2007 Cricket World Cup

Calypso Cricket has long thrilled fans with its cocky approach to an often unnecessarily complicated game of gentlemen. “Why find a hole in the pitch when you can hit overhead?” argued West Indian great Sir Vivian Richards. Also, as a spectator sport, cricket in the Caribbean has always been a world apart. It is best described as a ‘lively party’ painted in color and equipped with conch shells, drums and various other seasoned instruments to add to the rhythmic flavor of the day. Imagine, in Australia even beach balls are confiscated upon entry; in Barbados, ushers guide ‘rowdy’ fans to the mounds where cheering spectators and DJs spin calypso and soca chutney.

Hosting a cricket exhibition event is a daunting task for any nation, let alone a region as distinct as the West Indies.

“Ten years ago, if you had said that nine governments would combine to pass laws 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 the chance to change the game forever. We’ve spent over $300 million and used it to review everything. It’s been a fantastic exercise.” -World Cup CEO Chris Dehring

Whether Dehring’s enthusiasm translates into a smooth tournament is cause for concern for an anxious cricketing public. One thing is for sure though, when the tournament opens in Jamaica on March 13, any speculation about the fate of the 2007 Cricket World Cup will fade smoothly to the rhythm of the diverse crowd as all eyes focus on that bright red ball.

Advance

So who will win the 2007 World Cup? Good…

1.Australia

Prediction: Champion

The reigning World Cup champions are in sinister form. They clinched the Champions Trophy in India in November and then beat England and New Zealand at home. Their belligerent approach on the field has earned them some criticism, but it has also won them many close matches. Captain Ricky Ponting is a master tactician who knows how to strangle opposing teams. Goalkeeper 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 spiker. World domination never goes out of style for this mob. Reason enough to keep them very safe.

Player to watch: Andrew Symonds

An electrifying exponent of the modern game, Symonds is a dreadlocked, tin-lipped master—go for his mid-order mayhem with the bat. Symonds is also more than adept on the ball. He can bowl bowling off-spin or polling at medium pace, and his fielding is simply the best in world cricket.

2. South Africa

Prediction: Semifinals

South Africa remain a well-trained unit, with an experienced top shelf. Captain Graeme Smith heads up a talented batting lineup that relies on the hitting of Jacques Kallis and Herschelle Gibbs. Throw in two tough all-rounders in Justin Kemp and Andrew Hall, plus the bouncy Makhaya Ntini, and most teams will find it hard to keep them out.

Player to watch: Mark Boucher

Vice-Captain Mark Boucher is a tremendous low-batsman and world-class glove who runs an excellent fielding team. The 30-year-old thrives in sticky situations, but can also speed up a tackle on the kill. If he is called upon, he rarely fails.

3.Pakistan

Prediction: Semifinals

Coach Bob Woolmer will look for consistency in his revamped Pakistani team that showed promise on 2006 tours to South Africa and India. Only the maligned captain Inzamam-ul-Haq remains of the star-studded 1992 World Cup-winning side, but key batsmen Younis Khan and Mohammed Yousuf (currently ranked No. 1 in the world) are a formidable commanding presence. half. Also, the young sprinter Mohammed Asif has developed into a great ground taker. If the starting batsmen can settle, then Pakistan will surely threaten the big boys.

Player to watch: Shoaib Akhtar

Pakistan’s chances of winning the World Cup received a huge boost recently when speed demon Shoaib Akhtar was given a two-year steroid ban lifted by the Pakistan Cricket Board. Love him or hate him, the high-flying playboy is a proven winner. He has great pace and an uncanny ability to reverse the ball’s swing. If he is fit and running, Pakistan will go a long way.

4. New Zealand

Prediction: Semifinals

One-day specialists, the Black Caps are a tenacious defensive team, with enough firepower to surprise. The bowling attack features a world-class spinner in Daniel Vettori, who has become an excellent orthodox performer of the blown left arm, rejuvenated pacer Shane Bond, and underrated closer Mark Gillespie. Captain Stephen Fleming finds himself at the helm of a flexible hitting lineup, with a speedy lower order. If the higher order can shake off the tendency to self-destruct, then New Zealand will take advantage of its weak grouping.

Player to Watch: Jacob Oram

Oram is crucial to the balance of your team. A muscular left-handed hitter, he has resurrected countless Black Caps innings with a blend of power and grace. Importantly, Oram also pitches useful mid-pace, allowing Kiwi selectors to include another specialist hitter or up-and-coming spinner Jeetan Patel. An injury-free Jacob Oram holds the key for New Zealand.

5. West Indies

Prediction: Super 8’s

The host nation can rarely be ruled out in a major tournament, and the West Indies are the kind of team that win it just for the fun of it. Or at least they used to be. This current crop is talented, the inconsistency continues to baffle its legion of frustrated fans. The ever-present Brian Lara will put up one last hurray, but it’s the starting pair of Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Chris Gayle who could very well dictate how far the team progresses. Jerome Taylor is developing quickly as a strike bowler, and Ian Bradshaw has a good one-day record, but the West Indies lack frontline bowlers to keep opposition batsmen at bay. However, given the team’s overall performance, who knows what home court advantage could bring?

Player to Watch: Dwayne Bravo

Bravo is exactly what the West Indies have been looking for: a genuine, athletic all-rounder. Bravo made quite an impression on his England debut in 2004 and hasn’t looked back since. An attacking though technically astute mid-order batsman, and deceptive mid-pace bowler, Bravo has injected timely enthusiasm into Caribbean cricket.

6.India

Prediction: Super 8

The expectation weighs more heavily on the India team, and their form is often harder to gauge than a winter monsoon. However, manager Greg Chappell appears to have turned them around in recent months, with sacked captain Sourav Ganguly returning to the fray as the opening batsman, and poster boy Sachin Tendulkar still enjoying another purple patch. But scoring runs has never been a problem for India; stopping racing has proven more difficult. Harbajan Singh and Anil Kumble give them slow bowling attacking options, but conditions in the Caribbean will not follow their sharp turn. Similarly, pacing duo Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar are too erratic to regularly upset the world’s best orders. However, should India toughen up on the field, don’t write off the sleeping giant.

Player to watch: MS Dhoni

Glamorous Indian cricket boy MS Dhoni has the crowd jumping, the girls swooning and the selectors licking their lips. The long-haired wicket-keeper is also a punishing middle-order batsman, as he demonstrated in both Sri Lanka and Pakistan in 2005.

7.Sri Lankan

Prediction: Super 8

The 1996 world champions have done well to stay competitive after a golden era. This flamboyant and well-trained side continues to produce impressive results. Their strong away record is due to batting depth, sharp fielding and a couple of star bowlers, namely world record wicket-taker, Muttiah Muralitharan and veteran left-hander, Chaminda Vaas. With Jayawardene a positive and uncompromising captain, and stalwart slasher Sanath Jayasuriya continuing to get his team off to a good start with the bat, expect Sri Lanka to cause some serious heartache.

Player to Watch: Lasith Malinga

This ferocious fast bowler has been a revelation for the small island nation. His round-arm action leaves batsmen with little time to see the ball, and his reputation for toe-crunching Yorkers and searing goalkeepers has cricket fans lining up to watch him play. I’m sure Malinga will love the West Indies pitches too, so look forward to seeing him make a real impact at the 2007 World Cup.

8.England

Prediction: Super 8

The international cricket tragedy of a day, England have won only a handful of matches in the last two years. Myopic and conservative teams have not helped the cause, such as the last tour of Australia in which three players in their thirties made their debut. There are some positives though, namely gutsy backup captain Andrew Flintoff and dashing batsman Kevin Pietersen. The return of starter Michael Vaughan will also make a huge difference, as will the continued development of cautious spinner Monty Panesar and swing pitcher James Anderson.

Player to Watch: Kevin Pieterson

The absolute star of English cricket, the charismatic Kevin has rocked the establishment with his natural aggression and powerful strikes. Pietersen has the confidence to lead from the front, and without him England are a timid and miserable bunch. However, when he’s in the mood, there are few better exponents of the art of hitting.

Group A

1.Australia

2. South Africa

3. Scotland

4.Netherlands

Warner Park Stadium, Saint Kitts and Nevis

B Group

1.India

2.Sri Lankan

3. Bangladesh

4. Bermuda

Queen’s Park Oval, Trinidad and Tobago

Group C

1. New Zealand

2.England

3.Kenya

4. Canada

Beausejour Cricket Ground, Saint Lucia

Group D

1.Pakistan

2. West Indies

3. Zimbabwe

4. Ireland

Sabina Park, Jamaica

Super 8*

Sir Vivian Richards Oval, Antigua and Barbuda

Queen’s Park, Granada

Providencia Stadium, Guyana

Kensington Oval, Barbados

* The top two teams from each group will advance to the Super 8 stage. From there, another series of round-robin matches will determine the semifinalists.

semifinals

April 24 – Sabina Park, Jamaica

April 25 – Beausejour Cricket Ground, St. Lucia

Final

April 28 – Kensington Oval, Barbados

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