The West Indies are hosting the World Cup for the first time. Expect them to come at their opponents with renewed vigor and pride. Not to mention the advantage of playing at home. They have good young side revolving around the experienced players. They have proved that on their day they can be as good any in the game by reaching the final of the last champions trophy and winning the edition previous to that.
Their strength is undoubtedly their batting. Led by the indomitable Brian Lara they have enough experience with Chanderpaul, Sarwan and Gayle in the ranks. Add to that the talented Samuels and Bravo and the West Indies have a potent mix of youth and experience.
Their short coming though is undoubtedly their bowling. There is no one in the West Indies side whom you can rely on as a match winner. They are all capable enough bowlers but they will find it tough to stem the tide when it goes against them. They lack quality experience in this department even though Bradshaw, Taylor and Edwards have been around for some time.
Their major advantage would be that they are playing at home and this should motivate the side more than anything. They are an altogether different side when playing at home as illustrated by the drubbing they dished out to India last year. However they may not have the consistency that is required in tournaments like this for them to get into the semifinal stages of the competition. West Indies were so pathetic at one time that now inconsistency seems sort of an improvement. I seriously doubt them getting past the Super Eight stage.
All the subcontinent teams have a good chance this time of doing well in the competition. The pitch being the major factor for this. The pitches in West Indies do not have the bounce and speed to terrorize the batsmen from the subcontinent.
In the case of Pakistan it all depends on the mood that they are in on any given day. One day they can beat Australia and the next day they can lose to Bangladesh. Whichever side turns up on the field, you will never get bored with seeing their antics on and off the field. It will be a wonder if Pakistan goes through a 2 month tournament without running into some sort of controversy or the other. If they can keep their focus they will be a tough team to beat, which unfortunately for them never happens.
There has never been a dearth of talent in the Pakistan team. If they have ever lacked anything it always was discipline and focus. However this time under the calm Inzamam and the calculating Woolmer they might just change this. The team contains a set of explosive talented players with none other than Shoaib Akthar being most explosive of them all. Pakistan has a good bowling attack with a potent pace battery of Akhtar and Asif, supported by the wily leg spin of Danish Kaneria. After Australia theirs is the best bowling attack and can cause trouble to the rest provided they maintaint their form and fitness.
Their batting too has a nice blend of experience and youth with Inzamam himself leading the way. The gentle giant would do well to keep an eye on his running between the wickets as his opponent for sure will try their best to exploit chink in his armor. Yousuf is in the form of his life. Both he and Younis Khan will have a major role to play Pakistan are to do well in the competition. But the man who could influence Pakistan’s fate more than anybody else would be Shahid Afridi. If he gets going the opposition might as well start packing.
The major concern for Pakistan would be their fielding. If they can plug this gap in their game they could well be the champions of this World Cup. They are the team to watch out for as they should be reaching the Semi-Finals and is one of the favorites in my book to go all the way.
The best fielding side from the subcontinent however has more to their game than just fielding. They have some of the most exciting player in world cricket at the moment led by the youthful and exuberant Jayawardene.
Their batting line-up is one of the best. They have abundance of experience in Jayasurya and Attapattu. Adding to it is the solidity of Jaywardene and flair of Sangakkara. Without a doubt batting is their strong point and if Jayasuriya is in his elements then it will be tough for any team against them.
Bowling is the weak link in their line up. This is not withstanding the fact that they have a magician in their ranks called Muralitharan. But unlike in test matches, in One Dayers a bowler gets to bowl only 10 overs in an innings. This enables the opposition to play him out by adopting a low risk approach. He is given excellent support by Vaas. The veteran medium pace bowler is miserly when it comes to giving runs and it is tough to get runs off him without taking a lot of risks. The support bowling is the concern. They are not as world class as these two. But if Mahroof, Fernando and Malinga can give these guys some support it would help Sri Lanka in reaching the finals.
The main advantage for Sri Lanka though would be the pitches in West Indies. It would be so similar to the ones in Sri Lanka that they would be forgiven for thinking that are playing at home. I believe Sri Lanka will have to play really bad to not win the cup. This is their best chance to win the cup away from home.
To be continued...