World Cup hopefuls, organisers on tightrope

International Cricket Council President Sharad Pawar (centre), ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat (right) and Chief Administrative Officer of the Board of Control for Cricket in India Ratnakar Shetty stand next to the cricket world cup trophy during an event at the Bombay Stock Exchange in India. (AP)

A promo of the upcoming World Cup by the host broadcasters shows players from the 14 participating nations walking a tightrope high in the air to achieve their goal.

With reigning champions Australia shedding their prowess and evenly-matched teams facing a treacherous knock-out format, pundits have already foreseen an unpredictable, wide-open tournament from February 19 to April 2.
Australia have dominated the World Cup stage in spectacular fashion, winning the last three editions in 1999, 2003 and 2007 to add to their first success under Allan Border in 1987.
But rivals this time will fancy their chances against the new-look Aussies following the retirement of key stars like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds.
Australia will still remain strong contenders to pick up a fifth title, but India and Sri Lanka - who co-host the World Cup with Bangladesh - and South Africa and England are regarded the frontrunners.
With the unpredictable, but hugely talented, Pakistanis also in the mix alongside two-time champions West Indies and New Zealand, the race for the title is wide open.
“This could be anyone’s tournament,” Kapil Dev, India’s World Cup-winning captain in 1983, said.
“The conditions will favour teams from the sub-continent, but don’t write off other sides. They have all played enough in this part of the world to know what awaits them.”
Adding to the excitement is the new format where teams face sudden-death after the preliminary league.
Unlike the last three editions, where there were two league stages before the semifinalists were determined, the upcoming tournament will see the knock-outs begin after the first round itself.
The 14 teams have been divided into two groups for the initial round-robin league, with the top four from each half advancing to the quarter-finals.
The quarter-final format, first used in 1996 before being discarded, was revived to ensure a team plays a minimum of six matches even if they don’t make the next round.
In the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, crowd pullers India and Pakistan went out of the reckoning after just three matches as they failed to enter the second round.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni admitted the new ‘banana skin’ format was a double-edged sword.
“Teams will get to play more matches, but once through to the second round, you just can’t afford to have an off-day,” said Dhoni. “One bad move and you could be out of it.”
Reigning champions Australia have been drawn with Sri Lanka, Pakistan, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Canada and Kenya in Group A.
India and Bangladesh, who play the tournament opener in Dhaka on February 19, will be joined by England, South Africa, West Indies, Ireland and the Netherlands in a relatively tougher Group B.
The World Cup will be held in the sub-continent, the nerve-centre and financial powerhouse of cricket, for the third time after India and Pakistan held it in 1987 and were joined by Sri Lanka in 1996.
Pakistan were also due to co-host the 2011 party, but were stripped of their rights due to security concerns in the volatile nation in the aftermath of the terror attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009.
India are using eight Test venues for their 29 matches, but they have already hit problems in a worrying echo of the troubles which dogged the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
The Wankhede stadium in Mumbai, the site of the April 2 final, has been reconstructed.
But refurbishment work on the iconic Eden Gardens in Kolkata was so far behind schedule that the venue’s first game of four - the February 27 clash between India and England - has had to be moved to another ground.
Sri Lanka’s 12 matches will be held at three venues, including two brand new 25,000-seater stadia in Pallekele near the hill resort of Kandy and Hambantota in the deep south.
The eight games alloted to Bangladesh will be played at the Sher-e-Bangla cricket stadium in Mirpur on the outskirts of Dhaka and the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury stadium in Chittagong.
The World Cup contenders are set for a financial bonanza with a record prize purse of $8 million on offer, a rise of three million from the previous edition.
The winners receive $3.25 million - Australia took home $2.2 million in 2007 - while the losing finalists get $1.5 million.
With an additional $30,000 kept aside for the winners of each first round match, the champions stand to gain another $180,000 if they win all their six preliminary games.
The two losing semifinalists take home $500,000 each, while teams that are knocked out in the quarter-final stage will get $250,000 each.
The prize money does not include the share of the profits the International Cricket Council dishes out to all the 14 participating teams from its joint revenue pool.
World Cup squads
Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, David Hussey, Cameron White, Tim Paine, Steven Smith, John Hastings, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Hauritz, Brett Lee, Shaun Tait, Doug Bollinger. Coach: Tim Nielsen
Bangladesh: Shakib Al Hasan (captain), Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Junaid Siddique, Shahriar Nafees, Raqibul Hasan, Mohammad Ashraful, Mushfiqur Rahim, Naeem Islam, Mohammad Mahmudullah, Abdur Razzak, Rubel Hossain, Shafiul Islam, Nazmul Hossain, Suhrawadi Shuvo. Coach: Jamie Siddons
Canada: Ashish Bagai (captain), Rizwan Cheema, Harvir Baidwan, Nitish Kumar, Hiral Patel, Tyson Gordon, Henry Osinde, John Davison, Ruvindu Gunasekera, Parth Desai, Karl Whatham, Khurram Chohan, Jimmy Hansra, Zubin Surkari, Balaji Rao. Coach: Pubudu Dassanayake
England: Andrew Strauss (captain), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Eoin Morgan, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Ajmal Shahzad, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Jonathan Trott, Luke Wright, Michael Yardy. Coach: Andy Flower
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla, Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel. Coach: Gary Kirsten
Ireland: William Porterfield (captain), Andre Botha, Alex Cusack, Niall O’Brien, Kevin O’Brien, George Dockrell, Trent Johnston, Nigel Jones, John Mooney, Boyd Rankin, Paul Stirling, Albert van der Merwe, Gary Wilson, Andrew White, Ed Joyce. Coach: Phil Simmons
Kenya: Jimmy Kamande (captain), Seren Waters, Alex Obanda, David Obuya, Collins Obuya, Steve Tikolo, Tanmay Mishra, Rakep Patel, Morris Ouma, Thomas Odoyo, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Elijah Otieno, Peter Ongondo, Shem Ngoche, James Ngoche. Coach: Eldine Baptiste
Netherlands: Peter Borren (captain), Wesley Baressi, Mudassar Bukhari, Atse Buurman, Tom Cooper, Tom de Grooth, Alexei Kervezee, Bradley Kruger, Bernard Loots, Adeel Raja, Pieter Seelaar, Eric Swarczynski, Ryan Ten Doeschate, Berend Westdijk, Bas Zuiderent. Coach: Peter Drinnen
New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (captain), Hamish Bennett, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Jamie How, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Luke Woodcock. Coach: John Wright
Pakistan: Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanveer, Ahmed Shahzad. Coach: Waqar Younis
Note: Captain yet to be named
South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Colin Ingram, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Morne van Wyk. Coach: Corrie van Zyl
Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (captain), Mahela Jayawardene, Upul Tharanga, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Chamara Kapugedera, Angelo Mathews, Tissara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis, Rangana Herath. Coach: Trevor Bayliss
West Indies: Darren Sammy (captain), Adrian Barath, Carlton Baugh Jr, Sulieman Benn, Darren Bravo, Dwayne Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Chris Gayle, Nikita Miller, Kieron Pollard, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Andre Russell, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Devon Smith. Coach: Ottis Gibson
Zimbabwe: Elton Chigumbura (captain), Regis Chakabva, Charles Coventry, Graeme Cremer, Craig Ervine, Tino Mawoyo, Gregory Lamb, Shingirai Masakadza, Chris Mpofu, Ray Price, Edward Rainsford, Tatenda Taibu, Brendan Taylor, Prosper Utseya, Sean Williams. Coach: Alan Butcher
World Cup match schedule
Schedule of matches in the 2011 World Cup which runs from February 19 until April 2 in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh (times in GMT):
Group A: Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Canada, Kenya
Group B: Bangladesh, England, India, South Africa, West Indies, Ireland, Netherlands
(Top four in each group qualify for the quarter-finals)
February 19: India v Bangladesh, Dhaka (0830)
February 20: New Zealand v Kenya, Chennai (0400)
February 20: Sri Lanka v Canada, Hambantota (0900)
February 21: Australia v Zimbabwe, Ahmedabad (0900)
February 22: England v Netherlands, Nagpur (0900)
February 23: Pakistan v Kenya, Hambantota (0900)
February 24: South Africa v West Indies, New Delhi (0900)
February 25: Australia v New Zealand, Nagpur (0400)
February 25: Bangladesh v Ireland, Dhaka (0830)
February 26: Sri Lanka v Pakistan, Colombo (0900)
February 28: Zimbabwe v Canada, Nagpur (0400)
February 28: West Indies v Netherlands, New Delhi (0900)
March 1: Sri Lanka v Kenya, Colombo (0900)
March 2: England v Ireland, Bangalore (0900)
March 3: South Africa v Netherlands, Mohali (0400)
March 3: Pakistan v Canada, Colombo (0900)
March 4: Bangladesh v West Indies, Dhaka (0830)
March 4: New Zealand v Zimbabwe, Ahmedabad (0400)
March 5: Sri Lanka v Australia, Colombo (0900)
March 6: England v South Africa, Chennai (0400)
March 6: India v Ireland, Bangalore (0900)
March 7: Kenya v Canada, New Delhi (0900)
March 8: Pakistan v New Zealand, Pallekele (0900)
March 9: India v Netherlands, New Delhi (0900)
March 10: Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe, Pallekele (0900)
March 11: West Indies v Ireland, Mohali (0400)
March 11: Bangladesh v England, Chittagong (0830)
March 12: India v South Africa, Nagpur (0900)
March 13: New Zealand v Canada, Mumbai (0400)
March 13: Australia v Kenya, Bangalore (0900)
March 14: Bangladesh v Netherlands, Chittagong (0330)
March 14: Pakistan v Zimbabwe, Pallekele (0900)
March 15: South Africa v Ireland, Kolkata (0900)
March 16: Australia v Canada, Bangalore (0900)
March 17: England v West Indies, Chennai (0900)
March 18: Ireland v Netherlands, Kolkata (0400)
March 18: Sri Lanka v New Zealand, Mumbai (0900)
March 19: Bangladesh v South Africa, Dhaka (0330)
March 19: Australia v Pakistan, Colombo (0900)   
March 20: Zimbabwe v Kenya, Kolkata (0400)
March 20: India v West Indies, Chennai (0900)
Note: Group game between India and England scheduled for Kolkata on February 27 will be rescheduled after Eden Gardens venue was deemed to be unready by the ICC.
March 23: First quarter-final, A1 v B4, Dhaka (0830)
March 24: Second quarter-final, A2 v B3, Ahmedabad (0900)
March 25: Third quarter-final, A3 v B2, Dhaka (0830)
March 26: Fourth quarter-final, A4 v B1, Colombo (0900)
March 29: First semifinal, Colombo (0900)
March 30: Second semifinal, Mohali (0900)
April 2 : Final, Mumbai (0900)
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