Lined up on the stage like targets, the 10 captains of the Cricket World Cup teams laughed uncomfortably at the question posed to them by a kid with a microphone.
“If you could add one player to your squad from another team, which player would you choose?”
Eoin Morgan and Virat Kohli, captains of the favorites England and India and sitting together, treated the question like a bouncer to duck at, only to receive light dissent and raised eyebrows from media at the gathering with the trophy in a trendy London basement on Thursday.
Morgan finally plucked out Ricky Ponting, who hasn’t played for Australia for seven years. Seeing the reaction to Morgan, Kohli chose South Africa counterpart Faf du Plessis because AB de Villiers was retired.
Pakistan’s Sarfaraz Ahmed went for England’s Jos Buttler, who hit an unbeaten century against his side two weeks ago.
West Indies’ Jason Holder, the youngest on the stage at 27, spoiled the fun and avoided answering.
So did Afghanistan’s Gulbadin Naib.
Bangladesh’s Mashrafe Mortaza went with “that guy,” looking at Kohli, the world’s No. 1-ranked batsman.
Sri Lanka’s Dimuth Karunaratne chose England allrounder Ben Stokes, and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson named Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan, who “would be welcome in my team anytime.”
Australia’s Aaron Finch chose South Africa spearhead Kagiso Rabada, while Du Plessis had time to think and picked more than one: India paceman Jasprit Bumrah, Khan as well, and Australia paceman Pat Cummins. They revealed Du Plessis’ belief that bowling will win the World Cup, which his team opens against host England next Thursday in London.
“The teams toward the end of the tournament will have done really well with the ball, and have the ability to take wickets even on flat pitches,” Du Plessis said.
Kohli agreed. He didn’t think the tournament will be the runfest that is predicted. England is ranked No. 1 thanks to an aggressive attack which has broken the scoring record twice in the last three years.
“England seem to be obsessed with getting to 500 before anyone else,” Kohli said. “It could be high-scoring, but I think 260, 270 will be as difficult to get in the World Cup as 360, 370. I see 250 being defended, too. I don’t see many high-scoring games happening in the latter half of the tournament. That’s the kind of pressure the World Cup brings.
“Not all teams are going to be in a great position. Teams that have to get a result (to make the semifinals) will be under the most pressure. It won’t be gung-ho from ball one.”
One of the mid-tournament games will be the biggest in the group stage, India vs. Pakistan, on June 16. Since Pakistan beat India in the 2017 Champions Trophy final in London, they have met only twice for two easy India wins last September in the Asia Cup.
“Just another game to the players,” Kohli said of their upcoming match.
“My answer is the same,” Sarfaraz said.