Australia and New Zealand hosted the first ever World Cup in coloured clothing and white ball in 1992. There was a certain charm in waking up early morning to watch the much-touted spectacle. Years later, that very excitement has engulfed me all over again. Since the World Cup is in that part of the world and two new balls are used - one from each end –I’m focusing on the openers and the new ball bowlers of every team, for that’s what might hold the key to their chances in the tournament.
If a team loses more than one wicket in the first ten overs or fails to take a minimum of two in the same time period, they’re likely to chase their shadow for the remaining forty overs. On this parameter, I find that South Africa is stacking better than most because of the Amla-Quinton De Kock combine as an opening pair.
South Africa’s Dale Steyn (left) and Morne Morkel at a training session. Pic/Getty Images
Both of them are not just in good form but also have the ability to score centuries once they are set. The fact that both these guys play most of their cricket in tough South African conditions, it won’t take too long for them to find the groove in slightly familiar conditions. To add to that, they have the trio of world’s best fast bowler Steyn along with Morkel and Philander. This trio is likely to make the two new balls talk. This is the World Cup for other teams to win, this is the World Cup for South Africa to lose. They’re actually that good and it’ll be a shame if the ‘chokers’ tag comes back to haunt them.
Another team that’s looking almost as good as South Africa is Australia, for their new ball operators are also of top quality. Warner-Finch with the bat and Starc-Johnson-Cummins with the ball. I’m backing their co-host New Zealand as the third team to make it to the semi-finals. They also have almost all bases covered and the advantage of playing all the games in NZ must not be underestimated, for before most teams work out the dimensions of the grounds, the game is over.
It seems like there will be a toss up between defending champions India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and England for the fourth spot, and that brings me to Team India’s chances in the tournament. To state that the Indian team is in slight disarray will be an understatement, for there are some gaping holes in the team at the moment. Dhawan’s form as an opener is a huge concern because if he continues to fail, Kohli will always be walking in in the third-fourth over. While as a No 3 batsman you are prepared to bat against the new ball, it’s not a good thing to happen in every single game. Dhoni’s form is also a concern, for he’s the second most important batsman in the side along with Kohli. And the less we discuss about the Indian bowling the better.
India’s hopes of making an impact as a bowling unit were pinned on Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s ability to swing the new ball but he doesn’t seem to be a part of the plan anymore.
Unless Umesh, Shami and Mohit stitch a miracle it’s going to be a case of chasing the leather in almost every second game. Dhoni has plenty to ponder ahead of the tournament opener against Pakistan and he must have already realised that defending the trophy in 2015 will be a lot tougher than winning it in 2011.