Thanks to the World T20, which hits our television screens every second year now, cricket lovers these days are never short of World Cup excitement. However, when one talks of World Cup, the only World Cup that comes to mind is the ODI World Cup. No World T20 or big money franchise league can match the tournament in its aura.
Despite attracting criticisms and evoking debates over the years, the ODI Cricket World Cup remains the tournament that cricket lovers across the world wait for with bated breath. Until and unless the ICC Test Championship materializes and becomes a spectacular success, its position as the Numero Uno of cricket tournament remains unchallenged.
It is for this particular reason that this Cup means so much for the teams who fight for it. With just a week to go, the top eight contenders have all their eyes set on the cup but from different vantage points. Just like every edition of this tournament, a lot is at stake for teams this time around as well.
They might be going into the Cup without knowing who leads them in the tournament, yet if recent signs are anything to go by this team has got everything to match the sides that won the cup thrice in a row. Plus, they have the home advantage going for them. But is it really an advantage? That’s what Australia would be wary of. The last time they hosted the tournament in 1992, they were the favorites to defend the title they had won in the subcontinent.
But they fluffed their chances and missed out a place in the semis. Despite being not as strong away as their predecessors, this team easily stands out as title favorites at home. After failing to make it to the semis for the first time in 5 World Cups in 2011, this is Australia’s chance to reclaim glory and seal the debate on the team’s re-ascension to the top.
South Africa –
Since their first stint on the big stage in 1992, there has hardly been a World Cup where South Africa didn’t start as favorites. And sadly, there has hardly been a World Cup which they haven’t exited under non-dramatic fashion. Mysteriously underperforming on days that matter has been their bane in World Cup history and hence the undesirable yet apt ‘Chokers’ tag.
Staving off two decade long ignominy of being called chokers is what is at stake for the Proteas. And De Villiers and Co. have it in them to do it. They’re on red hot form. Batting and Bowling departments are in safe hands, and with South Africa, fielding is never under question. But just like the last time, this edition’s format too leaves no room for comeback. One bad day on the field can knell the end of the campaign. If they want to shut all charges of big-stage fright against them, they can’t afford to drop their guard down once in Australia.
New Zealand –
If there is one team that seems to have magically transformed since the last edition of the mega tournament in sub continent, it is the Kiwis. Although his first tryst with captaincy was a disaster (IPL 2009, Anyone?), McCullum has taken to the national duty like fish to water. He has led from the front and in the last one year has made his team one of the top contenders for the big trophy.
Unlike the previous New Zealand teams, they enter the tournament not as outsiders but favorites. And that’s where it gets complicated for this unit. New Zealand not only needs to guard against complacency but also make sure that the ‘favorite’ tag doesn’t bog them down. Like Australia, they also have to battle the home team jinx. Besides, they have an embarrassing record of losing 6 semi-finals. Skipper McCullum would know that if the team can manage to take last year’s form into the cup and win it, they will get rid of the underperformers tag forever.
India comes into this World Cup battered and bruised and yet wearing the crown of Defending Champions. Having hung up his boots in Test Cricket, there are whispers that this might be the last ODI assignment of the over worked and over stretched Indian Skipper. And that’s why a lot will be at stake for Dhoni personally in this World Cup. Having fought criticism of not being the same charismatic leader away as he is home throughout his captaincy, Dhoni would like to silence his critics for once and all by defending the Cup.
Also, for team India too, this is their last chance to end a long and disappointing tour on a high note. Knowing that public memory is short, they would be aware that if they can somehow manage to win the Cup, their dismal performances will be forgotten.
No matter how hard they try, but England just cannot shrug off the KP demon that’s haunting them since they have unceremoniously sacked the ‘uninterested’ right hander. Every time the team loses, the social media goes berserk over KP’s non inclusion. Pietersen’s performance in the Big Bash League in contrast to England’s dismal performance in Australia has made conditions more desperate for the English team.
Skipper Morgan would realize that there is only one way this can be brought to an end and that is by doing what no English skipper has done before – winning the coveted trophy.
Pakistan Cricket and the ICC haven’t had the most perfect relationships. Fans in Pakistan have their grouse against the cricketing body which they feel has been biased against it time and again. Pakistani fans are still upset over the Ajmal and Hafeez verdict, which has clearly hampered the team’s preparations for the tournament.
Pakistan, thus, would be looking to win it for Ajmal as well as Afridi and Captain Misbah, who will both retire at the end of the tournament. Besides, in Australia, Pakistan has a history to defend as they start the tournament as Cornered Tigers once again. And they once again have a Captain at the helm who will end his ODI career after the World Cup. Déjà vu, anyone?
West Indies –
A lot has happened in West Indies cricket over the last couple of years and nothing about it has brought smiles on the faces of the fans. The team keeps plummeting to greater depths with every off field controversy. But as hopeless as they enter the tournament, teams would know that they are also the most unpredictable of the lot.
Though depleted, they’re still capable of springing a surprise as they did in 2012 T20 World Cup. So, if they can manage to win the Cup, for once, the troubles will be forgotten and smiles will be back on the faces of the Windies fans.
Sri Lanka –
Losing consecutive World Cup finals hurts and no one would know it better than Jayawardene and Sangakkara, captains on both occasions. The two gentlemen of Sri Lanka Cricket would leave the game together after the World Cup 2015. And they would be determined to leave with the Cup in their hands. It would be a big relief for Sri Lankan cricket if they can manage to cross the line this time.
They did win the T20 final against India, but redemption lies in winning the trophy they missed both the times by whisker. Besides, like India, Sri Lanka too will be looking to shrug off the label of ‘Flat-track bullies’, by winning a big tournament outside the sub-continent.
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