Going by legends, it's India
Yesteryear stars put their money on India to lift the World Cup, Sri Lanka are a close second. N. Ananthanarayanan reports. World Cup in numberscricket Updated: Dec 10, 2010 02:19 IST
The favourite tag never lies easy on the hosts. But India have been installed the favourites by four greats for the World Cup. While Sri Lanka are rated a close second, Australia's current Ashes plight means the pundits, and punters, have lost hopes that they can pull off a fourth win in a row.
With three former World Cup winning captains coming together along with the man they rate as the game's most destructive batsman, there was plenty of perspective on the one-day showpiece which kicks off on February 19 in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and Arjuna Ranatunga - all three led their team to win against all odds - joined Viv Richards to discuss the World Cup in a promotional event organised by official broadcasters ESPN Star Sports.
India's form against New Zealand, where they are hoping to complete a sweep in the fifth game in Chennai on Friday, and their sheer depth of talent had the greats declaring they would be the team to beat. However, Kapil hoped the key players stayed injury-free after the tough South Africa tour, which begins next week, while Ranatunga, Richards and Imran spoke about not letting pressure get to them.
India's shocking first round exit at the 2007 World Cup is a distant memory as they look spoilt for choices, particularly in batting. South Africa are always a threat, Pakistan are in disarray, the West Indies too inconsistent and Australia a pale shadow of the team which racked up the last two wins without losing a match.
Tough pre-Cup tours
Kapil hoped none of the main players are left with injuries when the South Africa tour ends. He was particularly anxious about Sachin Tendulkar, who goes into his sixth World Cup. "He is so important for world cricket. If he is not injured, he is someone who gives you experience and leads from the front," said Kapil.
The former greats felt the omen was right for India to finish on top. Kapil remembered India's tour of West Indies before they shocked the world at the 1983 World Cup while Ranatunga said the acrimonious 1995 tour of Australia - where the row over Muttiah Muralitharan's action erupted - toughened his team before the 1996 run to the World Cup. For Imran, who personally recruited a chubby Inzamam-ul Haq for the lower order demolition job in 1991-92, it was facing the Windies at home before setting off to Australia that was the key.
"India are easily the most favoured team seeing the depth in their batting and bowling. I actually think if they have a tough tour of South Africa, they will do well," said Imran.