From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.34 :: NO.07 :: Feb. 17, 2011
Cricket fansin Amritsar cheer for the Indian team ahead of World Cup 2011. Much is expected of India.
The ICC has of late shown some steel in being decisive unlike in the past where it has been known to dilly dally. It has carried the investigation of the tainted Pakistani trio through till the end and has banned the players based on their culpability. This augurs well for the game as the timing of the ban could not have been better. With the World Cup scheduled to get underway in a few days the credibility of the game had to be restored. Besides, the decision to ban the Pakistani players also will serve as a deterrent for anyone entertaining thoughts of making a quick buck at the expense of a Nation's pride and the reputation of the game. In its bid to get everything right, the ICC has even gone to the extent of shifting the India-England match from the Eden Gardens as it deemed that the CAB had not adhered to certain guidelines. The reasons for the shifting of the venue may be debatable, but what is appreciable is that the ICC has not retracted its stand despite pressure being brought upon it from various quarters.
Now that the ICC has ensured that the operational side of things is taken care of, the stage is set for an exciting World Cup. The event will be exciting in the sense that it will be a batsman-dominated event. As the Sub-Continent pitches are flat and given that spectators prefer to see the ball getting smashed all over, the following will be huge. The question of who is likely to win the tournament is on everyone's lips and I for one believe that India along with Sri Lanka and South Africa will be the favourites. The Indians under Dhoni have done well in the last couple of years in every format and as a result their confidence will be riding high. They have enough firepower in their batting, but their main concern will be getting their final playing combination right. They have three spinners in their ranks but they will be hard pressed to play three medium pacers. There again the fitness of the bowlers will be the key factor as there are still some uncertainties about the fitness of Praveen Kumar. While the players concerned have come out saying they are fit, their match fitness remains to be seen. However, there is a lot of time in between matches and this will prove extremely beneficial for the players to recover from niggles.
The Indians will be the side to beat, but the Sri Lankans will be a real threat as well given that they are familiar with the conditions. They have quality spinners in their ranks and the fast bowlers are no spring chickens either. Their balance will give them the edge over the Asian counterparts and if at all they lack something, it is the absence of an explosive batsman a la Yusuf Pathan or AB De Villiers. Of course, they have Dilshan to give them quick starts, but he is prone to getting out in trying to surpass himself. The experienced batsmen like Sangakkara and Jayawardene need to be at their best and also guide the others in their ranks. The wily old fox Muralitharan will look to make a big impact as this is his last big event and he knows what it takes to do well in the Sub-Continent.
The other sides that can really go the distance will be the South Africans and the Australians as both the Nations play the game very hard. This time around the South Africans will be a better bet than the Aussies at least on paper because of their all-round strength. However, the South Africans have been plagued by their inability to do well in the knock-out phase and that is one hurdle that they must get past. Mind you, they need to win three knock-out games if they have to clinch the title. On the other hand, the Australians are a trifle weak in the spin department but their resilience can offset their shortcomings. The format of the tournament is challenging in that the teams play games of varying quality and that too after a substantial break after each game. This will really test the intensity levels, adaptability and the form of the individuals as also the teams. This will be one World Cup where a side will need a certain amount of luck to back its ability and once the tournament enters the knock-out phase the luck factor will really play a significant role. The fancied sides will be hoping that they have the rub of the green but as they say, a champion side makes its own luck. Only time will tell which is the Nation that will make its own luck.
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