From February 19, 2011, the ninth edition of the Cricket World Cup will officially get underway in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Although as many as 14 teams and over 200 players will take part in the event, only a few are likely to stand out due to the presence of outstanding players in their ranks.
There is no doubt that in the last three World Cup tournaments, Australia has been a side better than the rest. A win in 2011 will be important to veterans Ricky Ponting and Brett Lee who have featured in three and two title triumphs respectively. Add the all-round Shane Watson at the top of the order, the dependable Michael Hussey (if he is fit) and Mitchell Johnson as the spearhead, and you get an instant recipe of another World Cup win. Quickie Shaun Tait took as many as 23 wickets in the Caribbean in 2007, and he will also try to demolish batting line ups in the subcontinent.
India and Pakistan failed to qualify for the second round of the last World Cup four years ago, yet they both have the firepower to qualify for the last four this time.
Sachin Tendulkar, who will become the second player after Javed Miandad to feature in six World Cup events, is in the form of his life. Playing in front of his home crowd will boost his performance and with Mahendra Singh Dhoni as captain and fellow swashbucklers Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan in the side, India will be a force to reckon with. The presence of Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan will bolster their bowling attack, making them a threat if they stick to coach Gary Kirsten’s script.
On the other hand, Pakistan will have the services of veterans Shahid Afridi, Abdur Razzaq and Shoaib Akhtar who were part of the side that reached the final of the 1999 World Cup. The presence of Younis Khan and Misbah ul Haq will give batting the stability they need whereas Umar Akmal and Wahab Riaz will provide the exuberance needed from young blood.
Kumar Sangakkara and his Sri Lankan squad will be looking to give Muttiah Muralitharan the perfect farewell he deserves by winning the event, again. Most of the players were part of the last World Cup as well as the World Twenty20 final in 2007 and 2009 respectively.
In Sri Lankan conditions, Tillekeratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene are the most difficult batsmen to dismiss, and same goes for spin twins Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis who can take wickets at will if the conditions suit them.
Bangladesh may never have reached the last four stage of the event yet they have defeated Pakistan (in 1999) and India (in 2007) to stake their claim as a force to reckon with in the mega event. They defeated New Zealand last year and had triumphed against West Indies before that, both under the leadership of Shakib Al Hasan who will bank on the explosive start provided by Tamim Iqbal and guile of his fellow spinners Abdur Razzak and Co.
England may have lost the one day series to Australia just before the mega event yet they are a force to reckon with in subcontinent conditions. They were the runners up in the 1987 event and would have been the eventual winners had skipper Mike Gatting not played that wretched reverse sweep that brought their downfall! With an able leader in Andrew Strauss, the English side is likely to pose a threat to Aussie domination. They have batsmen like Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan in their ranks whereas James Anderson’s pace as well as Graeme Swann (if fit) can destroy any team on its day.
The year 2010 belonged to South Africa’s Hashim Amla who scored at will in both Tests and ODIs. He will be the trump card for Graeme Smith in the mega event. Then there is AB De Villiers and Jacques Kallis, the top ranked batsmen in the world who will be their best bet to break the title jinx for good. Pacer Dale Steyn will also unleash his fearsome bowling while Pakistan-born Imran Tahir is also likely to create problems for batsmen with his untested leg-spin.
Although New Zealand have lost 17 of their last 20 matches, they have the likes of skipper Daniel Vettori, all-rounders James Franklin, Brendon McCullum, Scott Styris and Jacob Oram who can win matches on their own. Same goes for the West Indies who have Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard and captain Darren Sammy in their squad, each with a mission to win, and win at all cost.
Fielding will play a decisive role in the event as the best in the world from England’s Paul Collingwood and Graeme Swann, Pakistan’s Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi, Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene, India’s Yuvraj Singh and Australia’s Michael Clarke will spend 40 days in the subcontinent, helping their team become the world champions for the next four years!
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