It’s exactly 100 days to go for the start of the World Cup in England on May 30 and the countdown has started in real earnest. All the ten competing teams are busy with preparations. Eight of them in fact are currently involved in either Tests, ODIs or T-20s. Sri Lanka are in South Africa, England in the West Indies, Bangladesh are in New Zealand while Australia have reached India for a series of limited overs games. Pakistan has just completed a tour of South Africa while Afghanistan will shortly commence a limited overs series against Ireland.
So the ten participating teams are approaching their campaign in the best possible manner – playing international matches. Preparatory camps serve a purpose for it enables the team members to jell together but there is no substitute for match play.
The distribution of the ten World Cup competitions so far is very simple – five for Australia, four for the sub-continent and two for the West Indies. Among the senior Test playing nations who have been regular participants England, South Africa and New Zealand have not had their names inscribed on the trophy so far. England have been finalists three times in 1979, 1987 and 1992 while New Zealand were runners-up to Australia four years ago. South Africa’s best has been to reach the semifinals four times in 1992, 1999, 2007 and 2015.
Favourites have generally won the World Cup but the tournament has also produced surprise champions. The most famous of course is India winning in 1983 but Australia’s triumph four years later and Sri Lanka’s victory in 1996 were also unexpected. And the manner in which Pakistan won the trophy in 1992 after being on the verge of elimination midway through the campaign also deserves special mention.
So which team is likely to lift the handsome trophy at Lord’s come July 14? These are early days yet but on the basis of the rankings England and India appear to have the best chance. The two teams are ranked No 1 and No 2 and there is a fair gap between them and four teams bunched together in the middle – New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and Australia. Conventional wisdom would have it that the champion should be one among these six but then given the fact that Sri Lanka and West Indies are witnessing an upsurge in their fortunes and also that upsets as we have seen have marked the competition over the years one is tempted to term it is a rather open World Cup.