Now the world waits
The Carribean islands are on the verge of hosting their biggest ever sporting event – the cricket World Cup. The venue has rotated from England, to the sub continent, to Australia/New Zealand, back to the sub continent, England, South Africa and now to the tiny set of islands that lie huddled above South America surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. It is bound to be a tremendous atmosphere which the players and fans will absorb in the forthcoming eight weeks.
Much work has been done to upgrade the grounds and other required facilities to stage the event. Many logistical issues have also had to be overcome and ironed out. Thousands of cricket lovers from around the world will flock to the islands to witness the ninth World Cup.
points to ponder
The Australians will go out the favorites to retain the cup. It will be the third consecutive time that they will be champs, should they succeed. Only the West Indies have come close, having won the inaugural games in 1975 and then in 1979. They had the third final in their palm after first session against India, but blew it and Kapil Dev’s under dogs triumphed. It could be christened as the day when the game began its journey of becoming globalized. Nations other then the West Indies, Australia and England realized they were capable of reaching the top. It gave rise to Pakistan winning in 1992 and Sri Lanka in 1996.
Australia will miss Damien Martyn (recently retired) and Bret Lee (injured). Both played major roles when they clinched the Champions Trophy six months ago. To add to their woes, star allrounder Andrew Symonds is still on the injured list. Should he miss the cut then Aussies will be down to being a bunch of mere mortal players and other teams will definitely be confident of laying hands on the ultimate prize.
The playing format has been revised over the years. In South Africa the complaint was that there were too many weak teams. These consisted of the many “Associate member” country sides who were a total misfit. This competition will have a few such games in round one. From the super eights stage teams will have to be right on the button at each outing. The ultimate winner would most likely have met all, if not most of the “full member” countries and beaten all, if not most of them. It will be a stiff challenge, a complete road to victory.
Who will challenge the Australian supremacy? South Africa who very recently ousted the Aussies from the top of the ODI rankings will definitely be one team. They lack in spin. Should the pitches assist the spinners and also be easy paced then the Proteas could be in some sort of trouble, but otherwise, they have the strength and form to mount a very serious challenge.
On strength alone, Sri Lanka and India are the two other teams in the forefront. Both teams will rely heavily on their experience. Sri Lanka on: Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara, Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan, Marvan Atapattu and Chaminda Vaas. For India: Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Ajit Agarkar, Haribajan Singh and Zaheer Khan. Both sides have youngsters to combine with the experienced to form a winning combination.
New Zealand will go into the tournament as the dark horses. They are a team known to lack the drive to get them past the finishing line. That once again, will be their test. Lasting power, performance wise will be a key element for them and for all teams. England came good at the end of the Australian tour. They have got together some talented one day players, but lack in experience which is a vital requirement.
The team that could upset all odds is the home side. They rely heavily on Lara, Gale and Chandepaul to provide stability. All three must perform consistently and then the exciting youngsters in the line will come to the party. A tough ask, but the home crowds and familiar conditions will buoy them no doubt. Pakistan are experiencing many inside issues that as a team, they haven’t settled. It will be too much to expect individual talent to provide a continuous string of victories.
All the contenders will first look to go past round one. Then worm their way through the super eights. From the semi finals it will be the team that delivers on the day.
The balance of the teams are definitely more equal than in 2003. Now the world waits in