We’re not particularly excited at the prospect of the World Cup. It is far too long and the initial group stage of 42 matches could easily be shortened to play-offs between Bangladesh-West Indies and New Zealand-Zimbabwe in order to produce the eight quarter-finalists.
Notwithstanding our gripes about the length and format of the tournament however, we are looking forward to seeing if England can complete a memorable 12 months by adding the World Cup to the Ashes and World T20 triumphs.
Furthermore, we are looking forward to seeing how a number of players perform on the big stage. Here’s XI of them:
Sachin’s legions of devotees will doubtless disagree, but is there a better ODI batsman in the world than the bearded wonder at the moment? An average of 75 in 2010 with five ODI hundreds, a phenomenal career ODI average of a touch under 60 and his love of the sub-continent all make Amla our bet to be the tournament’s leading run scorer.
The left-handed Sehwag is the key to Bangladesh springing a surprise and getting to the last eight. It will likely come down to a straight fight with the West Indies and a blitzkrieg shootout between Tamim and Chris Gayle. Now that will be worth watching.
A last hurrah or a fourth successive World Cup and the third as captain? The Ashes series was like a Shakespearean tragedy for Ponting, so it will be fascinating to see how the World Cup plays out for one of the all-time greats.
Along with India, Sri Lanka have to be the favourites to win the tournament and if that happens King Kumar is likely to be omnipresent with his elegant batting, sharp work behind the stumps, shrewd captaincy and eloquent words. As cool as a cucumber.
Despite not yet playing Tests, Kohli is far and away the most impressive of the young Indian batsmen jostling for position to eventually replace the likes of Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman. He has taken to ODI cricket like a duck to water and scored more ODI runs (995) than anyone in 2010 with the exception of Amla.
After his belated confirmation as captain, Afridi will be even keener to improve his dreadful World Cup record of 11 with the bat and 40 with the ball. The captaincy hasn’t dimmed the explosive batting of the man with three of the top six fastest centuries in ODI history. Whether he and Pakistan fly or flop, one thing is for sure - it won’t be boring.
The final piece in the jigsaw for India? After continually disappointing in an Indian shirt, Pathan has suddenly transformed himself into potentially the most devastating hitter in limited overs cricket. Recent hundreds against New Zealand and South Africa demonstrated what he could do – expect more of the same during the World Cup.
His absence from the England side in all but the first of the recent seven match series with Australia showed how vital he is to England’s hopes. The pitches down under may have been deliberately prepared to nullify Swann’s threat but that certainly won’t be the case on the sub-continent. Swann loves the big stage, and in pyjama cricket at least there is none bigger than this. England’s chances rest on how he performs.
If Sri Lanka is to repeat its success of 1996, they will need Malinga to fire and stay fit. Expect plenty of timber to fly when he is around and the ball to swing, whether it is old or new. And just how do you play that yorker?
The best bowler in the world bar none. Steyn doesn’t worry about containment and will attack relentlessly, and as he showed in Nagpur last year he can be deadly on the sub-continent.
The romantic in us would opt for Murali in his last international tournament, but we really like Price. He may be a spinner, but he has the attitude, stares and choice words of a fearsome fast bowler. Think Merv Hughes without the tash. And he is a decent bowler too who could help his side to a surprise place in the last eight at the expense of the hapless Black Caps.
Check out all our Reverse Sweep heroes and zeroes featuring amongst others Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, David Gower, David Lloyd and Charles Colville
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