The countdown has begun

The West Indies beating India convincingly some weeks ago, in the five match one day series could be tagged the beginning of the last lap to the World Cup. After three years of experimenting with various combinations of players the teams competing are now nearly settled. From here on it is a matter of maintaining form and gathering momentum in confidence.

For those two reasons every remaining game is of importance to all nations.

There is no looking back from here. Australia, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand, England and now even the hosts West Indies will want to throw their hat in to run as contenders.

Lara’s return to the helm of West Indian cricket saw their resurgence as a cricketing nation.

It was very encouraging from a cricket point of view to witness the tremendous achievement of the Windies to topple the in-form Indians. India has been building a youthful one day outfit, shedding the older players from late last year. Most of the changes have proved worthwhile. However, they were surprised by Brian Lara’s team with unknown capabilities. Not that the players were unknown. Most of this West Indian team has been around, in and out, for a few years now. What was unknown was their ability to come good in pressure situations. It is only good teams that win the crucial points in pressure situations. The West Indians did and totally surprised the Indians.

That would have sent Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid back to the drawing board. The Indian run machine was blunted. The batting approach is what the Indians will have to work on, based on this experience. They are savouring more of these conditions playing four test matches and are fortunate that this four have come around at this stage.

The Australians are having time cooling off right now and whilst they must feel pretty good with their performances in the past six months after the Ashes debacle, although they got knocked around somewhat in the one dayers in South Africa. Their one concern will be that the World Cup will be played at the end of six gruelling months. They have to maintain both form and fitness because the challenges will be formative throughout this period.

As a one day outfit England are in some disarray. This has mainly happened because of fitness problems. Their winter tours to Pakistan and India did not produce too many plus points. Right now injuries continue to plague them as they take on Sri Lanka in a five game series. Andrew Strauss, relatively unknown as a leader and so too some of the players selected to play against Sri Lanka. It gives Mahela Jayawardena’s team a great opportunity to win the series. Their confidence must be sky high after the test win and to continue that flow in momentum is important.

Pakistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, could be termed as the dark horses to carry away the World Cup. All three teams have players who can deliver. What is required is to play well throughout the tournament and provide the finishes in the vital games.

As mentioned earlier Sri Lanka must not miss this opportunity in England. With the weather also getting warmer and now much accustomed to the conditions, most must be made of these five games. A series win is a must.

From there on they will play South Africa, India, New Zealand, West Indies and a mixed bag at the ICC Champions trophy. This too in three countries – in Sri Lanka, India and New Zealand. They have it tough with touring and facing tough opposition at home and away, but all that has made them battle hardened.

The craze right now is World Cup Football. Once that dies down the race will begin for the next cricket World Cup!

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