South Africa and Australia are locks to be there towards the business end of the tournament, and my next two teams should really be of no surprise.
India winners 1983
The hosts for the tournament are cricket mad, as much of the world knows. Having had the opportunity to travel to this wild and colourful country I can contest to the fact that cricket is played in any form, anywhere. I have great memories of bowling medium pace to kids in Chennai that had a home made bat, and the front wheel of someone’s bike as the stumps.
Why They Can: India like South Africa have the right team at the right time, with a squad that is made to play the shorter forms of the game, and are in fantastic form going into the World Cup. Tendulkar is getting better and better the further he goes down the order and the older he gets. Dohni is such a batting force, and the bowling in India should be dominating with Kahn to be up there as leading wicket taker. Singh is having a batting surge himself down the order as is a tricky prospect to dislodge.
Why They Can’t: Pressure. Like South Africa expectation can sometimes be too much. India will have the weight of the nation that is demanding victory in this World Cup. A fickle supporter base has India; the fans can be hero worshipping one over, and burning effigies the next. With this sort of attention the players will need to be totally focused on the cricket and try to avoid the distractions.
It surprises me to think that England have never won this tournament in all its history, considering the about of times it was held on home soil. They edged close in 1992 only to see Pakistan take the spoils, many felt this was England’s best chance. I think they early on they may fly under the radar in this tournament with much attention heaped on the host nations.
Why they Can: The T20 World Cup is not a great form guide, but it has shown that England is interested in shorter formats and have the batting finally to put pressure on oppositions from top to tail. Along with Andy Flower at the helm a well organised and excellent one-day player himself should prove valuable. And then the players Trott showed in Australia he is a real force in this format, KP will always be a highlight of this side and the bowling is vastly improved with Swann & Broad a sure fire combination.
Why They Can’t: the lead up to this World Cup seems almost too similar to 1992 where the team was marked as one of the top sides entering, and proved so during the tournament only to run out steam in the final. And this could happen again, 100 days in Australia, an injury list as long as Finns left leg and only 3 days rest at home before back on the road again must take its toll at some point. Botham was openly critical of this in 1992 with Gooch running the team into the ground, and it seems that this could happen again.
Those are my 4 for the final spots towards the end of this tournament, with the Opening Ceremony tonight and the first match Saturday morning I have a good feeling about this tournament, not just for my country but also for the standard of cricket that will be on show over the next 6 weeks. The minnows such as Bangladesh & Ireland are not so small anymore, and rely now on full-time cricketers rather than the part timers they once had, every team in this tournament for all its strengths does have weaknesses.
Finally of course I should look into my 6 week crystal ball and come up with a few predictions for the tournament. I can see upsets by Canada & Bangladesh, New Zealand not to make the knockout stages, India to make the final to play South Africa and South Africa to break the hoodoo and finally lift the trophy.
To keep you coming back to the Cricket Observer during the tournament I shall be reviewing each match of both Australia (my home) and England (my adopted home) as well as the usual editorial articles on all the side issues to the World Cup.
LET THE GAMES BEGIN!