The Contenders

February 15, 2011 Off By Raghav Arora

ICC World CupThe experts have called it the most Even World Cup ever. Though India and Sri Lanka starts as favourite’s in this World Cup with a slight edge in better understanding of the Sub continent conditions and Crowd support but the teams are bunched together with very little separating the Test playing nations with Kenya & Netherlands capable of bringing up few surprises of their own.

Australia are currently ranked No. 1 ICC ODI team ratings and gave enough proof of the same by beating England 6-1 after their Ashes debacle. No one expected Australia to shake off the Ashes defeat so early but that’s the reason they are the three time Defending Champion and undefeated in the World Cup since May 1999 against Pakistan. Australia has its own injury worries with Ponting returning from an injury and Mike Hussey, Mr.Dependable for Australia, and Nathan Haurtiz, their leading spinner, have been ruled out of the tournament. Australia would definitely miss Hussey as he enjoys pressure cooker situations and that’s exactly what World Cup is expected to be. They have a dependable Watson at the top with explosive Brad Haddin to accompany him. Ponting, Clarke, Hussey Jr., White are a formidable Middle order. Brett Lee is back leading the bowling pack of aggressive fast bowlers in Johnson, Bollinger and Shaun Tait. The only problem which Australia may face is that they lack variation in the bowling department with too much expectations from Steve Smith, Clarke, Hussey and White with their part time bowling. Sub continent wickets are flat and fast bowlers can be easy fodder for the batsman and they would miss a crafty spinner in their side.

Sri Lanka is the other favourite along with India and they have every reason to be so, they have attacking opener in Dilshan whi can be as clinical as Sehwag on his day followed by Sangakara and Jayawardhene. Crafty Murlitharan, playing his last tournament in International cricket, will be leading the attack with Malinga. Angelo Mathews is an impact player. The problem with Sri Lanka is its over dependence on Sangakara and Jayawardhane and both come in at No.3 & 4 with not much experience to follow. The young players will have to shoulder a lot of responsibility if Sri Lanka has to go beyond Quarter Final stage.

South Africa is as formidable a team as any in this Championship. Greame Smith, Hashim Amla & Kallis make very strong top three followed by Duminy and DeVilliers. With Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel they have fearsome Pace attack and a sharp and clever spinner in Botha. They have some exciting young players and are a very strong team to go all the way. One more positive aspect of their team is that there players have played a lot of cricket in India in last 12-18 months. There fragile temperament in crunch situation and absence of seasoned campaigner like Mark Boucher from the lower middle order can be their downfall.

Pakistan team s coming out of a huge crisis but at the same time they have so many talented players in the team that they can be very dangerous in the knock out round. They are known to cause big upsets regularly. They have dashers like Akmal brothers and their captain Afridi. Akhtar is playing his last World Cup and will like to prove a point late in his career. Umar Gul & Wahab Riaz are good bowlers and with Abdul Razzak in thick of things they are a handful and if they get some favourable games in knock out stage then they have the talent to make it to the semi finals.

England is another formidable team led by an able leader in Strauss. They are high on confidence with their Ashes victory, though ODI series thrashing by Australia proved to be a dampener, they are a very good ODI side. Strauss has led this side with great poise and deserves full credit for all its success. Engalnd boosts of a good mix of experience and youth. Pietersen is as aggressive a player as any in the World currently and with Strauss, Collingwood, Ian Bell, and Trott form a a strong batting line up. Swann is considered to be the best spinner around currently and that will be a very big asset for England. Anderson and Broad will share the new ball and the responsibility of getting the early breakthroughs to make it easier for the other bowlers. England would rely heavily on its all rounders to bring in variations but at the same time too much reliance on these very all rounders can prove to be its undoing.

New Zealand and West Indies have not had the best of the times in International cricket off late. New Zealand’s performance has not been increasing with losing their ODI series to Bangladesh, India & home series to Pakistan. West Indies also have not many things going their way recently. But both these teams boost of some very dangerous players in Gayle, Pollard, McCullum, Ryder, and Taylor and almost certain of making into the Quarter Final stage are capable of raising their game at crucial junctures and springing up a surprise.

Bangaldesh have proved enough that they are no longer a mere pushover in the limited over cricket and will compete very hard in familiar conditions with some exciting batsman and their army of slow left armers. Bangladesh plays their cricket passionately and with the Home support will be a handful.

The Sub continent pitches would be batsman friendly and one batsman in any team can change the course of the game on his day. There will be a lot of talent on display during this World Cup and this very talent makes it one of the most Even World Cup of All Time. All cricket lovers are anxiously waiting for the Action to start and are looking forward to some competitive and exciting cricket amongst these highly talented teams.

Let the Game Begin.

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