Hmm - the world cup is heating up with some terrific matches in the last couple of weeks - notably the India-England tie, the Irish victory and England's victory over RSA. All these matches provided tremendous excitement and proved once again the old cliche of cricket being a game of 'glorious uncertainties'. And this makes the question even more difficult to answer - who will win the cup that counts? Here's my opinion on the various team's chances. These are not bookmaking odds since I have no clue about how that works, but just my unscientific opinion - take it with a large dose of salt if you wish.
When you say Pakistan or West Indies, the first word that comes to mind is 'brilliant' but that word is quickly followed by these - 'totally unpredictable' and dare I say, 'fragile'. Afridi, Misbah, Younis, Gayle, Pollard, Roach are all players who can change a match on their own. But with Pakistan (as with West Indies) you never know which team will turn up on the day of the match - the supremely talented, mentally tough team with a savage killer instinct, or the bunch of quarreling schoolboys who can be steamrolled by a team made up of benevolent bishops. Their chances - 50/50, and you don't even know which 50 stands for which result.
Now here's a team that is a serious contender, in my opinion, notwithstanding the busted TV (accidentally, of course) and the injury to Bollinger (no connection with the busted TV) - with a solid batting in Watson, Ponting, Clarke and bolstered by the return of Mr Cricket (M Hussey) and a bowling trio that can rip out your middle stump on the most benign of tracks, they present a formidable opposition to anyone. Add to that their never-say-die attitude and the famous Aussie spirit, and you have a very good side, capable of winning their 4th straight world cup. They chances - high!
Any of these teams is capable of winning, no doubt, but I think apart from Malinga, SL doesn't have any game-changer anymore (Murali is past his prime, IMO), and RSA tend to choke in tight situations - unfortunately that tag will never leave them until they win their first world cup. England have a great batsman/captain, but they don't seem to have the bowling to trouble good batting line-ups. I somehow don't see Swann (arguably the best off-spinner) troubling Jayawardhene or Sangakarra (who have grown up playing Murali), or any of the Indians for that matter. Unless there is any swing, Anderson is like a toothless tiger and the others are at best solid, dependable, but not exceptional. Their chances - slightly lower than high.
I count NZ amongst the minnows for the way they have played - apart from Ross Taylor and Vettori and their exceptional fielding, they will find it quite difficult to win against the major teams with solid depth in batting on the flat sub-continental tracks, unless its a damp/slow/stopping track where their slow-medium bowlers can make life difficult. Chances - low.
Finally we come to India - IMO, India have the best chance of winning. Apart from a world class batting unit and a terrific captain cool, they have the element of surprise on their side. Everyone who has seen their bowling so far have dismissed their ability to deliver against even a 2nd level club side in the northern counties. or even the bay area. I think the bowling is not as bad as it has looked so far - with Zaheer and Bhajji, Yuvi in his new avatar and Ashwin with his icy temperament , they have bowlers who can really exploit the conditions, and with the likes of Sehwag, Tendulkar, Pathan and Dhoni they have some serious amount of fire-power in their ranks, and gambhir and kohli to hold fort where required. In fact, I am struck by the many similarities this team has with the SL team that won in 96. 7 quality batsmen, 3-4 part time spinners, one quality off-spinner, one slow but very wily left-arm pacer and a captain with a temperament like a battle-tank. They have it all. Chances - Very High!
To conclude - may the best team win, and may the best team be India (no causality is implied!).
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