Every four years there comes a time in the year when the very best of world cricket converge on a country to battle it out for the ICC Cricket World Cup. However, this year not only one country will be hosting this prestigious event but three namely: India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The question on everyone’s lips at the moment is whether the Australians can win their fifth Cricket World Cup and fourth in succession. The answer is no probably not…

As with any World Cup in any sport the teams are ranked. The rankings can be misleading and such are the rankings for the 2011 edition of the Cricket World Cup.

Australia

The number 1 ranked ODI team will be trying to defend their title they won in the Caribbean in 2007 and will want to win back their fans back home after what can only be described as a dismal 2010 Ashes where they were made to look pretty average by a very good England team. The key to Australia’s success at the World Cup will be down to Shane Watson and captain Ricky Ponting. Watson who was one of the only shining lights during the Ashes has really taken the opening roll and made it his own, making a lot of runs in the ODI’s against England. Along with his option of bowling seam up at a fair lick, he will definitely be a key to Australia’s defence. As for Ponting, this may be his final World Cup and wouldn’t he like to go out with a bang! His early form in the warm-up games is looking menacing to teams and his contribution will be a big factor. Another interesting comeback is that of Brett Lee. All will be looking forward to see if he can turn back the clock a few years.

My Prediction: semi-finalists.

 

Bangladesh

Bangladesh is a team that is a kind of an unknown quantity. On any given day they can play spectacular cricket and surprise most teams in the world. Bangladesh have already beaten all the top test playing nations and will be looking to the conditions to try and spring a few surprises. Although they are ranked 8th, which is above West Indies, they may have a legitimate chance to at least make the quarter-finals. They will rely mainly on Shakib Al-hansan to lead them from the front. This team is full of exciting young cricketers who will definitely give it their all. Don’t be surprised if Bangladesh win a few games.

My prediction: quarter-finalists.

England

The current Ashes holders, England, will be looking to continue their rise up in the shorter version of the game. After winning the recent T20 World Cup, not everything is looking so bright for England in the ODI format. After being pummelled in Australia 6-1 in their most recent ODI series, it looks like England have a lot of work to do but this team is very well managed and coached and should be competitive but ultimately not real title contenders as their world ranking of 5th points out. This may be the big team to miss out on a Quarter-final spot as they find themselves in a hard group with the likes of India, West Indies, South Africa and Bangladesh. For England to challenge they will need half of South Africa to fire as their team comprises mainly of ex-South Africans.

My Prediction: May miss out on Quarters.

 

India

This team is everyone’s favourite to win this edition of the World Cup and it’s not surprising. They have an extremely talented team mixed with experience. Even though they recently lost out in an ODI series to South Africa they need not be worried as it was in South African conditions. The issue for the Indian team will be how they cope with the pressure that the fans and press have put on them. These guys are celebrities like Nelson Mandela is to South Africans. This might be a bridge too far these players. They will rely heavily on Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni but I think the key to India winning at home will be Yusuf Pathan. Not only is he the most destructive batsmen in world cricket but in India, he bowls his part time spin and plays a huge role in keeping runs down and picking up the odd wicket.

My Prediction: finalist (potential winners).

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New Zealand

New Zealand were a team that 2months ago were in a state of disarray after being whitewashed by co-host of the World Cup, Bangladesh, in a five match ODI series culminating with Mark Greatbatch retaining his spot as coach after much deliberation. This seemed to spring the team into action as they went on to beat fellow Group A team, Pakistan, in a five match ODI series. The key to the success of New Zealand will lie with their most experienced player and captain, Daniel Vettori. He is a world class spinner who can turn any game in their favour. Another key player will be the McCullam brothers with Brendan being a devastating opening batsmen and Nathan a very competent spin bowler. I think that New Zealand may surprise a few teams as they have the right type of team to succeed on the sub-continent with lots of all-rounders.

My Prediction: could be a dark horse for a semi-final spot.

Pakistan

The biggest dark horse of this World Cup is probably Pakistan. With this team you just don’t know which Pakistan will pitch up on the day. This is a problem because when everyone fires and everything goes well they have the talent to beat anyone on their day. Add to that the fact that they were meant to be a co-host of the tournament and were removed due to security reasons, which has added extra incentive for them to go out and do it for their country. This team should be treated with a large amount of respect. With the likes of Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq lurking and Shoiab Ahktar making a comeback for the millionth time, this team has the potential to be very good. Not to mention the best death bowler in world cricket at the moment Umar Gul. I don’t think there are any key players for Pakistan but more the fact that if they don’t have a rush to the head and explode they’ll go far.

My Prediction: Inconsistency will haunt them. Quarter-finals for me.

 

South Africa

South Africa are a team with loads of potential and with very little expectation from the rest of the world by only being ranked 4th. The team has both young and old experience and a very well balanced side with some of the best cricketers in the world. I think quietly South Africa is confident that they can take the trophy home. Another issue being brought up is the choking tag which as Kallis pointed out is said whenever SA loses a game. But this group of players seems to have a different outlook and a fighting spirit which wins games in the face of defeat.  The key player for South Africa is obviously Kallis, who in one word is incredible and will be central to a South African victory. Another key player will be Dale Steyn with his pace, swing and ability to reverse swing it late in an innings will be tough for any team to contend with.

My Prediction: Winners.

 

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka for me have a very realistic and good chance of taking their World Cup campaign very far and maybe challenging for the cup depending on who they meet where in the knockout stages. The Sri Lankans are currently ranked 3rd in the world and have coasted into this World Cup in their backyard, largely under the radar not making too much noise. I feel that this Sri Lankan team has class in every department with exception maybe to seam bowling. Never the less the team make-up for Sri Lanka is very good. The key players for Sri Lanka will be firstly the spin twins of Murilithiran and Mendis with Mahela Jayawardene being important in the batting department.

My Prediction: depending on the knockout stages a finalist.

 

West Indies

Finally, the West Indies. They seem to have brought only all-rounders to this World Cup which on the sub continent may play into their hands. What also needs to be factored in is that in the West Indies they play on the same type of tracks. This, however, I feel won’t save them as they have a serious problem with bowling. The key to their success will be Kieron Pollard and Chris Gayle.

My Prediction: Will make the quarters.

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