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Cricket World Cup 2007
Calypso Cricket has long delighted fans with its cavalier approach to the often unnecessarily complicated gentleman’s game. “Why look for a gap in the field when you can hit over the top,” argued West Indian great Sir Vivian Richards. Much like a spectator sport, cricket in the Caribbean has always been worlds apart. It can best be described as a ‘living party’ painted with colors and equipped with seasoned shells, drums and various other instruments to complement the rhythmically flavored day. Just imagine that in Australia even beach balls are confiscated upon entry; in Barbados, ushers lead “loud” fans to piles where live audiences and DJs jam to calypso and soca chutney.
Hosting a cricket showcase is a huge task for any nation, let alone a region as diverse as the West Indies.
“If you had said ten years ago that nine governments would come together to pass legislation for the World Cup and that this scale of construction would happen, people would have said you were crazy. Since the 1930s, we have taken cricket for granted in the Caribbean , but now we have a chance to change the game forever. We’ve spent over $300 million and used it to redesign everything. It’s been a fantastic exercise.” – World Cup CEO, Chris Dehring
Whether Dehring’s enthusiasm will translate into a smooth-running tournament is of some concern to the anxious cricket public. One thing is for sure, however, when the tournament kicks off in Jamaica on March 13, any speculation about the fate of the 2007 Cricket World Cup will melt smoothly into the rhythm of the diverse crowd as all eyes turn to that shiny red ball.
So who will win the 2007 World Cup? Well…
The reigning World Cup holders are in menacing form. They clinched the Champions Trophy in India in November before beating England and New Zealand at home. Their combative attitude on the court has won them some critics, but it has also won them many close games. Captain Ricky Ponting is a master tactician who knows how to suffocate opposition teams. Wicketkeeper and batsman Adam Gilchrist is capable of destroying powerful attacks, Brett Lee has matured into a devastating one-day bowler and Michael Hussey has built a reputation as a clinical finisher. World domination never gets old for this crowd. Reason enough to make them very safe.
Player to watch: Andrew Symonds
An electrifying exponent of the modern game, Symonds is a master with dread and zinc lips – look for his middle-order mayhem with the bat. Symonds is more than skilled with the ball as well. He can mix it up either by bouncing off-spin or probing at medium pace and his fielding is simply the best in world cricket.
2. South Africa
South Africa remain a well-drilled squad with an experienced top shelf. Captain Graeme Smith leads a talented batting line-up that relies on the batting of Jacques Kallis and Herschelle Gibbs. Throw in two tenacious all-rounders in Justin Kemp and Andrew Hall, plus the leaping Makhaya Ntini, and they will be hard to avoid for most sides.
Player to watch: Mark Boucher
Vice-captain Mark Boucher is a fine lower-order batsman and a first-class gloveman who has excellent field position. The 30-year-old thrives in difficult situations but can also accelerate an innings at the death. When challenged, he rarely fails.
Coach Bob Woolmer will be looking for consistency from his fresh Pakistan side that showed promise on the 2006 tour to South Africa and India. Only the much-maligned captain Inzamam-ul-Haq remains from the star-studded 1992 World Cup winning side, but key batsmen Younis Khan and Mohammed Yousuf (currently world No. 1) are formidable middle-order presences. Moreover, young pacer Mohammed Asif has proved to be a great wicketkeeper. If the opening batsmen settle down then Pakistan will surely pose a threat to the big boys.
Player to watch: Shoaib Akhtar
Pakistan’s chances of World Cup glory received an enormous boost recently when the Pakistan Cricket Board overturned speed demon Shoaib Akhtar’s two-year steroid ban. Love him or hate him, the high-flying playboy is a proven match-winner. He has sheer pace and an uncanny ability to reverse swing the ball. If he is fit and fires, Pakistan will go a long way.
4. New Zealand
A one-day specialist, the Black Caps are a tenacious defensive team with enough firepower to cause an upset. The bowling attack boasts a top-class spinner in Daniel Vettori, who has developed into a fine performer of orthodox left-arm runs, a rejuvenated paceman Shan Bond and underrated seamer Mark Gillespie. Captain Stephen Fleming heads a flexible batting line-up with a dashing lower order. If the top order can shake off the self-destructive tendencies, then New Zealand will take advantage of their weak grouping.
Player to watch: Jacob Oram
Oram is crucial to the balance of his team. The muscular left-handed batsman has resurrected countless innings for the Black Caps with a blend of power and grace. Importantly, Oram also mixes in a useful medium pace that could see the Kiwi selectors include other specialist batsmen or up-and-coming spinner Jeetan Patel. The key for New Zealand is the injury-free Jacob Oram.
5. West Indies
Prediction: Super 8’S
The host nation can rarely be discounted in a major tournament and the West Indies are the kind of team that will win it just like that. Or at least they used to be. This current crop has talent, the inconsistency continues to confuse their legion of frustrated fans. The ever-present Brian Lara will do one last hurray, but it is the opening pair of Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Chris Gayle who could well dictate how far the team progresses. Jerome Taylor is developing fast as a strike bowler and Ian Bradshaw has a good one-day record, but the West Indies lack front-line bowlers to keep the opposition batsmen in check. Given the all-around team performance and who knows what home field advantage might bring?
Player to watch: Dwayne Bravo
Bravo is exactly what the West Indies were looking for – a true athletic all-rounder. Bravo made a huge impression when it debuted in England in 2004 and hasn’t looked back since. Attacking though technically astute middle-order batsmen and a deceptive medium-pace bowler, Bravo injected early excitement into Caribbean cricket.
Prediction: Super 8
Expectations weigh heavily on Team India and their form is often measured worse than the winter monsoon. However, coach Greg Chappell seems to have turned them around in recent months with skipper Sourav Ganguly returning to the fray as the opening batsman and poster boy Sachin Tendulkar enjoying another purple patch. But scoring runs has never been India’s problem; stopping runs proved more difficult. Harbajan Singh and Anil Kumble give them a slow attacking option but the conditions in the Caribbean will not suit their sharp turn. Likewise, the pace duo of Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar are too erratic to regularly trouble the world’s top order. But don’t discount the sleeping giant if India tightens up in this area.
Player to watch: MS Dhoni
The handsome boy of Indian cricket, MS Dhoni, makes the crowds jump, the girls swoon and the selectors lick their lips. The long-haired wicketkeeper is also a punishing middle-order batsman, as he proved in both Sri Lanka and Pakistan in 2005.
7. Sri Lanka
Prediction: Super 8
The 1996 world champions did well to remain competitive after the golden era. This well-coached, flamboyant side continues to produce impressive results. Their solid away record is due to batting depth, sharp fielding and some star bowlers, namely world record wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan and veteran left-hander Chaminda Vaas. With Jayawardene as an uncompromising, upbeat captain and dedicated slasher Sanath Jayasuriya still set to fire his team with the bat, look for Sri Lanka to cause some serious headaches.
Player to watch: Lasith Malinga
This fiery fast bowler was a revelation for the small island nation. His round-arm action leaves batsmen little time to spot the ball and his reputation for finger-crushing yorkers and scorching bouncers has made cricket fans want to see him play. Malinga is sure to enjoy the West Indian pitches as well, so look for him to make a real impact at the 2007 World Cup.
Prediction: Super 8
The tragedy of one-day international cricket has seen England win just a handful of matches in the last two years. Conservative and short-sighted selections have not helped matters, such as the last Australian tour, which featured three players in their mid-30s making their debuts. But there are also positives, namely brave stand-in captain Andrew Flintoff and spirited batsman Kevin Pietersen. The return of opener Michael Vaughan will also make a huge difference, as will the continued development of cagey spinner Monty Panesar and swing bowler James Anderson.
Player to watch: Kevin Pieterson
The extraordinary star of English cricket, the charismatic Kevin shook the entire establishment with his natural aggression and powerful hitting. Pietersen has the confidence to lead from the front and without him, England are a timid and scrappy bunch. But when he is in the mood, there are few better exponents of the art of batting.
2. South Africa
4. The Netherlands
Warner Park Stadium, Saint Kitts and Nevis
2. Sri Lanka
Queen’s Park Oval, Trinidad and Tobago
1. New Zealand
Beausejour Cricket Ground, Saint Lucia
2. West Indies
Sabina Park, Jamaica
Sir Vivian Richards Oval, Antigua and Barbuda
Queen’s Park, Grenada
Providence Stadium, Guyana
Kensington Oval, Barbados
* The top two teams from each group advance to the Super 8 stage. From there, another set of head-to-head matches will determine the semifinalists.
April 24 – Sabina Park, Jamaica
April 25 – Beausejour Cricket Ground, Saint Lucia
April 28 – Kensington Oval, Barbados
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