Good chance for India to break the 'home' jinx
It was a momentous occasion as all the previous World Cup-winning captains, except Ricky Ponting, came under a single roof. Rarely has cricket seen such a gathering of champions.
West Indies' double World Cup-winning captain Clive Lloyd, India's Kapil Dev, Australians Allan Border and Steve Waugh, Pakistan's Imran Khan and Sri Lanka's Arjuna Ranatunga discussed the forthcoming tournament, beginning February 19, at the Champions of the World promotional event, organised by telecom giants Idea.
All the legendary cricketers were unanimous in their choice as India being the top favourites to win the World Cup, closely followed by neighbours Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is the only team to have won the World Cup as hosts, when they triumphed in 1996, and Kapil believes the in-form Indian team has a chance to replicate the feat.
"On paper India looks a much better team. And, if the home teams haven't managed to win the tournament then it is a good chance to break the jinx," he said.
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani
Image: (Left to right): Clive Lloyd, Allan Border, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Arjuna Ranatunga and Steve Waugh
'As many as six teams have a chance to win the World Cup'
Imran, who spearheaded Pakistan's triumph in 1992, when the tournament was held in Australia and New Zealand, also echoed the former India captain's views, but believes it will be a close tournament.
"If you consider the form and conditions, India is the top favourite for the World Cup. But I believe this will be an even tournament, and as many as six teams have a chance to win the World Cup. This is the first World Cup I remember after many years that all the teams are so closely matched, else Australia was way ahead of the other in the last three tournaments," he said.
"This is the best chance for India, because their form has been good and they have the advantage of playing at home. Their squad has good depth too, so I rate them highly," Imran added.
The former all-rounder also showered rich praise on India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni saying: "I have been impressed by Dhoni, because he is a brave captain and he leads from the front. I like his style and his body language."
Image: Imran Khan
'I would not write off Australia'
Waugh, who won the World Cup in 1999, said Australia cannot be taken lightly even though they have not lived up to expectations in the last few months.
"India will probably be the top favourite at the moment, because of the fact they know the conditions well and there would be enormous support for them. Sri Lanka also have a very good chance of doing well. Certainly, I would not write off Australia, because they have got some capability. They are a little hit and cold at the moment, but I think they have an outside chance," he said.
Waugh also refused to acknowledge that this could be the weakest team Australia will be fielding in the last few World Cups.
"I don't think that this is a weak Australian side. A lot of people are reading too much into the Ashes, but this is a different side. They have done well in ODIs and are ranked number one in the ICC rankings. They have quite a few match-winners in their team, and bowling-wise they have good pacers in Shaun Tait, Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee.
"With the bat, you got Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin, who can be match-winners as well; so we have got plenty of guys who can turn a match. But they haven't played a lot of cricket together in the last 12 months because of injuries.
"Ponting is coming back from an injury, not sure about Michael Hussey or Nathan Hauritz, because of injuries; so there's a lot of question marks. But I think a lot of times Australia plays their best when faced with adversity; so I would not rule Australia out."
Image: Steve Waugh
'We were complacent during our period'
Imran also gave full backing to Pakistan, saying despite their various problems they are capable of producing good results if things go their way.
"Pakistan have already disadvantaged themselves by not naming a captain for the World Cup. But you can never write them off, because sometimes if a team rises from the ashes and starts playing good cricket then it is very difficult to stop them," he said.
Meanwhile, Lloyd, who won the World Cup twice, in 1975 and 1979, pointed out why the West Indies have declined over the years.
"I think we were complacent during our period. We probably thought cricketers would just come through then and we did nothing to get young people interested. And now we are doing things we should have done years ago, like an academy and a high performance centre. So we are hoping that the youngsters can come up and do well for West Indies," he said.
Image: Clive Lloyd