World Cup hopefuls, organisers on tightrope
by Kuldip Lal
WORLD CUP: NEW DELHI, Jan 29 (AFP) - A promo of the upcoming World
Cup by the host broadcasters shows players from the 14 participating
nations walking a tightrope high in the air to achieve their goal.
With reigning champions Australia shedding their prowess and
evenly-matched teams facing a treacherous knock-out format, copywriters
have already forseen an unpredictable, wide-open tournament from
Februaty 19-April 2.
Australia have dominated the World Cup stage in spectacular fashion,
winning the last three editions in 1999, 2003 and 2007 to add to their
first success under Allan Border in 1987.
But rivals this time will fancy their chances against the new-look
Aussies following the retirement of key stars like Shane Warne, Glenn
McGrath, Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds.
Australia will still remain strong contenders to pick up a fifth
title, but India and Sri Lanka - who co-host the World Cup with
Bangladesh - and South Africa and England are regarded the frontrunners.
With the unpredictable, but hugely talented, Pakistanis also in the
mix alongside two-time champions West Indies and New Zealand, the race
for the title is wide open.
"This could be anyone's tournament," Kapil Dev, India's World
Cup-winning captain in 1983, told AFP.
"The conditions will favour teams from the sub-continent, but don't
write off other sides. They have all played enough in this part of the
world to know what awaits them."
Adding to the excitement is the new format where teams face
sudden-death after the preliminary league.
Unlike the last three editions, where there were two league stages
before the semi-finalists were determined, the upcoming tournament will
see the knock-outs begin after the first round itself.
The 14 teams have been divided into two groups for the initial
round-robin league, with the top four from each half advancing to the
The quarter-final format, first used in 1996 before being discarded,
was revived to ensure a team plays a minimum of six matches even if they
don't make the next round.
In the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, crowd pullers India and
Pakistan went out of the reckoning after just three matches as they
failed to enter the second round.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni admitted the new 'banana skin'
format was a double-edged sword.
"Teams will get to play more matches, but once through to the second
round, you just can't afford to have an off-day," said Dhoni. "One bad
move and you could be out of it."
Sri Lanka with Aussies
Reigning champions Australia have been drawn with Sri Lanka,
Pakistan, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Canada and Kenya in Group A.
India and Bangladesh, who play the tournament opener in Dhaka on
February 19, will be joined by England, South Africa, West Indies,
Ireland and the Netherlands in a relatively tougher Group B.
The World Cup will be held in the sub-continent, the nerve-centre and
financial powerhouse of cricket, for the third time after India and
Pakistan held it in 1987 and were joined by Sri Lanka in 1996.
Pakistan were also due to co-host the 2011 party, but were stripped
of their rights due to security concerns in the volatile nation in the
aftermath of the terror attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009.
India are using eight Test venues for their 29 matches, but they have
already hit problems in a worrying echo of the troubles which dogged the
2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
The Wankhede stadium in Mumbai, the site of the April 2 final, has
But refurbishment work on the iconic Eden Gardens in Kolkata was so
far behind schedule that the venue's first game of four - the February
27 clash betwen India and England - has had to be moved to another
Sri Lanka - venues
Sri Lanka's 12 matches will be held at three venues, including two
brand new 25,000-seater stadia in Pallekele near the hill resort of
Kandy and Hambantota in the deep south.
The eight games alloted to Bangladesh will be played at the
Sher-e-Bangla cricket stadium in Mirpur on the outskirts of Dhaka and
the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury stadium in Chittagong.
The World Cup contenders are set for a financial bonanza with a
record prize purse of eight million dollars on offer, a rise of three
million from the previous edition.
The winners receive $3.25 million - Australia took home $2.2 million
in 2007 - while the losing finalists get $1.5 million.
With an additional $30,000 kept aside for the winners of each first
round match, the champions stand to gain another $180,000 if they win
all their six preliminary games.
The two losing semi-finalists take home $500,000 each, while teams
that are knocked out in the quarter-final stage will get $250,000 each.
The prize money does not include the share of the profits the
International Cricket Council dishes out to all the 14 participating
teams from its joint revenue pool.