The cricket world cup countdown has entered its final leg. The biggest cricket tournament is now exactly a month away. All the teams have announced their squads; expectations are soaring high in each country. Each time a country announces their team, people go from mild banter to absolutely crazy on different platforms expressing their happiness to dissent on various picks and drops.
The backdrop to this multi-ticket tournament already has been very turbulent and controversial. Last year the formation of the ‘Big Three’ club had fans from other nations lashing out at the new order. Later in the year, the crackdown by the ICC on chucking had many fans question the timing of such activities, right before the world cup. In fact fans from Pakistan (most affected) took the digital world by storm and blatantly accused N. Srinivasan for damaging their nation’s chances in the upcoming cricket world cup.
The worst affected by constant media scrutiny and fans backlash of course is team India. In the wake of the IPL scandal, conflict of interest case and MSD’s test captaincy resignation, the build up to the world cup has just accelerated to the fifth gear.
Meanwhile on the ground, the Gayle storm is threatening to take the sheen away from the African lions, the Black caps are giving enough dreams to their fans with their superlative form, the Lankan legends are adding hopes of runs for their passionate fans, the boys in Green are hoping to relive the 1992 dream all over again and Team India and their fans must be surely praying that their heroes defend their title.
If one goes by the odds presented through various betting sites, the favorites are loud and clear. The hosts ‘Cricket Australia’ have been tipped to win a record fifth title. Second to them are ‘South Africa’ a nation that has been jinxed and have failed to reach even one final since their inclusion in 1992. The under dogs according to the betting sites is ‘The Black Caps’. They are in the form of their lives, will be playing at home with their nation rallying behind them, they might just be the surprise story of 2015.
The other day some of my friends in Pakistan presented a bizarre theory. He said ‘the South Africa jinx began in Australia, maybe it will end there too’. So by that logic, even the Pakistan curse of them losing to India will end this time in 2015.
The format for this world cup is pretty straightforward. Two groups consist of seven teams each. Four nations from each group will make it to the knock out rounds. From there on it will be the team that is better on that day that will march towards the ultimate glory. So which are the teams that have it in them to bring back the ultimate prize?
– New Zealand
A fast bowling unit that can consistently bowl at 150 plus speeds, legendary spin bowler Vettori to back it up and an entire nation behind ‘The Black Caps’, this indeed is their best chance to lay hands on cricket’s ultimate prize. My pick for the tournament favorites are the co-hosts for 2015.
– South Africa
A captain that leads by example, a bowling unit that can run through any opposition and a fielding unit that can win you matches through sheer agility. South Africa if they manage to hold their nerves in the big games will be a strong contender to win a title that is still not in their kitty.
This is perhaps a team that is spoilt for choices. The only weak link in the entire squad is perhaps Brad Haddin. Else this team on paper looks the strongest of all. With the hosts tag and an emotional fan following, Australia will be raring to have a crack at their opponents.
The defending champions have a series to play before the World Cup begins in February. The biggest asset of course is their captain, who has a habit of pulling out surprise weapons out of the hat every now and then. Will he be able to defy his critics? Only time will tell. Bowling as this piece says, alongside inexperience is a cause of major concern.
Do not make the mistake of writing this team off. Yes the experts feel they don’t have a team that can go all the way, but something within believes this team can spring a surprise. They did it in 1992, when the chips were down and they might as well do it again down under.
The icing on the cake of course will be the ‘Giant Killers’ of the tournament. If some team manages to replicate a Kenya of 2003 or Ireland of 2007 then this tournament could become very interesting, else come 29th March 2015 the world will have a new champion.