Can’t remember another world cricket event as open as this one: Harsha Bhogle

Mar 22 2014, 18:49 IST
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SummaryRealistically, any of six teams can win it, a seventh is a very strong dark horse and the eighth, well it depends on whether they believe they can!

that reason that not many would be tempted to put India among the top favourites. Yes, the pitches would favour India but the dew is already emerging as a strong counter to teams that are banking on spin bowling. I won’t be surprised if teams reverse the traditional order of bowling and get the spinners first and the quicker bowlers later!

Australia’s batting line up is scary and now, vastly experienced in these conditions. Warner, Finch, Watson, Bailey, Hodge and Faulkner have played a lot of cricket on the sub-continent and Maxwell and Haddin are not short on batting experience either. Each of those eight can be explosive, so can Starc and Coulter-Nile. Expect big scores from Australia and given that they will always field well, expect them to defend those most days too. If at all there is a weakness here, it is in the quality of spin bowling though Brad Hogg will blow a fuse if he reads this! Hogg is actually a wonderful choice, as is Hodge because both are very good in the small roles they will be called upon to play.

I believe Pakistan are the other team you will want to watch very closely simply because they are the best bowling side in the tournament. With Ajmal, Afridi and Hafeez, you are almost guaranteed twelve overs of spin and in Junaid, Umar Gul (in his favourite format) and Tanvir, potentially twelve overs of quality quicker bowling. Pakistan have a couple of issues to grapple with and fielding is top of that list. If Umar Akmal is released from keeping, as he must because elder brother Kamran will play, he will add significantly to the quality in the outfield and Shoaib Malik is probably still better than most others. Ahmad Shahzad completes the trio but you are struggling with the others. The batting has a touch of the unexpected to it as well and if I was Pakistan I would aim for 150, no more, and back my bowlers to defend that most days.

The West Indies complete an extraordinarily tough pool and like with the Aussies, they are no strangers now to these conditions and, if anything, are better equipped now to play on slowish wickets. The return of Dwayne Smith is a belated show of selectorial judgement and him and Gayle are an awesome pair. And with the all-round abilities of Bravo, Samuels

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