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Cricket world gears up for World Cup

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Cricket world gears up for World Cup


The world will always need more cricket.
Thankfully the sport’s showpiece event, the ICC World Cup, is about to get under way.
While the tournament will go almost completely unnoticed in non-cricketing nations, there are – mainly thanks to India’s massive population - billions of people who will be following the action.
The World Cup will bring together 14 teams who will battle it out in the one-day format of the game. It is being held this time round in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
The opening ceremony will be staged in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, later on Thursday, with the final being played in Mumbai on April 2.
Here is a run-down of the countries taking part and their chances of success.
The co-hosts and favourites. They will benefit not just from a fanatical home support but also familiarity with dry pitches that favour spin bowlers, of which they have plenty. And they certainly have the batting talent. In Sachin Tendulkar they have the world’s greatest run-scorer and boast several other swashbuckling batsmen capable of scoring plenty of runs fast. India are the world’s top ranked team in the longer, Test match format but also a strong one-day side too.
On the downside, expectations are sky high and that can often be a distraction in tournament sport.
Typical bookmakers’ odds: 11/4 
There was a time not so long ago when Sri Lanka were minnows in international cricket. That changed dramatically when the team thrashed its way to World Cup glory in 1996. Since then Sri Lanka has consolidated its place among the world’s top cricketing powers. They are usually a pleasure to watch and, with India, are the joint World No.2 in the one-day rankings. Their batsmen are certainly capable of ripping bowling attacks apart and their talismanic spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan has taken more batsmen’s scalps than any other player in both Test and one day cricket. Approaching his 39th birthday however, some believe he may be past his best.
Typical bookmakers’ odds: 4/1
Australia have won the last three World Cups and although a sustained period of world dominance in all forms of cricket have ended in recent years, they remain the world’s top-ranked one-day side. Mentally, they are strong and recently overcame crushing disappointment in the Ashes Test series to hammer England 6-1 in the one-dayers. Australia will need key players such as captain Ricky Ponting to step up to the mark though and their spin options are limited, which could be a problem on the subcontinent.
Typical bookmakers’ odds: 5/1
Usually a solid Test match team, the South Africans have a record of under-achieving in world cups. The batting line-up includes players of real pedigree like captain Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers. Among the bowlers are the world’s current No.1, Dale Steyn, and Imran Tahir, previously a Pakistan player who now qualifies under residency rules. His leg-spin could be a useful weapon to complement an attack that otherwise relies on fast bowlers. 
Typical bookmakers’ odds: 5/1
England have developed into an efficient Test match team but their one-day record has been disappointing. The 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the Australians may play on their minds, while a long winter tour Down Under has taken its toll physically and robbed them of the sometimes-devastating batting qualities of Eoin Morgan, who will miss the tournament through injury. Much will depend on the form of flamboyant batsman Kevin Pietersen and the spin bowling of Graeme Swann. A good collective spirit is one thing the English have going for them, especially in a nail-biting finish. Preparation though has not been ideal.
Typical bookmakers’ odds: 8/1
Chaotic and inconsistent, Pakistan are something of an enigma. They are just as capable of thrashing top sides as they are of capitulating to drunk Sunday pub leaguers. They are missing some top players who have been suspended for alleged match-fixing but there always seems to be someone in reserve for Pakistan. Captain Shahid Afridi bats beautifully and also bowls, while Umar Gul’s ability to swing the ball and test the batsmen’s toes can also be deadly late in the match. Depending on wind direction, solar storms and the alignment of the planets, Pakistan could either gel and win the tournament or have a collective brawl in the team bus and lose every match. Either way, it will be worth watching.
Typical bookmakers’ odds: 8/1
The Kiwis have been in awful form recently, which hasn’t been helped by constant changes to the team. There are several strong batsmen who can punish wayward bowlers but New Zealand’s hopes rest largely on the shoulders of captain Daniel Vettori and his spin bowling. In nine world cups, the Kiwis have been semi-finalists five times. They would do well to make it six from ten.
Typical bookmakers’ odds: 20/1
The West Indies current team is a pale shadow of the side that once struck fear into all other cricketing nations. Twice winners of this tournament in the glory days of the 1970s, they may be lucky just to escape the first round group stage, with Bangladesh in particular smelling blood, particularly on home soil. A lack of balance means that much will be asked of a promising batting top six, as the bowlers lack experience and may struggle to skittle opponents out cheaply.
Typical bookmakers’ odds: 22/1
As one of the host countries, Bangladesh will have high hopes despite not being recognised among the cricket world’s traditional ‘elite’. They have at least one world class player in both the batting and bowling departments – Tamim Iqbal and Abdur Razzaq respectively – and will be looking to put the squeeze on the West Indies and England to finish in the top four of their group and move into the second round. The Tigers probably don’t have the strength in depth to get much further though.
Typical bookmakers’ odds: 40/1
Zimbabwe’s political strife has reflected on the national cricket team. They will be reinstated to Test status only after the World Cup. Most of the country’s top players quit the game at the beginning of the century in protest at Robert Mugabe’s regime. That prompted the loss of Test status. The bowling attack has plenty of spin and the team may look to frustrate rather than outplay their opposition. Progressing from the group stage would be seen as a success.
Typical bookmakers’ odds: 250/1
This is only Ireland’s second cricket world cup. At the first in 2007 they sprang the surprise of the tournament by beating Pakistan and making it to round two. Since then they have made steady if not spectacular progress, and have gone from having three full-time professionals to thirteen. They have some handy players plying their trade in the English county circuit but are still punching above their weight on the world stage. Reaching the second round again would be an achievement.
Typical bookmakers’ odds: 500/1
The Canadians, or to be precise mostly Indian and Pakistani expats who qualify for Canada, are rank outsiders, having won just one out of 12 World Cup matches (Bangladesh in 2003). To win one more in this tournament will be their realistic objective.
Typical bookmakers’ odds: 2000/1
Kenya made the semi-finals of the 2003 World Cup but the standard of Kenyan cricket has been in freefall since. This is another team that will regard winning a game as a success. They might overcome Canada.
Typical bookmakers’ odds: 2000/1
Underdogs, but with a couple of players who might surprise better but complacent opponents. Ryan ten Doeschate bats and bowls extremely well at times and if he can get a little support from other capable team-mates such as batsman Alexei Kervezee, the Dutch could add to their total haul of two World Cup match wins (from 14).
Typical bookmakers’ odds: 2000/1 
A total of 49 matches will be played in the World Cup. euronews will provide a weekly round-up of news and scores.  

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