The rehearsals are all but over, the main show is about to start now. The past year or so saw every team put most of its resources in building a side that could challenge for the World Cup title, the pursuit of which begins early morning on Saturday.
There are 14 teams in the fray but only a handful have a realistic chance of lifting the trophy in Melbourne on March 29.
India are the defending champions but the only thing on their minds right now is survival, so abject have been their performances. The Proteas are always a force to reckon with but they seldom bring anything new to the table, meaning teams know what to expect from them day in and day out. And let’s not talk about their choking habit.
Teams like Pakistan and West Indies can cause an upset on any given day but such sides rarely go all the way at a World Cup. Which brings us to the hosts of the tournament.
Australia are in excellent form at the moment and have been unbeaten at home this summer. The Indians couldn’t get past their defences for two months and England too couldn’t get the better of them in the tri-series.
And with Michael Clarke looking like he might feature in the World Cup, at least some part of it, the Aussies have an abundance of resources at their disposal. Steven Smith and Glenn Maxwell can be expected to light up the stage with their batting and pacer Mitchell Johnson will be desperate to blast every batsman out of sight and achieve glory at home.
But the one team that is looking really dangerous is New Zealand. They will kick off the World Cup against the Sri Lankans and their build-up has been super smooth. All their plans have worked perfectly and it augurs well for them.
The Kiwis’ batting line-up is firing on all cylinders with captain Brendon McCullum smashing boundaries left, right and centre. Kane Williamson complements McCullum’s aggressive style perfectly and Ross Taylor is always there to lend support.
Their bowlers Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan are in fine form and the Kiwis gave a glimpse of their class during their warm-up clash against a strong South African side as they first amassed 331 before bowling the South Africans out for 197.
It was just a practice game but the ramifications could be huge. Especially for the Sri Lankans.
The Islanders have been in New Zealand for nearly two months and have already suffered heavy defeats in the Test and ODI series against the Black Caps.
And their shambolic effort against Zimbabwe during their warm-up match will be a cause of major concern. If Zimbabwe can chase 280 with nearly five overs to spare and seven wickets in hand, one wonders what the Kiwis will manage against the current Sri Lankan attack.
Whatever the outcome of that match, one hopes this World Cup sees a proper contest between bat and ball. The International Cricket Council has promised to push the boundary ropes as far as possible to stop the ball from sailing over at the drop of a hat. And if the wickets have a little bit of help for the bowlers, we could be in for a treat rather than the soporific bounda-ryfests that we call one-day cricket nowadays.
The teams are ready and the fans are expectant. Now it’s only a matter of putting up a grand show.
Over to you, boys.
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