West Indian Madness, IPL Blues and ICC In Seeing Sense Shocker

20 04 2011

An Empire No More

We came across a wonderful documentary the other day called ‘Empire of Cricket: West Indies’. As a history of the West Indian game and a commentary on how the game developed, grew, came to an intimidatingly excellent level in the 1980’s before sliding into it’s present mire, we haven’t seen anything else that does it better.

Interlaced with fantastic old footage of the greats including Learie Constantine, George Headley, Sobers and of course the more modern pantheon of Sir Viv, Lloyd and their fast bowling machines it is well worth a watch. As with many pills and medicines, this reminder of glory days past had a distinctly disappointing side effect though as, inevitably, the final 10 minutes of the documentary focused on the regions current cricketing woes. A state of affairs that as cricket fans depresses us deeply.

The West Indies have been in the news this last week or so once more for two reasons. Firstly the blogging world’s version of Wikileaks, WICBExpose, has come to prominence (thanks to Jrod of Cricketwithballs for highlighting it to the wider community) and then, secondly, the WICB announced their squad for the upcoming ODI and one off 20/20 international series against Pakistan leaving out Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shiv Chanderpaul.

Apparently the board are keen to promote youth and build a team for the next world cup in 2015. A glance at the team they have selected though would probably have caused Learie Constantine to blanch had the great man been around to see it though. With the honourable exception of the Bravo brothers, the rest of them are probably journeyman at best and it is difficult to see them presenting much of a challenge to even the most fractured Pakistani team.

By removing these three experienced players the West Indies board have deprived the team of what little experience and possibly class they have (a look a the batting statistics across all three forms over the last two years backs this up). A team that is looking to recover from the doldrums of the last 10 years can ill afford to rid itself of this sort of ability (even if as the rumblings say the players in question are not perhaps as motivated as they should be) and, to us at least, this is more evidence of mismanagement of cricket in the Caribbean.


IPL Blues

It can hardly be a good thing when only two weeks into a seven week tournament we are already suffering fatigue at the incessant nature of the event. Readers who have been with us for a while will know that the IPL is not our favourite cricketing event around to start with, yet this year the never ending branding, commercials and sheer razzmatazz is effecting us earlier than usual.

Part of the blame for this it has to be said can be put down to Danny Morrison particularly, although some of his co commentators are blameless either. It is a strongly held view of ours that Morrison should never be allowed near a microphone ever again. Not only is his over hyped and over excited brand of commentary irritating, it is actually managing to detract from the cricket. We understand that the IPL organisers want people to engage with the cricket – and the commentary is a crucial part of that – yet the opposite is actually happening in our case.


Good News For Associates?

A Cricinfo piece today tells us that the ICC may well be rethinking their decision exclude the associate nation teams from the next cricket world cup in 2015. The ICC are apparently going to reassess in response to strong and widespread criticism of the decision to make it a ten team event. To tell the truth even we at the Compulsive Hooker were surprised by the level of dismay at the ICC’s decision and are pleased that it may yet be rectified.

Ireland will of course be happy but, if as Sharad Pawar suggests, it might be a 12 team tournament instead, our outside bet for the final slot would be Afghanistan…


One Dayers and the Future of the Game

13 08 2010

Crowe’s Comments

There have been some interesting comments coming from Martin Crowe over the past couple of days in the cricket media with regard to the future of test cricket. Crowe has been saying that the world of international cricket should do away with one day international matches and focus its efforts on the preservation of test cricket and the continued propagation of 20/20 cricket. Crowe is a noted innovator and has in the past developed his own variants of the game, his 8 a-side Cricket Max is an example of this, and so perhaps we should not be surprised at anything he says and in actual fact has backing from some fairly unexpected sides. Shane Warne is another who has gone on record saying much the same thing.

This idea raises some interesting questions however and we are not totally sure that we fully support it. Yes the international cricket calendar is over crowded as it stands, yes there is a certain ennui being developed by the repetitive nature of the cricket and yes, even the players seem to agree, frequently complaining of burn out. However to do away with what has traditionally been such a successful variant of the game seems a little extreme.

Couple this with the fact that test cricket is now drawing such pitiful crowds (even recently in the bastions of England and Australia) and, therefore, if the ICC were to rid themselves of the ODI game altogether inevitably revenues would fall.  Factor in that the ICC themselves are such a weak organisation and that even if they tried to enforce something along these lines they would simply be ignored by the respective member countries it is increasingly obvious that Crowes idea would not work.

There are also many other levels at which this is not a practical idea. Currently the only top level exposure for the ICC Affiliate countries like Ireland, Afghanistan and Kenya comes through playing ODI cricket against the full member sides. Remove ODI cricket and suddenly these countries are reduced to developing through the medium of 20/20 cricket and, as we all can appreciate, this would be about as useful a preparation for test cricket as only doing 100 metre sprint training and then running the London Marathon.

We cannot help but feel that if the full member countries and the ICC want to preserve test cricket as the primary game and at the same time maintain an interest in ODI cricket too; they will do much better by simply controlling the amount of meaningless cricket played. Our suggestion would be to limit ODI series to three games only, a similar length 20/20 series – all of which should be played after the test series itself has taken place. Remove such meaningless competitions as the ICC Champions Trophy, endless and frankly dull series between the same countries again and again and suddenly everything will start to feel like an event again. If something matters (and by making these matches more scarce they will inevitably matter more as there is not that feeling of ‘it’s all right lads, there’s another game tomorrow’) then it becomes more interesting to the fans and attendance figures will go up.

We do our best (and usually fail miserably) to avoid clichés and twee statements here at the Compulsive Hooker, yet we are feeling unavoidably drawn into one here (and for that we apologise!). Less is more people – less is more!


The County Game

Interestingly Vikram Solanki, Chairman of the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA) has been saying much the same thing recently. The Friends Provident 2010 20/20 competition has been criticised heavily in many corners over the last couple of months – seemingly never ending (anyone know if it has even finished yet?) and under attended compared to previous years – and even the players are baulking at the demands placed upon them.

Clearly the problems that are present on the international scene are equally as prevalent domestically – all of which leads us to the conclusion that the ECB are just as guilty as any other board around the world – including the BCCI.

Everyone is chasing the short term dollar, rupee or pound whilst not realising or perhaps conveniently forgetting that in the long term they are doing more damage than good to what is the best and most wonderful game in the world.

Out Of The Ashes

16 06 2010

Since the 20/20 world cup a month or so ago, most of the cricketing world is aware of the extraordinary story that is Afghanistan and its cricket team.

We have been following this story for a while and, having written about it in several past articles, we thought we would just mention that there is now a behind the scenes documentary detailing their rise over the past few years.

Thanks are due to Jrod at Cricket With Balls for bringing the fact that the film is now out to my attention. For further information and trailers go to http://www.outoftheashes.tv/ for what promises to be a truly memorable and moving journey.

World 20/20: Team of the Tournament

18 05 2010

With the World Cup 20/20 now having finished and the excitement of England’s win wearing off, it is time of the Compulsive Hooker to choose our team of the tournament.

1. Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka – 302 runs @ SR of 159.78*)
Alongside his team mate, Kumar Sangakarra, probably the most graceful batsmen on the planet possessing exquisite timing and surprising power for a small man. Top run scorer in the tournament and and possessor of the second highest strike rate of batsmen who have scored over 100 runs, his selection is a no-brainer.

2. Kamran Akmal (Pakistan – 180 runs @ SR of 120.80)
Perhaps a surprise selection given the amount of media coverage given to Australia and England’s opening pairs. Yet Akmal scored more runs than any of them bar Kieswetter and was one of the more consistent Pakistani players (if there is such a thing!). His runs in the semi-final against Australia were crucial and almost contributed to a surprise victory.

3. Kevin Pietersen (England – 248 runs @ SR of 137.77)
Who else quite frankly? This tournament was an emphatic way to answer KP’s critics and his batting on occasions defied belief (his destruction of Dale Steyn will live long in the memory). Shane Warne yesterday called him ‘the most destructive batsmen in world cricket’ and that’s good enough for us.

4.   Cameron White (Australia – 180 runs @ SR of 146.34)
There is a strong argument doing the rounds that White should bat at 3 or 4 and skipper the Australian side instead of Clarke. For us there seems to be little wrong with this idea as time and again White proved how good he is in this format. He didn’t necessarily score the bulk of runs as one or two others due to his late entrances, yet his strike rate and his excellent innings against Bangladesh mean he is, in our opinion, the best pick for this position.

5. Eoin Morgan (England – 183 runs @ SR of 128.87)
Morgan continues to impress in an England shirt, and with him and Hussey in this team, we would back them to chase any total down. More impressive finishers in world cricket there are not. The invention of his stroke play catches the eye, yet it is the cleverness with which he does it that is truly impressive. Invariably he chooses the right ball and unlike some other batsman known for their audaciousness, he is rarely dismissed doing it. Must play test cricket soon.

6. Michael Hussey (Australia – 188 runs @ SR of 175.70)
Who would have thought that prior to the tournament Mike Hussey would have had the highest strike rate in Australia’s team, let alone overall! This is a promotion up the order from his Australian spot at 7, yet we think he has deserved it. His performance in the semi final against Pakistan was remarkable, not just for his hitting, but for the coolness with which he did it.

7. Daniel Vettori (New Zealand – 69 runs @ SR of 109.52 & 3 wickets @ ER** of 5.68)
Whilst he only had a reasonable tournament with the bat, Vettori was brilliant once again with the ball conceding less than 6 runs an over. Rapidly proving himself to be an intelligent skipper as well, he gets our vote to lead this side.

8. Darren Sammy (West Indies – 6 wickets @ ER of 5.26)
Sammy surprised the Compulsive Hooker enormously in this tournament with his control and consistency. The best West Indian bowler by some distance he is an easy pick for this XI. Would also provide some big hitting at number 8 as he showed in a brutal innings of 30 early in the competition.

9. Graeme Swann (England – 10 wickets @ ER of 6.54)
Recognised as the premier spinner in world cricket now by no less a judge as Shane Warne, Swann bowled with tight control whilst retaining his wicket taking flight and spin. His handy batting, whilst not needed by England in the tournament would come in handy at 9 in this eleven.

10. Mitchell Johnson (Australia – 10 wickets @ ER of 6.49)
Part of what was reckoned to be the strongest seam bowling attack in the tournament, Johnson gets the nod for his excellent performances throughout, plus his ability to hit the ball along way late in the batting order. Wasn’t shown up by England in the same way Tait was in the final, hence his inclusion despite Tait’s more economical figures tournament long.

11. Hamid Hassan (Afghanistan – 4 wickets @ ER of 4.14)
And now for the bolter in the team! Hassan gets picked for being the most economical bowler in the tournament, which before you naysayers disagree saying he only played 2 matches – remember those two games were against the two powerhouses of India and South Africa. Would also provide the team with a character and someone wearing a sweatband around their head 80’s style!

12th Man: Jacques Kallis (South Africa 171 runs @ SR of 116.32 & 2 wickets @ ER of 6.40)
Able to slot in anywhere with bat and ball, he would be the ideal man for the job.

So there you have it 3 English, 3 Australia, 1 West Indian, 1 Kiwi, 1 Pakistani, 1 Afghani and 1 Sri Lankan. We would back this team to win most games although we confess to being worried about a few catches going down behind the stumps. Akmal, however, was the only gloveman other than Kieswetter to push himself into contention and he gets our vote for his greater contribution with the bat. With the bat Suresh Raina can count himself unlucky having scored the only other 100 in the tournament, however he failed when India needed him most and so we have counted that against him. In the bowlers Shaun Tait, Dirk Nannes, Stuart Broad, Harbhajan Singh and Jacques Kallis can all count themselves unlucky however we think the 5 selected would do the job.

What are your thoughts? Who would you have picked?

* SR (Strike rate) is given as number of runs scored per 100 balls.
** ER (Economy rate) is given as runs per over.

A Newfound Love of 20/20

9 05 2010

Its official. The Compulsive Hooker has been converted to 20/20 cricket. We still retain our cricketing purists natural bent towards test cricket, but right from the start this tournament has been captivating and most importantly a genuine contest.

With the Super 8’s stage well under way, there are, by our reckoning, 7 teams still in with a chance of reaching the knock-out stage, current world champions Pakistan being the only ones likely to be going home. Yet even their fate is not completely decided as if they win their last game well and England beat the Kiwis there is still an outside chance. Extraordinarily England are currently the only team looking certain to qualify for the semi’s, which considering their travails in the group stage is unlikely.

Of the others Australia, typically, have looked an awesome unit. Their fielding has been better than any other teams, with their catching in particular superb. In this shortened form of the game, fielding takes on an added significance. A half chance taken, or direct hit to effect a run out can be crucial in stopping a batting sides momentum and it is interesting that the one side looking likely to go home, Pakistan, have dropped a large number of chances.

The Aussie game plan, like the South African one, revolves mainly around pace bowling. In Nannes, Tait and Johnson they have genuinely fast and intimidating bowlers, which so far in this tournament is paying dividends. This is then backed up by a level of hitting ability which is unusual in 20/20 cricket, Warner, Watson, the two Husseys and Cameron White all having their moments. Warner in particular, much as we don’t like the idea of a cricketer focused on 20/20 cricket, does seem to have been fashioned particularly for the shortest form of the game. His ability to hit more or less any type of ball for six is extraordinary. The Aussies have a genuine chance to win the tournament, although of course being English fans we will be hoping they come unstuck somewhere along the line!

South Africa, similarly to the Aussies have been relying on the pace of Morne Morkel and the, until last night, devastating Dale Steyn. To watch these two reduce Afghanistan to 32-8 was as awesome as it was sad for the Afghani’s. The fairy tale came to an abrupt end under the pace, bounce and swing of these two brilliant bowlers. Yet, as David Lloyd pointed out on the commentary during last nights England vs South Africa game, the Proteas are like a school yard bully. Tough and domineering until you take the fight to them and stick it up their noses instead, at which point they are wont to fold. Last night Kevin Pietersen, Craig Kieswetter and briefly Paul Collingwood and Eoin Morgan demonstrated exactly how to play a South African team.

England, using a more balanced method of attack having brought in Yardy who bowled his left arm tweakers very effectively, look like (and it worries us to write it in case we jinx them) the real deal. For the first time in our cricketing memory an England limited overs team looks like a genuine contender for the title. Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter must be praised for their positivity at the top of the order, as despite neither having made a major contribution, the fast scoring starts have been crucial, allowing England’s high class middle order of KP, Collingwood and Morgan to come in and dictate terms.

Of the others, India cannot be written off although their bowling looks a little lightweight. India have also never been the best fielding side in the world and this was illustrated against the Australians in the Super 8 stage perfectly. The number of times Australian batsman sneaked two runs to an Indian boundary fielder was astonishing.

Sri Lanka, touted as the potential winners by the Compulsive Hooker prior to the tournament, have had an up and down couple of weeks. The one constant though has been Jayawardene whose peerless batting has made him the leading run scorer in the tournament. As long as he keeps firing there is no reason they shouldn’t progress to the semi finals as they have the requisite quality in all disciplines. Similarly to Sri Lanka, New Zealand have also had a mixed bag of results and probably need to beat England on Tuesday to qualify. Difficult to write off in any situation, we do feel however that the Super 8’s will be as far as it goes for this gutsy team.

West Indies, the host nation, are struggling and to our eyes look to mercurial to really threaten the more clinical teams at the tournament. Their batting hasn’t really fired and their bowling, like India’s does not look particularly threatening. All is not lost although they will have to win their next two games to have a chance. As they have tournament heavy weights Australia and India to come, we feel it unlikely that they will progress.

The most captivating thing of all, though, is that this tournament has shown that if you have good bowling attacks, 20/20 cricket can be a genuine battle between ball and bat. Watching Pietersen’s battles with Dale Steyn last night was brilliantly exciting. Some balls beating the bat, others travelling great distances and crucially one not dominating the other. Whilst there have still been a high number of sixes hit (particularly by Warner and Watson), unlike the extended slog fest of the IPL, they have been interspersed by periods where the ball has been difficult to get away and this factor alone has meant that the tournament as a whole has kept our interest.

A Good Start: World 20/20

1 05 2010

The World 20/20 got under way with a bang last night, New Zealand beating Sri Lanka off the penultimate ball of their game in a fine advert for the shortest version of the game. Later on in the evening, West Indies demolished Ireland by 70 runs in what was a reassuring win for them. Some thoughts:


New Zealand vs Sri Lanka
NZ win by 2 wickets (with one ball remaining).

Jesse Ryder: Despite being more rotund than Mike Gatting, Colin Cowdrey, Mark Taylor and Inzaman put together, he appears to be seriously talented. Light on his feet for a big man, and with some serious timing on show, Ryder made the game look an easy. Lets hope his renowned temperament issues don’t surface as he looked the best batsman by quite some distance for the Kiwis.

Mahela Jayawardene: Having been looking forward to Dilshan batting in the lead up to the game, we were heavily disappointed with his leaden performance. Jayawardene though, provided the balm for this, with an innings of rare grace and not inconsiderable power. Quite simply he is an artist with the bat and when he bats like this, there is no one else we can think of who comes close from an aesthetic point of view.

Nathan McCullum: We weren’t expecting to be writing about the other McCullum as from everything we have seen of him prior to this he appeared to be a very limited cricketer, albeit effective in that curiously Kiwi way. Yesterday however he bowled 3 tight overs for 1 wicket (despite David Lloyd calling him an average club bowler and ‘nothing special’ on air), took three catches and then when all seemed lost smashed the winning runs. Well played sir.

Ross Taylor: What a catch! One of the best we’ve seen and it was instances like this that probably ultimately made the difference for the Black Caps.


West Indies vs Ireland
WI won by 70 runs

Darren Sammy: It was all looking a little tight and Ireland clearly fancied themselves when Sammy came to the crease. In a fine exhibition of hitting (so good that initially we thought Kieron Pollard had come in), he ensured they had a more than competitive total. Sammy then took an astonishing 3-8 off 3.4 overs thereby ensuring that the match award could only be destined for one man. It must be said that we have never particularly warmed to him prior to this game. The Compulsive Hooker had always had him down as a Kiwi style bits and pieces cricketer, but without their antipodean grit. Its only one match, but if he continues like this we will gladly promote him in our affections. 

George Dockrell: Only 17, and despite apparently doing his best to resemble a badger, George Dockrell showed there is some talent coming through the Irish junior ranks. Taking 3-16 off his 4 overs, Dockrell was mainly responsible for the momentary panic that ran through the West Indian ranks in the middle overs. He was undoubtedly assisted by a very slow Guyana pitch, but the maturity of his bowling and his willingness to give the ball air, should be applauded.

Kieron Pollard: There appears to be a worldwide conspiracy to delay Pollard’s entrance to the middle by promoting inferior players above him. Pollard has consistently shown what he is capable of in this format over the past 12 months, but unfortunately his success in the last 5 over hitting role has meant that he is now pigeon holed as someone who can’t bat for any length of time. This myth has probably been perpetuated by the fact that he rarely scores more than 30 or 40 with failures in every other innings. Yet, this is, of course, a symptom of when (and therefore the way) he is being asked to bat, rather than a true reflection of his ability. If we were Otis Gibson we would put him in around 5 or 6 in the batting order, as 10 overs of Pollard would win most games. It seems there is a lack of trust in him which is holding his development back. In our opinion, if you don’t offer someone more responsibility it can be difficult for them to truly blossom.

Irish Players: Appear to by trying to make up for a lack of talent, with a level of noise and chat on the pitch that would drown out your average Guns & Roses concert. The keeper Niall O’Brien appears to be particularly culpable. Whilst we appreciate the (theoretical) reasons why this modern tradition of inane banter/sledging/encouragement is embarked upon, and despite being usually willing to support the under dogs, this noise made it very difficult not to get thoroughly irritated with the Irish players. A bit of encouragement is fine, but what the Irish resembled was your average club side who happen to have an ultra keen, but sadly misguided captain attempting to inflict what is seen to be ‘professional’ behaviour on his team.

William Porterfield: We felt sorry for Ian Bishop when he was interviewing the Irish skipper prior to the games start. To our eyes Porterfield resembled a small yappy dog nipping at the great mans heels (or in this case questions). Rarely do we dislike cricketers on first view – yet Porterfield has achieved this small distinction. Bishop himself looked faintly bemused by the words tumbling out of his interviewee’s mouth.


Afghanistan meet India later with Bangladesh due to play Pakistan after that. We hope for; an upset (preferably by Afghanistan), 2 close games and an atmosphere at the ground similar to the ones last night. Its been a good start to the tournament – lets hope it continues.

A Proper 20/20 Tournament: World Cup 2010

28 04 2010

With only two days before the World 20/20 cup gets under way, the Compulsive Hooker thought we would take a look at what we think might happen. It is unlikely that any predictions we make will come off as our track record in this sort of thing is usually appalling.

Contrary to what regular readers might think (and to tell the truth it has surprised us too), we are actually quite excited by this tournament. For us this competition is likely to be what every 20/20 tournament, and indeed any cricket tournament, should be with the focus going entirely on the cricket itself. The IPL of course from a cricketing point of view had its moments, yet it is irrevocably sullied in our eyes by the never ending circus and incredible levels of marketing surrounding it, not to mention the alleged misbehaviour behind the scenes.

With match fixing, or more recently spot fixing, firmly back in the limelight it is crucial for crickets image that this tournament passes by without this particular shadow being cast over it. 20/20 cricket is a game which in many ways lends itself to match fixing, as in the shorter form of the game a wicket or a bad over has a larger significance than in other forms. With less money flying around in the Caribbean, and therefore less temptation to indulge in these nefarious practises, hopefully we can have a controversy free tournament.

And so on to the cricket.

Group D

England: Touted as undercooked by their coach and several pundits in the media, we have a sneaky suspicion that now they have got rid of Mr. Trott at the top of the order, England may surprise a few people. Collingwood and Morgan are key in our opinion, with the Durham man probably one of the single most important players to his team in the whole tournament. With West Indian pitches a far cry from the pacey tracks of old, Swann certainly and perhaps Tredwell could also be important in taking the pace off the ball.
Prediction: Semi’s

Ireland: Having lost their best players in Joyce and Morgan to England, this could be a tough tournament for the Irish. Talking a good game behind the scenes, yet recent results haven’t gone their way and they look limited, particularly in the batting. If the O’Brien brothers don’t fire there is not a great deal else with the greatest of respect to skipper Porterfield who is perhaps more of a 4 day player.
Prediction: Fail to qualify from group stages.

West Indies: Who knows quite honestly! If Gayle and Pollard fire then anything is possible and with the benefit of home support, perhaps this could be there year. On the other hand they are just as likely to lose to Ireland and fail to qualify at all. There is a backbone of quality there with Chanderpaul and Sarwan also being destructive players in this format, yet we worry about them! New coach Ottis Gibson needs a good tournament after their travails against Zimbabwe recently. After Afghanistan, we will be supporting the West Indies as it would be a wonderful boost for cricket in this region.
Prediction: Knocked out at Super 8’s stage.

Group C

Afghanistan: We have detailed their rise on this site before and it is truly one of the most inspiring stories to come out of that war torn country. (Click here and particularly here for more on this). With undoubted talent in their ranks and confidence overflowing it is not a totally far fetched proposition that they could beat one of India or South Africa. Officially the Compulsive Hooker’s favourite team in the tournament, we will be covering their every move.
Prediction: We would like to say Super 8’s but out head tells us that India and the Proteas will be too strong. Lets hope not.

India: As at the last tournament, they go in as odds on favourites and have bags and bags of talent. With Sachin at the top of the order and class acts such as Raina, Gambhir, and Yuvraj Singh it is truly a batting line up to give opposing bowlers nightmares. The bowling however is relatively weak and will be relying on the batting to win them games. Under the huge pressure of expectation as always, we feel that this could be their year.
Prediction: Finalists

South Africa: Crickets perennial chokers have as good a chance as anyone in this years tournament. With quality throughout their ranks and in all departments (providing they get rid of JP Duminy), they should provide India  with genuine competition for top place in the group stages. Look out for Kallis to continue his IPL run scoring antics and prove to everyone that he is not the one dimensional player of legend. Loots Bosman could also be key on as a big hitting opener.
Prediction: Semis

Group B

New Zealand: Solid performers in 20/20 cricket, they are the only people to have beaten Australia this Summer down under in any form of the game. If McCullum and Taylor come off more than once, Oram and Bond stays fit and Vettori continues to weave his magic spells, then they have a real chance. Strength in depth is not their forte, they could suffer if one of these five get injured. Unlike some other sides, the Kiwis will be looking to win matches with their bowling for which Shane Bond in particular is crucial. Probably one of the best fast bowlers of the past 15 years, it is a crying shame he has not played more. As cricket fans it is important to enjoy watching him while he’s fit.
Prediction: Could easily win it, but we are going to go for the Kiwis to be knocked out at the Super 8 stage.

Sri Lanka: Another dark horse with high levels of innate quality that could see them all the way. Sangakarra, Jayawardene and the evergreen Jayasuriya they have plenty of runs in them. Look out for Dilshan and his famous ‘scoop’ shot, though, as in the past year he has lost little in comparison to Sehwag, which is saying something. Murali will keep it tight although it is more than likely that, like India, they will be relying on their batsman to win them games.
Prediction: Winners. Big call but we have to pick someone!

Zimbabwe: Fresh off a brilliant win against Australia last night in the warm up games, and having taken a couple of wins of the West Indies recently, they should not be underestimated. Tiny Tatenda Taibu, Hamilton Masakadza and newly signed county overseas player Elton Chigumbura will be the most valuable players in this side. Andy Blignaut has recently come back into the side after a self imposed exile and will be keen to make up for lost time too.
Prediction: Sadly they having picked the other two sides from this group to go through we must say they will exit at the group stage. Don’t be surprised if they manage to pull something off though.

Group A

Australia: Australia are coming off an exceptional home Summer, only having lost to the Kiwis in any form of cricket. A very effective unit with big hitting capabilities in the shape of David Warner, Shane Watson amongst others, they will be very hard to beat. The bowling is strong with Doug Bollinger in particular looking like he will be a real handful. Johnson too will be a threat, although he is the type of bowler that could end with figures of 3-42 from four overs as easily as not. Look out for Dirk Nannes and (even though we hate to say it) Nathan Bracken too.
Prediction: We hope first round exit, but we think it will be Super 8 stages. Equally it would be typically Australian to go and win the whole thing, yet we have picked the Sri Lankans for that so Super 8’s it is!

Bangladesh: A side that despite having a number of talented players, never quite seem to perform all at the same time. We suspect this could be a tough tournament for Bangladesh unless Tamim Iqbal fires regularly. Shakib will provide control on the bowling side of things, yet in a tough group we feel it will be too much.
Prediction: Group stage exit.

Pakistan: Last years champions and as dangerous a team as you could find on their day, we however feel they will struggle in this years tournament. In fighting has been rife and with several important players banned/retired in a fit of pique, this could be a tricky tournament. ‘Boom Boom’ Afridi captains and remains key to their progress, providing of course he doesn’t get hungry again….
Prediction: Super 8’s. Inconsistency to let them down.

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