By Harshmeet Singh
Cricket World Cup 2015 is about to begin. Contenders are many but hopes of the defending champion India are high. With many star players either retired or left out, can they pull it through this time too?
2nd April 2011. An entire country came to a standstill. People cried with joy. Half of the nation was out on the streets at midnight. Strangers danced together and hugged each other. For a generation of cricket lovers who grew up watching black and white photograph of a grinning Kapil Dev holding the World Cup trophy at the Lords’ gallery in 1983, this was a moment to savour. 4 years later, as M.S. Dhoni and his select group of men get ready to defend their title, even the most ardent fans would accept that a repeat of 2011 wouldn’t be anything short of a miracle.
Emergence of cash-rich T20 cricket leagues like IPL and the Big Bash League over the past decade has changed the loyalties of a cricket crazy fan. With the shortest format of the game drawing huge audiences of all age groups into the grounds and the ‘Test cricket’ still being regarded as the real test of a player’s ability, the once glitzy One day International cricket is fast losing significance. However, none of these factors take away the sheen of the Cricket World Cup. With the stage all set and some pulsating contests in store, the 2015 Cricket World cup promises to be a fan’s delight.
Advantage of playing in the home conditions and riveting form of late have placed Australia and New Zealand among the favourites to lift the trophy on 29th March. While Australia are used to starting as ‘favourites’ irrespective of the conditions and current form, New Zealand has never faced such high expectations. For the first time, rather than being referred to as the ‘Dark Horse’, New Zealand is being considered as a real threat to the top teams in the tournament. Their splendid run in 2014 combined with a deadly fast bowling pair of Tim Southee and Trent Boult, and an array of in-form batsman places them in a good position to come out of their ‘perennial semi-finalist’ record and go all the way. Australia, on the other hand, has never been a weak side. Boasting of an enviable combination of destructive batsmen and fearful bowlers, anything less than a runners-up position would be a major disappointment for the Kangaroos.
Just like all the past editions where they have participated, South Africa remains a team to watch out for. They would be hoping to avoid ‘choking’ themselves to death, as they so often manage to do while playing in the world cup. With Dale Steyn – one of the best fast bowlers of all time, and AB de Villiers – the batting genius among their ranks, the world cup is theirs to lose. Among the other teams who can spring in a surprise is Pakistan. Famous for being ‘consistently inconsistent’, the mavericks open their account against India on 15th February. The team would have high hopes from their formidable pace battery and Boom Boom Afridi.
On current form, the reigning world champions India don’t inspire much confidence even in the minds of the most religious fans. A winless two month long tour of Australia wasn’t an ideal preparation camp for the team. The team’s plans of starting the bowling with Stuart Binny sending down balls at mid 120s don’t inspire much confidence either. The team would be pinning its hopes on its formidable batting line up, led by Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina. But expecting them to chase down a target in excess of 350 every single time they take the crease would be too much to ask for. With no Sachin, Yuvraj or Sehwag in the pavilion, it won’t be fair to compare this team to the 2011 world champions. But as a hopeless cricket romantic would imagine, the highly stacked up odds might just be the antidote that gets the Indian juggernaut moving!
Image Credit: vijay chennupati