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HindustanTimes Sat,30 Aug 2014

Cricket Columns

Most open World Cup since 1975
Ian Chappell, Hindustan Times
February 17, 2011
First Published: 00:50 IST(17/2/2011)
Last Updated: 02:27 IST(17/2/2011)

The 2011 World Cup is potentially the most open since the inaugural tournament in 1975; as many as five teams have a realistic chance of winning.

Unlike the 2007 tournament where it was simply a matter of; “Who'll meet Australia in the final?” this time the defending champions are not favourites. 

If any team is entitled to outright favouritism, it’s joint hosts India. India have an unbelievably strong batting line-up with the likes of little maestro Sachin Tendulkar and the Delhi-destroyer Sehwag. If youngsters Virat Kohli and Raina also play to their potential that’s a whole lot of firepower and it’s anchored by MS Dhoni.

India's perfectly equipped to both set huge targets as well as chase them down. They’re also well-stocked with spinners. The emergence of Ashwin takes some load off Harbhajan and while Yuvraj’s batting has waned, his bowling has prospered.

The big impediments to India winning the trophy for the first time since 1983 are their inconsistent pace attack, which relies heavily on the fragile Zaheer Khan and the massive weight of fan expectation. No team has ever won the trophy playing in a home final but India have a chance of breaking that jinx.

The Australian selectors have gambled by basing the attack around aggressive fast bowlers. They continued in this vein by choosing an attacking off-spinner, Jason Krezja. How far Australia progress will depend to a degree on Ricky Ponting adapting his captaincy to seeking wickets as the ultimate mode of containment.

Australia will also have to bat well, especially when the spin bowlers are operating and this is where they'll miss Michael Hussey. For once South Africa have a balanced attack rather than one heavily reliant upon seamers. They also have a strong batting line-up.

They have the team to win but do they have the temperament?  The last time the tournament was played on the sub-continent in 1996, Sri Lanka won it. They have a steady attack; strong in spin but one good pace bowler short of dominant.

The batting, headed by Sangakkara and Jaywardene, is solid but lacks a genuine middle-order power.

This year looked like England's big chance to win their first World Cup but their batsmen played spin poorly in Australia. That's not likely to improve on the sub-continent, and with Eoin Morgan injured, their batting relies even more on the erratic Kevin Pietersen.

Of those five teams, England are likely to miss the semis. It's shaping up as Lanka versus SA in one and Australia versus India in the other.


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