Games & Sports

ICC Cricket World Cup hopefuls, organizers on tightrope

NEW DELHI: A promo of the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup by the host broadcasters shows players from the 14 participating nations walking a tightrope high in the air to achieve their goal. With reigning champions Australia shedding their prowess and evenly-matched teams facing a treacherous knock-out format, copywriters have already foreseen an
unpredictable, wide-open tournament from February 19-April 2, 2011. Australia have dominated the World Cup stage in spectacular fashion, winning the last three editions in 1999, 2003 and 2007 to add to their first success under Allan Border in 1987.

But rivals this time will fancy their chances against the new-look Aussies following the retirement of key stars like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds. Australia will still remain strong contenders to pick up a fifth title, but India and Sri Lanka – who co-host the World Cup with Bangladesh – and South Africa and
England are regarded the front-runners. With the unpredictable, but hugely talented, Pakistanis also in the mix alongside two-time champions West Indies and New Zealand, the race for the title is wide open. “This could be anyone’s tournament,” Kapil Dev, India’s World Cup-winning captain in 1983, told AFP. “The conditions will favor teams from the sub-continent, but don’t write off other sides.

They have all played enough in this part of the world to know what awaits them.” Adding to the excitement is the new format where teams face sudden-death after the preliminary league. Unlike the last three editions, where there were two league stages before the semi-finalists were determined, the upcoming tournament will see the knock-outs begin after the first round itself. The 14 teams have been divided into two groups for the initial round-robin league, with the top four from each half advancing to the quarterfinals. The quarterfinal format, first used in 1996 before being discarded, was revived to ensure a team plays a minimum of six matches even if they don’t make the next round.

In the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, crowd pullers India and Pakistan went out of the reckoning after just three matches as they failed to enter the second round. India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni admitted the new ‘banana skin’ format was a double-edged sword. “Teams will get to play more matches, but once through to the second round, you just can’t afford to have an off-day,” said Dhoni. “One bad move and you could be out of it.” Reigning champions Australia have been drawn with Sri Lanka,

Pakistan, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Canada and Kenya in Group A. India and Bangladesh, who play the tournament opener in Dhaka on February 19, will be joined by England, South Africa, West Indies, Ireland and the Netherlands in a relatively tougher Group B.

Let’s see who’s gonna take up the cup.

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Raheel Hanif

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