promise to be interesting.

Prediction: The league format, where all teams play against each other, will become a strong argument in favour of a ten-team World Cup in 2023.

These guys will… they will… hey, where will they be come World Cup? ICC

Jarrod Kimber, writer
Afghanistan. How could you be looking forward to anything else? There are no other cool teams, just the people who voted for a smaller World Cup. And by 2019, Afghanistan could have an actual army of fingerspinners, wristspinners and whoknowswhatspinners to take over the planet. With the way Afghanistan seems to find incredible cricketers we’ve never dreamed of before, it’s possible they’ll discover a batsman who only hits sixes with the back of his bat by the time the World Cup starts.

Prediction: People will rightfully moan about there being only ten teams.

Andrew McGlashan, deputy editor
The format of this World Cup – or Slightly Larger And Much Longer Champions Trophy – has its faults, and certainly does not scream expansionist, but it will bring together a host of magnificent players. And hopefully a player, or players, will emerge from outside the established pack to forge their name, as Fakhar Zaman did last year. Yes, I know, wouldn’t that have been much better with a few more nations involved? Still, working with what we have, it would be great if someone who does not immediately spring to mind challenged the leading run-makers and wicket-takers.

Prediction: England will produce both the highest total of the tournament, quite possibly over 400, and also the most startling collapse – think 20 for 6, 8 for 5 or 8 for 46. One could even follow straight after the other.

Andrew Miller, UK editor
No one quite knows what the ECB wants from cricket anymore. Test matches suddenly seem a chore; even 20-over cricket seems too rich for their administrative palate. So it’s a source of some irony that the most important tournament they have ever hosted is set to be contested over the distance that they have traditionally held in the most contempt. Fifty-over cricket was treated with disdain back in 1999, the last time that England hosted the World Cup – the opening ceremony was a farce, the tournament anthem bombed, the players were too distracted by a pay dispute to remember to reach the business end. But if there’s one thing that we can be sure of, it is that nothing will be left to chance for the 2019 version. After all, this could be cricket’s last shot at relevance in the country that spawned the sport. It’s going to be a blast, whatever the outcome.

Will 2019 be Bangladesh’s year? Associated Press

Prediction: England to take advantage of the 1992-style extended group stage to play their socks off, qualify with glory to spare for the knockouts, then get stuffed with Italia 1990-style heartbreak in the knockouts. If nothing else, the narrative will resonate with a younger audience.

Sidharth Monga, assistant editor
A team to lift the World Cup for the first time. Looking at you, New Zealand, South Africa, England, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Afghanistan are the youngest of the lot, so it might just be too ambitious to ask them to do more than spoil a party or three, but there is no reason the other four can’t go all the way. It is such a long league format that there will be time to get over early nerves. Here’s to semi-finals between four of these five teams.

Prediction: India, Pakistan and Australia won’t make it to the semi-finals. The ICC will make big losses, and by extension, the big member boards will make losses, and just like after the 2007 World Cup, the format will be changed again, this time to accommodate 16 teams that play in four groups of four each, like half of a football World Cup

Firdose Moonda South Africa correspondent
South Africa to make good on almost three decades of trying to win a World Cup by actually winning one, and AB de Villiers’ life-long dream coming true when he hits the winning runs as only he can: with a ramp shot that sails for six. Oh wait

The age-old question: how will South Africa exit the World Cup? Getty Images

De Villiers’ retirement last week has left South Africa with little time to beef up their sometimes porous middle order while they also try to find the best bowling combination to chase the elusive cup. They have more work to do this time than in tournaments past, and will go into this World Cup with little expectation, which could work to their advantage.

Prediction: South Africa will prepare meticulously, as usual, string together convincing results in the group stage, and then to find an impossibly imaginative way to crash out when it matters most.

Osman Samiuddin, senior editor
The legspinners’ World Cup. Legspinners have lit up World Cups before, of course – Shane Warne in ’99, Mushtaq Ahmed in ’92, Qadir in ’83 and ’87. But, as a breed, they haven’t dominated one yet. In 2019 we will have the Khans, Rashid and Shadab, Yuzvendra Chahal, Imran Tahir, Adam Zampa and Ish Sodhi. Throw in a both-ways turner like Mujeeb Zadran, and even R Ashwin the legspinner, and it would be more difficult for them to not dominate the tournament than to do.

Prediction: Lots of people moaning about the 50-over format. Also, as many people celebrating it.

Sharda Ugra, senior editor
It’s England, it’s May, and no matter how many attempts are made to flatten out wickets and bring in the boundaries, the sun can only shine so much. Bring on the swing merchants, the yorker machines, the improvisatory kings of spin, in a rash of low-scoring nailbiters. Ben Stokes, Kagiso Rabada, Mustafizur Rahman, Trent Boult, Mitchell Starc, Jasprit Bumrah, Shakib Al Hasan, Imran Tahir, Rashid Khan. Goody.

Prediction: Bangladesh to win.



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