World Cup Preview I – A close look at Pakistan, South Africa, India | Pakistan Today

World Cup Preview I – A close look at Pakistan, South Africa, India

COMMENT – The 14-team 10th edition of the cricket World Cup 2011 will kick off on Feb. 19, with the inaugural match between India and Bangladesh at Mirpur. The three-times on the trot defending champions Australians are no longer the team to beat. Their vulnerability has thrown this World Cup wide open, with no clear cut favourites, though some believe that India and Sri Lanka have the edge owing to home advantage.
But there are sides like South Africa, England, Australia and, of course, Pakistan that can upstage all and lift the trophy on April 2 in Mumbai. Here as part one of our World Cup preview we take a closer look at Pakistan, South Africa and India. Pakistan: After some good wins under their belt now, Pakistan seem to be getting there. Not many were rating Pakistan high this time round, but this is when the men in green are at their most dangerous. They tend to thrive in adversity. The series win in New Zealand can prove to be the exact tonic Shahid Afridi and his team needed to lift themselves. Pakistan has a young team with some very talented individuals who can set the stage alight.
In batting they have calm stashers in the middle order, some ferocious hitters lower down, and an assured and talented opening pair. Add to that the staggering depth in the bowling attack and you might just have the best package for the tournament. If they remain determined there is no reason why they can’t stand up and put up a great show.
Strengths & Weaknesses: Pakistan’s strength lies in their bowling unit. In Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul and Wahab Riaz they have three bowlers who continually clock above 90mph – a big “X Factor” in sub-continental conditions. Then there are loads of variations in spin, with Saeed Ajmal at his cunning best and Abdur Rehman doing a pretty good tying down job, and Shahid Afridi with his quickish leg spinners. And now even Mohammad Hafeez is coming to the party.
Pakistan’s only weakness can be shortage of world class batsmen other than Younus Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq. But the opening pair has been amongst the runs and youngsters like Asad Shafique look the part.
One to watch out for: In 2010, in ODIs he scored most runs and took most wickets. And he was the captain too. People forget how low Pakistan had sunk when he took over the reins last year, and then the controversies struck but still Shahid Afridi has done a more than reasonable job to unite the team. Afridi’s good form both with bat and ball will be pivotal to Pakistan’s progress in the tournament.
The Group: Pakistan are placed in Group A along with Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Canada and Kenya. In order to make it to the quarters, Pakistan need to win at least four games out of six which shouldn’t be much of a problem and once you reach the quarterfinals then it’s merely a three-game knockout tournament.
South Africa: Known as ‘the chokers’, South Africans certainly have one of the most balanced sides in the world. They haven’t done well traditionally at the World Cup during the elimination stages yet, but with a powerful batting line up and probably the best fast bowling unit, this could be their tournament. In good form in the lead up to World Cup with strong showing against Pakistan and India, if they stay focused, they can definitely win it irrespective of their history in the last three World Cups.
Strengths & Weaknesses: Proteas have an enviable batting line up including the likes of Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla, Graeme Smith, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy however it remains to be seen if they are able to cope with the pressure when it comes to knockout stages. As far as the weaknesses go they certainly lack the bite when it comes to quality slow bowlers.
One to watch out for: Hashim Amla is the most improved batsman on international circuit today. He is wristy and can also play well down the ground. Despite coming in as an opener in the ODIs, the dynamic willow wielder boasts a fabulous batting average of almost 60. Amla’s good form will be vital for Proteas success in this World Cup.
The Group: Proteas are in Group B along with India, England, West Indies, Bangladesh, Ireland and Netherlands. One feels that it will be a close battle between them and India as to who tops the group if all things go well for both sides.
India: With their best chance in years, India is tipped to win their second world title. The Indians recent form and home crowds are big plusses. Dhoni is a confident captain with a versatile team. Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag will be the main men in batting. Of late, Yousuf Pathan has clicked big time, and his all-round ability is a gift. India certainly has the arsenal to go deep into the tournament but dealing with the home crowd pressure can be a big challenge.
Strengths & Weaknesses: India’s batting will be their biggest strength. Any team that includes the likes of Tendulkar, Sehwag, Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli and Yousuf Pathan should do well in the sub-continent. However it’s their bowling which can be found wanting at times, if main men Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh don’t click.
One to watch out for: Sehwag may be coming after recovering from a shoulder injury yet on flat pitches he is pure dynamite. If Sehwag gets it right its going to be very difficult for the opposition team on any given day.
The Group: The Indian fans will believe that they can top Group B, where other teams are South Africa, England, West Indies, Bangladesh, Ireland and Netherlands. Dhoni and his men shouldn’t have much trouble in qualifying for the next stage.

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