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Time for a new world champion
March 13, 2007
Crystal ball gazing and predicting what might happen in the 2007 World Cup could prove one of two things -- I have wonderful foresight or I have set myself up for embarrassment! But one thing is for sure, this World Cup has the makings of an intriguing tournament.
I believe that it is time for a new world champion to be crowned. Australia have won it three times; West Indies twice; Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India once each. That leaves South Africa, England and New Zealand to do what no other team has done in the history of their country.
Australia may have lost their number one ranking to South Africa, but all teams will still respect them. To me they look a little vulnerable and their recent drubbing by England and New Zealand suggests other teams in the world will believe they too can beat them. The loss of Brett Lee through injury and, more importantly, the injury to Andrew Symonds is a severe blow to the balance of the team and perhaps their chances of success.
The West Indies have improved in recent times and should utilize their home advantage.
In 1996 I correctly predicted Sri Lanka to win the World Cup, and if Muralitharan is fit and some of their key batsmen are in form, they are a big threat again.
Pakistan are generally an unpredictable team -- they can be dynamic or very average indeed, but they are undoubtedly a talented team and worthy opposition for any one. The loss of Razzaq, Akhtar and Asif through injury is a big blow.
India, who are currently rated number five, have an explosive batting line up capable of scoring big runs and at a brisk pace, but there could be question marks over the bowling attack and how effective they will be.
England have reached three finals, but never gone on to win. They will have gained some confidence in beating Australia in the final of the tri-series. Flintoff and Pietersen are their most influential players; however, it will require a fully committed team effort for them to win the cup.
New Zealand, now rated number three, have four times been semi-finalists. They too will believe it is their time to make a final and win the cup. Bond's fast bowling could be decisive -- he is one of the world's premiere fast bowlers with an incredible strike rate. The team is well balanced with some very good cricketers but they must restrict the number of runs they concede in the final 10 overs which at present is too high.
It will be a tremendous opportunity for the minnows to see where they are at as a developing international country. The players will gain valuable experience and it will be their career cricketing highlight to play against the best teams and players in the world.
In the group stages, their 'test' is to beat the other minnows and record a World Cup win but can any of those teams upset a major country? It has been done before: in 1999 Bangladesh beat Pakistan, and Kenya defeated the West Indies in 1996.
It could be an uneasy time for all the major countries when they take on the lesser-rated teams in unknown conditions and are expected to win with ease. Don't be surprised if some of those games are closer than what we would normally expect!
Several key factors will decide the 2007 World Cup champion team. No one really knows how the pitches in the West Indies will play. Most grounds have newly laid pitches with little or no history. Few people will be able to predict what will be a match-winning score. There is a suggestion that there will be some low scores unless the power hitters in each team can reach the generally short boundaries with a high degree of consistency. Therefore, playing the right team combinations from the 15-man squads will need careful consideration -- there will be added pressure to get those selections right.
On the day, players will need to adapt to and assess the conditions very quickly. The thought of scoring 300 runs in an innings may have to change quickly to a score of 220 which may be good enough to defend. Genuine fast bowlers will always be effective with the new ball. Spinners are expected to succeed in this tournament and the slower medium bowlers, who can take the pace off the ball, could be very handy.
For my theory to work, the semi-finalists must include South Africa, New Zealand, or England. No doubt over the next 47 days these thoughts will keep changing!
-- GE FEATURES
The Cup: Complete Coverage
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