ICC Cricket world cup 2007 has moved to the land of reggae and calypso and there have already been a few close calls to some of the leading cricket nations in the friendly matches. New Zealand suffered a reverse against Bangladesh and the Irish almost scared the hell out of South Africans. All the contenders for the title like Sri Lanka, South Africa and New Zealand have fared badly during the friendlies. While that may not be an indication of how they will perform during the actual tournament, it doesn't look good and inspiring for their followers. India and Australia have played convincingly and won both the matches but Australia are definitely not the side they used to be. That aura they used to have is now missing. I do see them struggling to make it to the semis and only if other teams play even poorer, will Australia have a chance.
For the first time in ages, most of the teams have a good chance of winning the world cup. Australia has pretty much dominated both the tests and one day arena in the last 5 to 7 years. With their sudden decline in form and many players having retired recently, Australia too are struggling to perform as consistently as they used to. India are peaking at the right time and hope it stays that way. New Zealand have come into the tournament with a morale boosting series win over a depleted Australian side. So have England, who having performed pathetically for most of the Australian summer somehow managed to clinch the VB series cup making a mockery of the long qualifying stage where they lost most of their matches. In my opinion, I feel that it would be India, South Africa, Sri Lanka and New Zealand that would qualify for the semi-finals. Well, as with every prediction, I could land with an egg on my face. Australia is one of my favourite teams but I really feel that they have lost their edge and the current crop of bowlers excluding McGrath are pretty ordinary and will not terrify the batsman from the opposing team.
It's nice to see a major tournament being played in the Caribbean. A lot of effort has been in put in by the member countries to make it as good as the previous ones or even better. I have a gut feeling that this world cup is going to be a fantastic one. The pitches are newly laid and even the West Indies team don't have a clue as to how it will operate. Thus, any team that can quickly adapt to changing conditions will have a very good chance. Also, all the matches to be played are day affairs instead of the usual day-night games. This gives both the teams an even chance of outperforming the other team just based on skill without other factors such as dew, early moisture, floodlights affecting them. The stadiums are quite smalls compared to what we see in the subcontinent or Australia and thus will hold only lesser number of spectators. I do think that gives a more intimate atmosphere to the way matches are being played and those who do get to watch the games live, will have a good time.
I have never been interested in watching the game live in a stadium. I have become a product of watching the games on TV with the usual assortment of replays, super slow motion tricks, commentary etc along with putting up my feet with hot samosas fresh from the kitchen. Living in the UK now, the world cup is perfectly timed as I will get to watch most of the matches live on TV without having to skip work and having to stay up late in the night. This is going to be one hell of a world cup.