There is only a week to go for the month and a half extravaganza – the One-day international Cricket World Cup. The excitement is slowly building up among the people. Conversations vary from favorites to win the cup to who would be the dark horses this time around. Undoubtedly, this will be the biggest ever World Cup.
The last two times a World Cup was held in the Indian subcontinent, unlikely champions have emerged. While in 1987, nobody gave Australia a chance, Allan Border’s young team surprised England in the finals at Eden Gardens, Kolkata in what was perhaps the closest match ever played in a World Cup final. Sirca 1996, a war-ravaged nation – Sri Lanka – gave its citizens a lot to cheer by beating Australia in the final at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Who will it be this time? We’ll know on April 2 in what is perhaps the most open World Cup ever – each of the top 6 teams have a chance of winning. Having said that, cricket is a funny game and one cannot rule out the possibility of a surprise winner this time as well.
The event lasts for a month and a half – this could be the biggest challenge for the teams. They’ll need to ensure that their big guns stay in form throughout and are fresh for the big matches. An event of this magnitude can be energy draining and teams would do well to have adequate back-up plans. It is late winter in the subcontinent, so the heat factor is unlikely to affect the teams much than if the tournament was held in April – May.
The pitches could be batsmen’s paradises, so the bowlers will have to come up with exceptional performances. Captains who can be innovative with field placements and judicious choice of the bowling Powerplay overs could be the clinchers. The ideal mix of fast bowlers and spinners would be very crucial.
A large majority of matches are day/night encounters which bring into the equation the question of fairness. Teams bowling second will face the difficulty of the dew affecting the ball after a period of time. It will be very imperative for those teams to take early wickets and take the initiative. Reverse swing might also be a big factor but it remains to be seen how effective it would be since the ball has to be changed after 34 overs.
As with any sporting event, there is a huge weight of expectations around the host teams – India and Sri Lanka in particular. They have been very consistent in their performances over the last year and a half. They will have the better knowledge of the conditions and massive crowd support but these always add extra pressure. How they handle this would also very critical in determining how far they go in the tournament.
Indians will especially hope that Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men emulate what Kapil Dev’s team did way back in 1983. The team looks balanced and has the potential to go till the very end. A win would be the ideal icing in the cake for Sachin Tendulkar’s career.
Next Saturday at Mirpur, the opening salvo will be fired. Bangladesh takes on India in what promises to be a cracker of a match. Teams will go through rigorous routines in a bid to covet the Holy Grail of one-day international cricket. At the end of it all, one team’s ecstasy will be the other’s agony – but that is the beauty of any sport. The winner will cherish the achievement for a long time to come.
Watch out for more in this space for an extensive coverage of the event – we will analyze the teams during the course of the next week and then analyze the games through the tournament.