Australia ruled the roost in the previous two editions of the World Cup.
The Aussies still hold the number one spot in ODI ranking but they are a far cry from the teams that participated in the 2007 and 2009 World Cup. India has emerged as a team to reckon with, but they still lack the knock-out punch. South Africa is yet to sustain big match pressure. Sri Lanka and England are respectable sides but cannot be regarded as indisputable champions.
So it’s a World Cup that remains wide open for the five teams albeit Pakistan could be countable always for their unpredictable nature.
However cricket pundits around the world revealed as many as five teams – India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Australia and England could be the title contender.
Those five teams’ captain talked to the media in a captain’s presser at a local hotel in Dhaka on the eve of starting the ICC Cricket World Cup and shared their views.
India: History will be against India as host of the World Cup final is yet to win it at their own den. Yet Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s India got the all potentiality to break the jinx. Winning the trophy could be fitting reward for great Sachin Tendulkar to bid him adieu as it could be easily his last World Cup. So India will give them every shot to win it that eluded them after 1983. India’s captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni however had reservation to tag his side as red-hot favourite.
“On behalf of the host nations it’s a great pleasure for me to speak out here. I think next 45 days will be really interesting. We would like to invite the other teams to enjoy the hospitality of the subcontinent and at the same time enjoy cricket.”
“All the teams are looking in good nick. And the format is also good since we have long break in between the games, if player pick niggles you can really recover and you can always pick your best player which I think is a big plus point for us. So I think it will really a big tournament.”
Sri Lanka: They became the champions when the sub-continent last time hosted the showpiece event. Clinching the title replicating the 1996 form could be a fitting farewell for spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan. He remains the only member of the side who got the taste of World Cup. When another World Cup is knocking at the door, Sangakkara said he sought the inspiration from that tournament.
“Playing at home is great as the passion for the cricket in sub-continent is amazing. So it’s a quite important tournament for us. We are ready to play good cricket and prepared well.”
South Africa: A most successful campaigner in the sub-continent always – boasting with super cool Jaques Kallis, in-form Hashim Amla, ever-inspiring captain Graeme Smith and deadly Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, could easily steal the show despite the tag of ‘Choker’. Smith however at the captain’s presser looked in joking mood. When he was asked who could be the champion, Smith said, “All 14 teams have the possibility to win the World Cup.”
Australia: They started their mission of winning three World Cup titles at a stretch in 1999 when they found them uncomfortable position with losing couple of matches in the group stage. Afterwards they never lost any match. Ponting remained the unbeaten captain still. But the aura has diminished already and Australia is not the team now that anyone could dare to bet. Possibly that’s why Ponting got some sympathy as he was faced most of the questions during the press conference.
“We are looking for good cricket in the coming six weeks. As far as preparation is concerned we are well ready to take any challenge,” the Aussie captain said.
Ponting however acknowledged this team is not comparable to the previous World Cup team in any sense but still he relied on the cricketers that he got now.
“If you look at our squad now as compared to the ones that went into the previous two World Cups, it is not that dissimilar. If you read the team on paper, it may not have the McGraths and the Warnes and the Gilchrists of the previous sides, but the guys who will feature in the World Cup has 50-70 ODIs under their belt. It isn’t as inexperienced as it looks. So they’re looking to create their own niche and build their own reputations as this tournament progresses.”
England: They came here with a 1-6 drubbing against Australia but honestly they did not get the full strength team as the gruelling Ashes series made huge toll on the first choice players’ body. The founder of the cricket broke the jinx in the global tournament with clinching the World Twenty20 title. Definitely they want to achieve the double crown. A hot and humid condition in sub-continent could be a great obstacle for them, Andrew Strauss pondered.
“The key is to adjust very quickly to the conditions here, which are starkly different from those that we encountered in Australia. The aim should be to learn as we go along, and also acclimatise quickly. Past records clearly don’t matter here.”