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by Prithvijit Roy Wednesday 11 February 2015
With the World Cup now almost upon us, all the cricket pundits, analysts (and the Cricket World team) are telling us who they think will win the coveted trophy.
Being an Indian, my heart always says India but given current form, circumstances and sequence of events unfolding in Australia, the team spirit and camaraderie that Indian teams of the past have been known for seems a mere aberration for today. Maybe a few victories might get that back on track.
One-day cricket has undergone a complete metamorphosis since the days of the first World Cup with coloured clothing (1992). While dogged defence and conservation of wickets served as the template for competitive totals in those times, 2011 saw the teams with power ruling the roost in that series.
Life seems to have come to a full circle again in 2015, with teams planning their strategies to blunt out two new balls and the initial spice of the australian wickets. As an armchair observer if I have to put my money on three teams who are likely to lift the trophy on 29th March 2015, I would extend my neck to say New Zealand, South Africa or Pakistan.
The basic premise of this statement is the fact that all three teams possess a penetrating seam-bowling attack which will need more than decent technique amongst contemporary batsmen to cope with.
While Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel form a lethal bowling pair, New Zealand have unearthed a a four-pronged pace battery of Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Correy Anderson and Adam Milne who are tailor-made for the conditions down under.
A trend that has been prevalent since 1983, is that one team from the Indian sub-continent has always made it to the World Cup final (with 1987 being an exception). Keeping this in mind I like to bet my money on Pakistan as a wildcard entry considering their penchant for producing fast bowlers as briskly as Adam Gilchrist used to score his runs. The team with the most potent bowling attack is likely to make inroads in the opposing team's batting artillery.
On a similar note with respect to batting, though India appears to be the best team on paper, their performances have narrated quite a different story. On the other hand for teams like South Africa, while AB de villiers and Hashim Amla have formed the engine room of the matting machinery, the David Millers and Quinton de Kocks have played the role of interior designers when it comes to accelerating scores in the beginning and at the end of an innings.
For the first time since the inception of the World Cup in 1975, New Zealand appear to be a formidable batting unit. While Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor form the backbone of their batting, the likes of Luke Ronchi and Anderson perform finishing roles to perfection as evident in the recent series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
While Pakistan look a weak side with respect to their batting one must take into account that if they make it to the quarter-finals its only a question of three matches where their batting needs to come good. Younus Khan, Ahmed Shehzad and Misbah-ul-Haq do not exactly set the stage on fire, but on Australian pitches where technique is of paramount importance, defence might just serve them well in the initial stages.
We must not forget that for every so called “dull player” like a Misbah, Pakistan also possess Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi, who may produce fireworks at anytime, leaving not only the opposition unaware, but also their own teammates.
If I am asked why I would not put my money on India, Sri Lanka and Australia, my logic is that India and Sri Lanka lack the x-factor which might tilt the tide in their favour. On current form only Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane look good to make some sort of statement on the wicket, while for Sri Lanka, like always, it appears to be a Sangakara and Jayawardene show.
The only reason why I would not consider Australia would be because I am not sure whether they would be able to withstand the pressure of being the host team - as well as if they can handle the external pressure especially from the media and the fan frenzy.
All in all as I mentioned in my last article, The Unfortunate Heroes Of The World Cup, this appears to be the most open World Cup since 1992.
This tournament has always been known for separating the men from the boys. Life is back to a full circle again.
Let us see whether New Zealand and South Africa are able to go beyond where Martin Crowe and Lance Klusener left them in 1992 and 1999.
Can Pakistan emerge as the joker of the pack as they did in 1992?
Let the tale of World Cup 2015 unfold its story with its own drama and suspense. Let us hope this time the climax falls in favour of the dark horse so that it becomes another memorable tale in cricketing folklore.
© Cricket World 2015