At this stage of the World Cup, we have had a look at all the sides and opinions are being established. Here is my view of leading contenders –
India – Batting every bit as strong as expected and fervently supported on home territory. Bowling lacks penetration and much depends on the creaking but crafty Zaheer Khan staying fit. Fielding is also a significant weakness, with too many camels in the deep. Will the surfeit of talent in one discipline outweigh the paucity of talent in the other two? The bookies think so, as they have India at 3.75.
South Africa – We are used to South African teams with impressive batting and penetrating pace, but this South African side have added containing and wicket-taking spin, with Imran Tahir very impressive already. So why are SA as long as 5.0 in the markets? Despite listeners and colleagues refusing to give any weight to this evidence, my contention is that SA have a lack of mental strength that has prevented them achieving their potential in the past. Though these players are different – in the same way that mental strength ran through two generations of Australian players, I’d suggest that we can claim that there is a lack of mental strength that runs through two generations of South African cricketers. Is this the XI to lay that ghost? Odds on 5.0 suggests that the market believes that SA will not deliver results to match their talent – again.
Sri Lanka – Probably the best balanced side of all – pace, spin, experience, hitters, accumulators, fielding, home advantage and well led. Perhaps too much depends on the shaky fitness of Malinga and the ageing limbs of Murali, but it’s hard to see why they are as long as 5.5 with the bookies.
Australia – As much pedigree as one could want and still on an unbeaten run, but look a little short on class compared to their winning sides of the past. All the eggs in one basket when bowling, but extreme pace is available to Punter whenever he wants it and that never hurt Clive Lloyd. Not the best in the field, but might have enough firepower with bat and ball to win matches. A touch long in the market as 6.0 and my tip for the final.
Pakistan – Well, what can one say? Almost a parody of themselves, so up and down are the men from cricket’s most unpredictable country. If everyone plays to potential, they win – the opposition don’t matter. But that “if” is an enormous word when Pakistan are on the paddock. 7.5 is their odds in the market, but I’d suggest that it’s skinny considering the number of ways that Pakistan can lose a cricket match.
England – Fielding looks tired after a long time away from home, but the batting looks strong and deep. Unfortunately, the bowling looks very dodgy, failing to build scoreboard pressure through choking runs or dismissing batsmen. Experienced players though, who know how to win a tournament, albeit in T20, so there’s a chance they might just click and win three do-or-die matches and the trophy… if they progress from the group stage. Odds of 11.0 look a shade generous.
West Indies – A collection of players rather than a team, but there’s matchwinners in Gayle, Bravo, Pollard and Roach. However dilatory fielding and lack of support bowling surely scuppers their chances. Long at 26.0, but that’s probably fair.