World Cup 2007 March 4, 2007

Most open tournament yet held

In a tightly bunched field Ian Chappell favours Australia, New Zealand, West Indies and India to scramble into the final four

Ian Chappell

The 2007 World Cup has all the makings of the most open tournament yet held with as many as six teams having a realistic chance of lifting the trophy at Kensington Oval in late April.

Adding to the difficulty in predicting a winner or even the four semi-finalists, is the wide range of pitch conditions that might prevail. As recently as the middle of last year many Caribbean pitches were slow and low with considerable assistance for the spinners. However, a number of new wicket blocks have subsequently been laid and there are suggestions these will provide some encouragement for the faster bowlers. Depending on what actually transpires in the way of pitch behaviour, teams like South Africa will either have no chance [if they are slow and low] or a real threat [if they provide pace and bounce] and the reverse holds true for Sri Lanka and India.

Not since the 1991-92 World Cup when matches were played in Australia and New Zealand have teams had to contend with such diverse conditions as those being predicted for the Caribbean. The 1991-92 tournament was a wide open affair with Pakistan saving their best till last and defeating England in the final.

Oddly enough those are the two major nations without a realistic chance of winning the trophy in 2007. Nevertheless, England with their late resurgence on the tour of Australia and the return of the highly dangerous Kevin Pietersen could be worth a flutter to make the semi-finals if a few cards fall their way.

Despite their derailment in the last few weeks, Australia must still be the slight favourite, as they have the players best equipped to cover variable pitch conditions. However, they still have to unearth a bowling combination which can consistently "shut down" the opposition in the final overs, with Glenn McGrath currently their only reasonable performer in that situation. They also desperately need a spinner to regularly take wickets in the overs following the Powerplays. If they don't solve these two major problems and Andrew Symonds isn't effective with his damaged arm, then even their strong batting line-up won't be enough to win them a record third consecutive World Cup.

Depending on what actually transpires in the way of pitch behaviour, teams like South Africa will either have no chance [if they are slow and low] or a real threat [if they provide pace and bounce] and the reverse holds true for Sri Lanka and India

New Zealand, South Africa, India, West Indies and Sri Lanka are all on the next rung of the favouritism ladder. South Africa is a one-dimensional side; they like to stifle the scoring with their pace-oriented attack and they don't bat so well in conditions that suit good spinners. However, they are a blue-collar bunch who are extremely competitive and in conditions that suit their pace bowlers they'll be dangerous if Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs fire with the bat.

India has the batting experience plus the explosive power of Virender Sehwag and Mahendra Singh Dhoni to either post or chase down big totals. The big question mark is the ability of the bowlers to hold it together when they are attacked in the field restriction period of an innings. It was their failure to retain composure that let them down in the 2003 final and a lot of those same fielders are now four years older so the task won't be any easier this time unless Zaheer Khan and company bowl well.

Sri Lanka has a varied attack that should handle any conditions but they rely heavily on Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Sanath Jayasuriya for the bulk of their runs on bouncier pitches. The West Indies has quietly compiled a good one-day record under Brian Lara with a win and a trip to the final in the last two Champions Trophy tournaments. They have depth and power in batting and good variety in bowling and their fielding is solid so it's not surprising that they are a competitive side. Their one failing is a lack of a power bat in the middle-order and they need Dwayne Smith to confirm his potential.

New Zealand are a strong allround side with a varied and skilled attack, backed by committed fielders. The recent improvement in their top order run getting has boosted their chances enormously and a fit Jacob Oram, along with the equally dangerous Brendon McCullum, provide power with control in the middle-order. If three successive victories over Australia are a sign that self-belief has made a belated but grand entrance to their camp, then they are genuine contenders.

In a tightly bunched field I favour Australia, New Zealand, West Indies and India to scramble into the final four. If, to reach the knock out stage it's the battle I expect, then it'll be a tremendous tournament; it's just a pity it takes so long to reach the highly competitive stage.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on March 8, 2007, 5:52 GMT

    The West Indian batsmen are most dangerous on their home turf. All their batsmen, and allrounders, are potentially big contributors, to a team score. The Sri Lankan allrounders, are not as adept batsmen. Their batting line up, is not exactly packed with specialist batsmen. If the West Indian bowlers perform reasonably, they have more than a good chance of makeing the semi-finals. Bravo is the bowler, for the opposition, to be wary of. On slow wickets, Gayle bowls well. Bravo is usually discliplined, Gayle gets the job done.West Indies, Pakistan, and England, are the teams to watch, along with India. India are the favourites, in my opinion.

  • testli5504537 on March 7, 2007, 18:28 GMT

    I have sent numerous emails to icc / bbc/cricinfo without any response. Can anyone comment / explain / answer following: The ICC president is elected every 2 years but president is just a puppet, the real authority is with the c.e.o, ie Malcolm Speed. How / who and for what tenure is the c.e.o appointed? if it is a permanent position then c.e.o should only be responsible for organising / financial arrangements etc and not involved in rules governing this wonderful game, that should be left to elected officials only. Please comment!

  • testli5504537 on March 7, 2007, 15:40 GMT

    Sir Chappell, Its really an injustice to not even include a couple of lines for Pakistan.

    On a more solid note, your assessment cannot be questioned. But I would like to say that both England and Pakistan make up the top 8, of which anyone can beat anybody on his day. I would love to know what chances were you giving to Pakistan in 1992. If they are same as they are now, then its time for reminding you again of the injustice of failing to mention any positive thing abt Pakistan. This is one of the rare combined and united teams Pakistan have produced. Its their spirit and spirituality (religiousness) that may just about make the difference!!

  • testli5504537 on March 7, 2007, 6:56 GMT

    I think Ian needs to Refresh his Cricketing brain when he says that """teams like South Africa will either have no chance [if they are slow and low] or a real threat [if they provide pace and bounce] and the reverse holds true for Sri Lanka and India"""" I m saying this thing because South Africa under estimated India on recent tour of India visting RSA by providing them good Pace n Bouncy wicket with swing in First test match... They had to change their tactics afterwards... I think Aussies will find it hard to Even reach Semies ( I m seriuos) they will be Handicap without Symonds n Lee... Mcgrath is too old to bowl (and his face looks as if he is of Ian's age)...

  • testli5504537 on March 6, 2007, 22:58 GMT

    hey i tried commenting the last time i was here. it looks like you didnt get my message or you didnt want my comment submitted because you are too closed-minded to accept another person's viewpoint. LIKE I SAID BEFORE, DONT COUNT PAKISTAN OUT!!! THEY'RE STILL ALIVE!!!!!!!!! AND ENGLAND HAS A CHANCE AS WELL:)

  • testli5504537 on March 6, 2007, 22:57 GMT

    Predicting 4 semi finalists is a tough ask for a competition, which atleast on the paper has 16 teams fighting for a spot in the finals. Having said that I would like to respect the opinion of Ian Chapell. I wish for an Indian triumph but with all the build up in the past few weeks, the super eight stage would be something to watch out for.

  • testli5504537 on March 6, 2007, 22:35 GMT

    Fair selections.WI vs Australia in the finals.WI will win the Cup.Go the Windies.

  • testli5504537 on March 6, 2007, 22:16 GMT

    Australia, New Zealand, West Indies and India are the four teams that shud reach the semi's.It should be India and Australia in the final, i want india to take revenge from the last world cup. But the indian camp is still confused who to open with. I would definatly open with V.Sehwag and R.Uthhappa, these two are a destructive pair when opening,then S.Ganguly should come in at no.3.whats so hard about that?? Someone tell them!!

    and remember uv still got Sachin,Dravid,Yuvraj,Dhoni who can all go bezerk and blast through any bowling attack!

  • testli5504537 on March 6, 2007, 22:10 GMT

    It will be WI SL India n SA .....for the chance for this Australian side this time.

  • testli5504537 on March 6, 2007, 13:42 GMT

    Very well analysed article. The only exception is that the last four would be Australia, South Africa,New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

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