Monday, December 5, 2011

Testing times- My analysis of the first test between Australia and New Zealand

Where to start, on a topic that at this stage seems more grim than my last post on death. I suppose, I'll go with the logical point and start at the beginning.....

Optimism. The typical feeling before New Zealand commences a test series. This will be the one. The one, where the rag tag group filled with potential comes to realise greatness. All the signs were there. Australia missing the likes of Watson, Johnson etc. The New Zealander's thrashing the players that would be coming into replace them all over the Allen Border Oval. McCullum promptly dispatching James Pattinson's first over in test match cricket for twelve. Then reality struck.

It slapped me in the face the only way 96 for five can. Before the tour began, John Wright promised that this team would be patient. They would not fall in the way their earlier counterparts had in taking the fight to Australia. If only that were true. Our batsmen looked as if they were trying to secure IPL contracts with fantastic strike rates and shots. Instead, they looked poor and were found out by inexperienced bowlers. Luckily New Zealand have a man called Daniel Vettori, who specialises in saving the day. He found an eventually stable and very impressive ally in Dean Brownlie. Together they added 158 face saving runs until New Zealand's lack of ability to do test basics was exposed again. Vettori foolishly ran himself out for 96 attempting to reach his century as quickly as possible when there was no time pressure. Compare this with Michael Clarke, who happily defended the overs before lunch to go to the sheds 99 not out before completing the milestone. Vettori was not the only guilty party, his captain replacement played a horrible shot a few overs before lunch when a leave would have sufficed. Compare this with Brad Haddin who is extremely aggressive but managed to rein it in for the few overs before lunch. This from a man who thought a cross batted slog was a good shot at 18 for five against South Africa. In the end 295 was far more than New Zealand deserved but it did give us a decent chance. Then Australia batted and reality slapped me in the face again.

Australia accumulated runs, left well and showed how to bat in a test match. New Zealand made this a whole lot easier by dropping several catches letting off Clarke several times and even dropping Starc came back to haunt us. New Zealand as per usual played Ponting and Haddin back into form as Australia racked up 427. Vettori was our usual workhorse conceding less than three an over, over thirty seven overs.Martin bowled well for decent reward but Southee without swing looked unthreatening and Bracewell was unlucky but also ill disciplined as he could have had Clarke out cheaply if he had not overstepped.

Then of course New Zealand had to bat again but with only 132 we were in with a chance. But not really. We were destroyed by good pace bowling, which has always hampered our batsmen. Being twenty eight for five showed how we still fail to grasp test cricket. Even when we began our usual middle order fight back, it was ruined by Ryder not being able to control his aggression and holing out. Brownlie and Vettori again put on the highest stand but it was not nearly enough as Australia easily chased down the nineteen required for victory.

Basically, this test showed the huge void between us and our 'older brother' but we definitely need to learn fast. The Black Caps need to look at how England were successful against Australia. Leaving the ball rather than needlessly giving the slips catching practice, being patient, being disciplined and taking every chance offered your way. There were a few positives to take from this test. Dan Vettori definitely still has what it takes to be a test cricketer as he showed how world class he is. This test also revealed the strong technique and temprement of Dean Brownlie as he fought hard in both innings refusing to give up. New Zealand does do well whenever counted out already therefore I'm hopeful that at Hobart we will discover some mental strength. We don't even have to win, just save a little bit of face, please Black Caps. See how one test can turn optimism into pleading for a smaller loss, aint it great being a New Zealand Cricket fan? Oh the summer is young.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Death and Sport

Professional sport is supposed to be an escape from banal everyday life. This activity, where the success or failure of a group of people decides a mass number of people’s emotions. We as viewers grow to love and despise specific players for their exploits on their field of play. But sometimes this escapism is rocked to its core by life’s inevitability: death. Through the following of these players, coaches and even writers, they gain a demi-god invincible status within our minds as if they could not succumb to something as simple as death. That means when they do suffer, it is all the more shocking. The deaths I am referring to specifically are those of former cricket player come writer Peter Roebuck and former football player come manager Gary Speed.

Peter Roebuck was quite frankly the cricket writer I loved to hate. While he wrote majestically, it was often an opinion, which I disagreed with greatly, yet I could never stop reading. Roebuck’s writing style was direct and provocative therefore like any good writer he created extremely polarised opinions from readers. He loved to write about the controversial, calling for Ricky Ponting to be sacked after his poor sportsmanship during the Sydney test against India in 2008. In this piece he crafted beautiful sentences such as “Ponting has shown not the slightest interest in the well-being of the game, not the slightest sign of diplomatic skills, not a single mark of respect for his accomplished and widely admired opponents." It is sentences such as these that lead to the praise that “Roebuck was born to write about cricket, as Tendulkar was born to play it.” This brilliant writing still didn’t make me agree with him often as even recently I recall discussing with a friend how ridiculous I thought his article about John Wright becoming coach of Australia was.  Even beyond his brilliant writing, Roebuck was an accomplished player, playing more than six hundred games in county cricket, managing thirty eight hundreds and more than a hundred half centuries. Even though I never met Peter Roebuck, I was still overcome with sadness at the news of his passing. I will definitely miss muttering in disbelief at his latest opinion but with that I say goodbye to a man whom I had a million arguments but for which he knew of none. While Peter and I had differing opinions, we shared a love of cricket and writing about it, which will be sorely missed.

If it takes a good writer to divide opinions then it takes a fantastic player to unite opinions, even from the most bitter of rivals. Gary Speed was that fantastic player and man. He would be one of the few men to have played for Everton yet be loved by Liverpool, to have played for Leeds and still respected at Manchester United, to be Welsh yet completely adored by the English. Gary Speed was the enjoyable face of the Premier League upon retiring having the highest amount of appearances at 535. The consummate professional able to play left mid, centre mid and left back, always fit and raring to go managing to play until forty-one, which led to his team mates dubbing him “inspirational”. Always enjoying leading from the front, he was an astute thinker, which led to him becoming manager of the Welsh football team. From being ranked 117th in the world, Speed through his excellent man management and pairing youth and experience (eg Aaron Ramsey as captain with the help of Craig Bellamy) he took Wales to 45th in the world. His death was extremely unexpected but the outpouring of grief displays the greatness of the man. Tributes from the Prime Minister David Cameron as well as a potential to postpone the Aston Villa Swansea game due to sadness indicate the importance to so many, of Gary Speed.  Sadly football lost someone who was a model professional and a fantastic ambassador for the game but he will not soon be forgotten.

What is the connection between these two men? Both were great professionals who were extremely passionate about the game they played but unfortunately both men took their own lives. Peter Roebuck’s suicide was due to fear of allegations while Speed’s was extremely surprising and most likely due to depression. Many people see this as a coward’s way out of life, yet I think that both of these men deserve far better than to have their fantastic reputations sullied by their last acts. Instead let us remember two fantastic men who were great characters of their sports and who will be sorely missed.

Rest In Peace Peter Roebuck and Gary Speed

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

TEST-ing 1,2,3

" I don't like cricket, uh, oh no, I love it"- An obscure song lyric from band 10cc? Of course, but not merely a lyric more an accurate description of my life style. But let's specify here, I don't mind Twenty20, I enjoy ODIs but I absolutely love tests. Sure there can be tests where the pitch is a road and 600/3 plays 500/4 and it is a dull draw but a good test restores faith. One where the contest between bat and ball is toughly fought, a succession of balls missing the edge is followed by a flowing drive for four, batsmen have to graft rather than come in and tonk it from ball one, where a wily spinner will enjoy a wearing pitch and seam bowlers use swing to try and hit the top of off. These kind of tests where the result is not ensured until the final day revitalises my love for cricket making me want more and more.Unfortunately the introduction of competitions like the IPL lead people with short attention spans to call for the end of test cricket but let me tell you why it should remain.

But why are tests the ultimate?

Well it isn't called a test, for the hell of it. It literally tests the skills both physical and mental of the players. Here batsmen are not restricted by a number of overs, therefore neither are bowlers allowing the best batsmen to bat all day and the best bowlers to bowl all day. No fielding restrictions means there is no early advantage and no batting powerplay. Overall, it requires the best of players.

Perhaps I'm biased though. My natural talents did not bring in insanely quick bowling, instead as a steady medium paced bowler, my objective was to bowl line and length down the corridor of uncertainty. I'm not blessed with the skills of a stroke maker instead I would generally graft innings, sure I have bashed an odd fifty but my best innings have been all day forties where I have batted all day holding the team together.  Obviously I was influenced by great players of my youth, in particular Mark Richardson struck a chord with me. I remember watching him block his way to about 80 odd against England and what I remember most was the way he was frustrating them, blocking and grafting in an irritating way. When we went out in the backyard during lunch, I recreated him, blocking solidly and grafting was when I decided I wanted to be a batsmen that pissed bowlers off, cause them to make mistakes.If ever there was a form I was suited to, it would be the longest form.

So how about other formats? As I stated earlier, I don't mind Twenty20. Quite honestly, I find it hard to respect any form where they mix letters and numbers, I think one dayers would lose my respect if they started being called 1DIs. But really I get bored of Twenty20 quite easily, I mean there is only so much wild slogging to leg you can take before the gimmick wears off. Sure it is designed for those with a short attention span but quite honestly it is too dull for me. The thing that bothers me even more is the huge amounts of money involved. The IPL has meant that players like Kieron Pollard are multi millionaires without playing the top form of the game simply by being mercenaries and playing for teams all over the world and turning down contracts with their country.

I do however enjoy, ODIs but they too have a limited effect. The standard format of the batting side going after the ball for the first 15 overs then being quiet up until around the 35th over and then hitting out has produced some great games and much enjoyment but again far too predictable.

Tests provide the unpredictability that provides such entertainment. Therefore I rate the players that play it well as the greatest. In current times when I think of test batting, I think of Rahul Dravid, Alastair Cook and Glenn Mcgrath. Mcgrath hitting the same spot ball after ball just back of a length with a touch of swing forcing the batsman into a mistake. Dravid propping forward and playing that assured front foot defense which makes it seem as if he will never depart the crease. Alastair Cook leaving so confidently balls outside the line of off stump that he need not play and then calmly clipping the ball to leg. Sadly, Cook has received much criticism for batting too 'boringly' but I disagree with this. A batsman who knows his game so thoroughly that he knows which balls to play and which to leave so precisely is an amazing sight to behold especially when the batsman has cut out his weakness which is full length balls outside off stump (yes essentially every ball that should be bowled in test cricket) and is still succeeding. Surely it is a disappointing sign of the times that he is criticised for this rather than praised. 

Upon seeing this a typical bowler's reaction is "Damn, we may be here for some time"
Instead of a long drawn out conclusion about how I hope I have convinced you to love test cricket I will leave you with the simple statement: Viva la tests.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


(Insert lame University excuse here)

Captaincy is something that I find is extremely under rated in the world of cricket. It is an extremely difficult skill to master as you have to constantly be alert while still performing to a high level.  I know this as I dabbled in captaincy for the might Avondale College Second XI rather unsuccessfully it must be said. For the first over I positioned myself at slip as I thought was customary and lost myself in thought of if the field was right, who to bowl next, would I bat myself high or low (in the end not at all) and then suddenly the ball was flying at me from the edge and I clanged it. My venture into captaincy only lasted half a season before someone far better than me replaced me but nonetheless it did make me respect a good leader.

Being a master tactician can win games and also lose them. Take for example Stephen Fleming while statistics will say he had a test average of 40.06 with nine centuries and a couple of million unconverted fifties (just kidding, I love Flem really) but what it does not say is how many wickets and games his skilful tactics won New Zealand. A prominent example that I am reminded of is Damien Martyn in New Zealand's 2001 tour of Australia. Martyn loved to cut, therefore rather simply Fleming packed the gully area causing Martyn to regularly be caught there. Seems simple enough, right? Yet if more people had used that tactic then perhaps Martyn would not have a test average of 46.37 therefore identifying the value of having a good captain.

Why bring this up? Well with the recent ending of the Cricket World Cup a new four year cycle has begun in which new leaders are often appointed therefore around world cricket there are a host of new captains: Michael Clarke, Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad, Brendan Taylor, Ross Taylor, AB De Villiers, Dilshan. This is a time that excites me as I love to see who will flourish and who will flounder in the struggle that is captaincy. Quite really I don't think a whole lot of Clarke, Cook, or Dilshan's captaincy. All excellent batsmen but do not quite have a cricketing brain that is required to succeed as a good captain. Although this is not certain as I never thought of Ricky Ponting as an excellent tactician but was just blessed by amazing players.  Ross Taylor is interesting as he has quite an astute cricket brain but I found him quite defensive and does not seem quite willing to risk unconventional positions such as Michael Vaughan's silly mid off to Matthew Hayden in the 2005 Ashes which effectively nullified his love of the drive forcing him to play uncomfortably and not score excessively. Although captaincy does seem to make Ross Taylor act more mature as his ODI average increases by around 10 runs when captain. I think AB De Villiers will make an excellent captain, well liked in the dressing room with a great cricketing brain, ready to be unconventional and lead from the front in anyway possible. Brendan Taylor is similar to De Villiers, as he is willing to be risky and when captaining in a tight knit group the job is made much easier. Stuart Broad is the one that interests me most. I love bowlers as captains as they always provide interesting tactics the only thing is how do you trust someone who turns into a petulant child when he has an appeal turned down, to lead your country? Broad is strangely a smart bowler and should bring that smart cricket brain to captaincy much as I always thought Shane Warne would have to the Australian test position had he been given a chance.

Maybe I will be wrong about all these players as captains but hopefully through reading this I brought to your attention that captaincy is hard and should not be taken for granted. Great leaders can in fact be the difference in a result so next time you see a captain get Man of the Match for his 12 off 62 don't scoff, but instead admire his great decision making.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My players to watch in the World Cup: Review

With the start of the IPL and other series it feels like the World Cup final was a month ago yet it was a mere nine days ago (or at least it was when I started writing this, oops) so with that in mind I thought it was time to review how well my player picks did.

Shane Watson: Rather pleasingly Watson had an average World Cup. While he did not embarrass himself as he was one of Australia's best players he didn't perform in an amazing fashion. He grafted out 290 runs at an average of 48 which is no where near poor yet he seemed to be in his test 50 to 100 conversion mode not converting one of his three half centuries to big hundreds as well as not performing in the big games against Pakistan and India. Contributing a mere three wickets with the ball is also a disappointing result for him. Clearly he could not live up to my prediction of being man of the tournament and was not even Australia's leading run scorer being beaten out by his even more annoying opening partner.

Brett Lee: Proved that class is permanent despite being the senior pro of the Australian bowling attack ran in hard and bowled probing lines to great effect. Ended with 13 wickets at 18 picking up two four wicket hauls. If this is his last World Cup he can hold his head high as he was one of the few players that carried a poor Australian team to the quarter finals. Best performance was definitely against Pakistan almost keeping the World Cup streak alive defending a low 177 he took 4 for 28 and definitely made Pakistan sweat unfortunately his strong efforts could not stop a poor Australian World Cup.

Tamim Iqbal: Performed much as Bangladesh in this World Cup brilliant one moment very disappointing the next. Started with a brilliant 70 in the opening game but did not get past 50 in the rest of Bangladesh's games even recording two ducks. He ended up with 152 runs at 30.4 as Bangladesh could not even get out of the group stage in their favorable home conditions.

Shakib Al Hasan: Could not live up to his title as captain fantastic performing rather dismally with the ball although ending up Bangladesh's leading wicket taker he only took eight wickets at 27.87. With the bat he too started with a fifty in the first game but ended up with only 112 runs at 22.4 and ended up with flaming arrows being shot at his house for his troubles to reflect how everyone expected far better of Bangladesh.

John Davison: A very disappointing end for someone who usually laps up the big stage ending up with a miserable 33 runs at an average of 6.6 and being shuffled up and down the order. Managed to take five wickets with his off spin darts but overall signed off on a rather sad note for someone who deserved better.

Balaji Rao: Bowled well if not a little expensively in taking nine wickets at 33.22. Most batsmen seemed impressed with his ability to turn the ball and he managed to pick up a four wicket haul against Zimbabwe as he provided a bright spot for Canada in an overall poor World Cup for them.

Jonathon Trott: Proved my confidence in him correct. Was immense in a sea of English inadequacy. Amongst the top eight scorers in the World Cup he was the only one to have not come from one of the two finalist teams as he scored 422 runs at 60.28 with five half centuries. It could be argued that he didn't convert any of these to a century but he almost doubled the next best Englishmans tally of runs so there can be no complaints with even his strike rate of 80 being very acceptable. Definitely proved he is in top form and that to succeed in the short form you do not have to have big flashy shots as long as you have mastered the nudge to leg.

Graeme Swann: Was definitely the stand out bowler for England but I did expect slightly more from the worlds best spinner on pitches that suit his bowling. None the less he ended up with 12 wickets at 25.75 and blamed poor bowling against Bangladesh on dew stating "It felt like playing football with both hands tied behind my back." could not carry an inconsistent bowling attack and can still look back at his performances with pride.

Ed Joyce: Was severely outclassed by the likes of the O'Briens and Paul Stirling but still put in one strong performance in scoring 84  against the West Indies to remind the world of his talent. Ended up with 176 runs at 29.33 as Ireland proved most definitely why they should be allowed to remain in the World Cup.

George Dockrell: I will admit some bias on George Dockrell as I personally find him to be a hero. Despite only ending up with 7 wickets at 29.57 he impressed immensely. Bowled with fantastic control and variation and did not deserve to finish his last game with a dislocated shoulder. Is definitely someone I am looking forward to watching in the future as he can only get better.

Sachin Tendulkar: Proved most definitely why he is the best batsman the world has seen in a long time. He finished with 482 runs at 53.55 as he moved past 2000 World Cup runs. Produced two classy centuries as well as two half centuries. Could not produce a fairytale final in scoring his hundredth international century but did finally get to raise the World Cup as he has now accomplished pretty much every achievement under the international cricket sun.

Zaheer Khan: Was very consistent despite not taking more than three wickets in an innings but still ended up the joint leading wicket taker of the tournament with 21 wickets at 18.76. Was great at the death of an innings with pinpoint yorkers and definitely lead the bowling attack to the World Cup victory.

Steve Tikolo: Was quite frankly rubbish, scored 44 runs at 8.8 this World Cup as well as the 2007 edition both looked too far beyond him and quite really should not have come out of retirement for this one. Hopefully will be remembered for his past achievements rather than this World Cup. On the bright side at least Collins Obuya scored 243 runs and ended up 98 not out against Australia to make up for the disappointing effort of Tikolo.

James Ngoche: Only played three games in the end and only took one wicket proving that the Kenyan selection team was not prepared to give a young guy some world class experience. His brother Shem played three games as well and ended up with only one wicket to boot showing that spin bowling in Kenya is at an ebb even with Collins Obuya's legspin only yielding one wicket.

Ryan Ten Doeschate: Was quite really the hero I thought he would be. Although the Netherlands did not perform as competitively as they should, Ten Doeschate was always competing. He managed to score 309 runs at 61.40 while taking seven wickets at the slightly more expensive rate of 46. Still it is very impressive that he managed to be heavily relied on and come out with two very classy centuries against strong teams providing further reason as to why we should not lose the associates from the World Cup.

Adeel Raja: Sadly not much to write about as he only got two games remaining wicketless while conceding 75 runs at under six an over not showing his true wicket taking potential.

New Zealand
Martin Guptill: It is a tough one in regards to Guptill. He did manage to score 262 at 43.66 which is respectable yet he did most of his run scoring against the minnows. Scored a nice fifty against Pakistan and put in a lot of hard work against Sri Lanka in the semi but got a thunderbolt of a yorker from Malinga. You can say it is disappointing that Guptill did not push on for at least one hundred and did not score heavily against quality teams yet Guptill is still young and this was his first World Cup so lets just hope that he used this as a learning experience. Fielded insanely well through out the tournament setting a high standard for the rest of the team to match and constantly kept fighting for wins which is very commendable.

Tim Southee: Glad to say I picked it. Bowled with the swing and accuracy that everyone has been hoping for since his debut. Took 18 wickets at 17.33 ending up second highest wicket taker. He was inexpensive and consistent as he did not once take over three wickets in an innings. Was aggressive and in the batsmans face and had the skills to back it up. Lets hope we can get Allan Donald to hang around to keep improving him and as he said to make him the best swing bowler in the world.

Misbah Ul- Haq: Did not live up to his pre tournament form as he scored 248 at 49.60 which is still very respectable but in New Zealand he looked as if he would be one of the leading scorers. Chipped in with three fifties but at a strike rate of 73.80 he needed to push more anchor centuries.

Umar Gul: Bowled well to take 14 wickets at 19.42, never took a huge haul and was always in back up to Shahid Afridi but was the perfect foil conceding under five an over with his tactical death bowling.

South Africa
Hashim Amla: Perhaps one of the more disappointing players out of my picks. Has been by far the best batsman over the last year but just did not quite perform as exceptionally as hoped. Still managed 306 at 43.71 but after an early century did not carry on to many more big scores. Ended the tournament with a sadly freak dismissal when his team needed him to perform.

Imran Tahir: Proved that he is indeed up to international standards and did not disappoint in taking 14 wickets at an amazing 10.71 with two four wicket hauls. Strangely was not South Africa's leading wicket taker amongst spinners as Robin Peterson managed to take one more but it was still an outstanding beginning to his international career. Hopefully after a few more games he will stop celebrating like it is his first wicket each time he takes one.

Sri Lanka
Tillakaratne Dilshan: May be my proudest pick, ended up leading run scorer with 500 at 62.50 with two centuries and hardly any minnow bashing. Provided one of the funniest moments when he almost cost his fellow opener Tharanga a century in the quarter final against England after he could not resist bashing fours. Chipped in with the ball very handily and even managed taking a freaking 4 for 4 as he ended up with eight wickets at 15.75.Now being burdened with the captaincy it will be interesting to see if he can keep up his good form.

Is quite good.

Muttiah Muralitharan: Despite the final send off providing no wickets Murali still bowled very admirably during the tournament. Taking 15 wickets at 19.40 when you're one of the oldest and definitely the most injured player still playing is a very good effort. Will be sad not to see his freakishly large eyes around international cricket anymore.

This from a 39 year old who is injured. That is why he will be missed he just loves the game so much

West Indies
Darren Bravo: Despite a very good 73 in the West Indies first game never really got going after that ending up with a very sad 139 runs. Very similar to the whole situation of the West Indies World Cup starting off decently before tailing away to be very disappointing. Luckily for Bravo youth is on his side so he will have many chances to redeem himself.

Kemar Roach: Bowled with pace and venom and ended up taking 13 wickets at 15. This involved some minnow bashing in taking 6/27 against the Netherlands which included a hat trick but other than that he combined pace and accuracy along with a good yorker to take a wicket every 21 balls and only concede only four an over showing that Roach is most definitely a bowler on the improve and not just a source of smoking jokes.

Brendan Taylor: Did not quite live up to his promise and pre tournament form as he only managed 170 runs at 28.33. Did perform very well against Sri Lanka as he showed his potential in a very well struck 80 in a lost cause. Provided one of the shots of the tournament in an upper cut off Malinga which was both daring and brilliant clearly displaying his great skill as a batsman.

Not something I will be trying any time soon
Ray Price: Bowled very very well in my opinion. In a stand out moment of the tournament Ray Price along with Mpofu restricted Shane Watson and Brad Haddin to 28 runs in 10 overs. Took 9 wickets at 18.77 and conceded less that four an over. Showed fighting spirit against the quality international batsman and proved that he deserves to be known as one of the best spinners in world cricket.

So how did I go? Not too badly if I do say so myself. I picked the two leading run scorers and two of the leading wicket takers (darn that Afridi for taking me by surprise). Overall a very enjoyable World Cup especially compared to the farce that was the last one hopefully next time I just don't take as long to write a review blog!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bye Bye Blackcaps

Last night I watched my beloved Blackcaps tumble out of yet another World Cup semi final as I have before and no doubt I will again. But as I went to bed at 4:30 did I feel empty? No. Disappointed? Strangely not. Angry that I would only be getting three and a half hours sleep for watching a game that my team did not win? Not one bit. This is a feeling I'm not entirely used to when it comes to the Blackcaps, I was happy with their efforts.

Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, or maybe the uni stress is getting to me but when I went to bed I did not lie there tossing and turning wondering why they do this to me but instead went straight off into blissful sleep. I'm so used to feeling bitterly disappointed with the team that I adore, I mean in the most normal way I think I know more about these players than they know about themselves so I know all the potential they have. Clearly this means I expect them to win frequently and win well. Last night not only did we lose we were fairly average. With the bat we were strangulated by a spinning attack on a difficult wicket but I did not see this I saw Martin Guptill play a fighting knock trying to get through it, the same with Ross Taylor. I saw Scott Styris batting the best he has all tournament desperate to put New Zealand through to their first World Cup final. With the ball and in the field I saw Andy McKay come straight into the team from the cold and bowl with pace and purpose, Dan Vettori bowled as if he did not want this to be his last match as captain and Southee ran in with such vigor in very trying conditions . In the field Guptill was harsh on himself, if he did not stop balls several metres to his left or right he was furious with himself he wanted to be the difference to get New Zealand through to the final. Lets not limit it to players even Allan Donald looked like he wanted to be out there bowling out the Sri Lankans.

In the end we lost only by five wickets and in the forty eighth over clearly we went down fighting. Maybe I wasn't disappointed because I have been there for these losses so many times that I am now numb to their effects, maybe now I am cynical as all those Radio Sport talk back callers who I love to disagree with. Instead I thought back on the tournament where Tim Southee proved my pre tournament prediction right as he took 18 wickets at 17.33. How we beat two very quality sides in South Africa and Pakistan and did not suffer an embarrassing defeat to a minnow like many predicted. How Jacob Oram performed at vital times adapting to his new role as mainly a bowler and disproving all those talk back callers who say he is too soft and should retire. I thought about how prior to this tournament how we had lost eleven on the trot in the subcontinent and now we were the last standing none subcontinental team. We should be proud of what our Blackcaps achieved, not in a "Oh wow, we got so many upsets and did far better than expected" we are not a minnow we are equals with these other teams so we should never be scoring upsets, did we exceed expectations? Due to our pre tournament form yes but this was our sixth World Cup semi final. It is normally where our tournament ends which was entirely predictable. From what I saw our boys gave it their all and more which is all we can ask so do not be disappointed instead be satisfied with what was a great effort from a team which I will continue to expect great things from.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Super Semis

Here I am the night before another New Zealand semi final dreaming of that time where we push through to the final for the first time, I mean you can't blame a guy for dreaming, right? But I will not just be narrow minded and just discuss my hopes and dreams for the Blackcaps so how about some semi final previews and predictions instead?

Semi final one Sri Lanka Vs New Zealand
Well here we go again in a rematch of the 2007 semi final New Zealand comes up against the quiet conquerors the Sri Lankans. First what should be applauded is the fact New Zealand is the only non-subcontinental team in the semis which is even more impressive considering their eleven match losing streak on the subcontinent. I see this game going one of two ways a close win to New Zealand or an absolute thrashing by Sri Lanka, I know slack and very on the fence of me but this is the unpredictability the Blackcaps offer. New Zealand are being offered a major boost as it is quite a possibility that Murali will miss out with a hamstring injury which removes one of the key destroyers from the pool play game and from Sri Lanka in general. New Zealand will still have to contest with the likes of Malinga and Mendis who have caused problems in the past and I think the key to us winning lies in us being able to actually bat well rather than bowling well as we did against South Africa. A fast big Brendon McCullum innings would be ideal for both chasing and setting a target but I would also like to see a key innings from Styris who has failed to perform this World Cup. New Zealand's bowling will have to be top notch to contain a batting line up with Jayawardene, Sangakkarra and Dilshan all three who have taken great joy in scoring heavily against us in the past. Sadly for the Blackcaps I do not believe this is our time to make the final and Sri Lanka will be too good.

Semi final two: India Vs Pakistan
A game which would be a dream final for a World Cup on the subcontinent but alas it came a game too soon. Pakistan stormed into the semis thrashing an inept West Indies team by ten wickets and are looking ludicrously consistent for a Pakistani side. Afridi is looking to beat Glenn Mcgrath's record for most wickets at a World Cup and needs six wickets to pass him and with the form he is currently in I would not put it past him, Gul looks to be finding good rhythm and Hafeez is looking strong with the bat and don't rule out contributions from Misbah and Younis. India on the other hand look to have a bowling attack which is hunting as a pack and taking wickets collectively, Tendulkar is still seeking that elusive hundreth hundred and my pick for a trump player is surprisingly Yuvraj Singh. His batting looks as good as ever and even with the ball he is contributing valuably and looking slimmer. This game bodes to be a thriller but I have to say this is most likely going to be India's game, they are playing at home and are looking like this will be their time to claim the crown of world champion.

For the quarters I managed to predict three out of four correctly with my doubt of the Blackcaps being my only incorrect pick and this time I will be more than happy for that to be the case again but what ever the case I'm hoping for some quality games to cap off a quality World Cup.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quarterfinals Time

Out of nowhere we are suddenly fourty two matches into this World Cup and the final will be upon us in no time so I thought I would provide my predictions for the quarter finals.

West Indies Vs Pakistan: This game is the easiest to pick in my books with Pakistan clear favorites. Shahid Afridi is bowling like a man on a mission as is Umar Gul and with Akhtar wanting a perfect farewell and with a very steady batting line up they should be too good for a misfiring West Indies team. For the West Indies to get past Pakistan they would need quality performances from a batsman such as Gayle as well as strong bowling performance from Roach and the surprisingly good Bishoo. Do not completely rule out the West Indies as Pakistan are prone to many collapses but with Pakistan's recent form in ending Australia's World Cup streak they should be too strong.

India Vs Australia: Should be the pick of the quarter finals. India has looked confident and strong in this World Cup while Australia have been disappointing but as always count Australia out at your peril. There is no doubt that Ponting, Watson and Hussey can all provide big game knocks while a bowling attack with the callibre  of Lee and Johnson can strike strong form at any time. As for India I'm sure Sachin is saving his 100th international century for at least a final so we will have to look elsewhere in the batting. I'm sure Sehwag will be good for some quick runs but either way this is a hard one, I mean I can easily see the effigies burning in the streets but I can hear the laughing at the Australians exiting in the quarters and sadly for effigy makers in India the laughing is ringing louder.

South Africa Vs New Zealand: Ah the battle of the chokers against the well rather rubbish. New Zealand has had a mixed bag at this World Cup thrashing minnows as well as Pakistan well getting thrashed by Sri Lanka and Australia. South Africa have been very strong title contenders only slipping up against England. While New Zealand should have the returned services of Vettori and Mills it is not their bowling which has been the worry. The batting has been frail but this would be a very good time to hit a rich vein of form as only three good games from here will make a champion team. South Africa's batting of Kallis Amla and De Villiers should score plenty of runs. The bowling consists of Steyn who has tormented New Zealand many a time as well as Tahir who I am sure will start tormenting us. Don't count out New Zealands very good record against South Africa but sadly I believe this will be the exit of the Kiwis.

England Vs Sri Lanka: The World Cup owes a lot to England. Without them there would have been far less insanely close results and thrilling matches. Sri Lanka on the other hand have been very steady and solid looking very good for progressing deep. Interestingly enough England have only lost to two teams though and that is Ireland and Bangladesh being more on the minnow side so now that there are no more minnows England have no more banana skins so they can focus on playing proper cricket. England have quality players in Trott, Strauss, Swann and even Tredwell who are threatening to perform against the likes of Jayawardene, Sangakkarra and the fairytale seeking Murali. In this one I am going to go for the shock result and the England rollercoaster ride to continue.

Shockingly by Sunday all these results will have occurred and in this World Cup of twists and turns four out of four would be an amazing effort, lets see how I go.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Should They Stay Or Should They Go?

Should they stay or should they go? Sadly not an incorrect reference to The Clash but rather to the situation of the associate cricket playing nations. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has decided that for the next World Cup no associate nations will be allowed to take part. There has been a steady scaling back of associate participation, in the last World Cup there was six associates in this current one there are four and if the ICC has there way then there will be none which will be a horrible shame in my eyes. There is much arguing that this has come about due to Indian cricket board objecting due to India and Pakistan being knocked out in the last World Cup in the group stage while associates advanced. With the Indian board being the most powerful in the world they were able to influence a change in structure making the World Cup less associate friendly as they had to play more games it meant they were less likely to cause more than one upset and get through as they had been able to do in the past.

The associates are the teams which make World Cups memorable sure not always specifically in results but in moments of greatness. Associate sides often contain only few professional cricketers meaning the rest of their side is made up of part timers who are taken time off from their regular jobs (in fact the Irish players had to seek extra leave from their jobs when they got past the group stage in the last World Cup). These are truly everyday people living the dream of playing in a cricket World Cup and I often rank their achievements as more enjoyable than say a Ross Taylor century or Jamie How managing to get past 20. For example who could forget regular prison van driver Dwayne Leverock taking a flying one handed catch to dismiss Robin Uthappa in the last World Cup, or say the Irish taking a wicket and performing the chicken dance (I'm not even too proud to admit that I joined in a few times). These people are what makes cricket great, they looked amazed to be on the same field as some of the people that they follow fanatically, I have even heard stories of associate players asking for autographs of other players.

This World Cup these associate players seem to have made it their mission to prove the ICC that they should stay and to be honest they have performed admirably. Ireland in particular have made an impressive case, they won two and in the other three they were only outclassed completely against South Africa who are serious contenders for champion. The Netherlands have been next best but rather disappointingly have not won a game although they have produced some fighting results. In fact one associate player (Ryan Ten Doeschate) has two individual hundreds which is the same amount as the whole New Zealand batting line up and two more than the whole Australian batting line up. Kenya and Canada have both been disappointing but as the tournament has gone on they have improved and seeing the Canadian top orded going at ten an over against Australia was a definite highlight and even Collins Obuya being disappointed at ending up 98 not out against Australia rather than just elated that he got past fifty was great. Both Canada and Kenya managed to bat out their full allocation of overs against New Zealand and Australia respectively showing that frequent exposure to top teams causes definite improvement.

We all know that playing the best makes you far better for example whenever New Zealand would play Australia and they would rack up three hundred we would manage to somehow pull it out of the bag and win miraculously just to get the thrill of beating the best. This is what drives lesser teams, to be the best you have to beat the best and I'm sure that is what was going through Kevin O'Brien's head as he struck that magnificent fifty ball century against England. For the associate teams to improve they need to consistently be able to get to play top ranked teams, the ICC always say this will occur after a World Cup but only lasts a few months and then suddenly they are back just playing associate games. If we get the associate teams put into the Future Tours Program then they would receive regular games against proper ranked teams and would therefore be able to create more of a cricket culture in their countries and start a base of young players as has been a major case in Bangladesh where they have gone from no hopers to beating all full strength teams at least once.

Now I'm not saying that the ICC is entirely wrong in removing some associates as clearly they create unnecessary games and more often than not has produced very one sided results for very few upsets so despite amazing wins such as Ireland's over England we are all too often shown 250 run wins to full nation teams. To combat this I think there should only be two associates and at this time they would most definitely be Ireland and the Netherlands. At this stage they are the two associates who are up to international cricket and would benefit greatly from playing full strength teams. If the ICC does completely remove the associate from the World Cup they will essentially be making it the exact same as the Champions Trophy and effectively taking the world out of World Cup. So ICC give the associates a chance to get some regular games against strong teams and who knows in 2015 in New Zealand and Australia I could be cheering for Ireland in the final.

P.S Sorry for the lack of posting recently very slack on my behalf so I will try to make sure that doesn't keep happening!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Zealand's World Cup Winning XI

Before a major event it is important to have your best team set in stone so in the series leading up to said event you can give them sufficient match practice to gain form and confidence. Yet somehow the New Zealand selectors manage to miss this memo causing us to have the term 'rotation' thrown around as we changed our team for every game providing no continuity and leaving our players surely confused of their position for the upcoming World Cup, I mean it sure as hell confused me. The fact that the selectors had the tenacity to throw around a word such as rotation after the horror of the 2007 rugby World Cup is a very confusing move indeed but to get over this confusion I have decided to put together what I think New Zealand's World Cup XI should be and it goes like this:

1. Brendon McCullum- This may be quite the contentious partnership with many people saying McCullum is best suited down the order to give our innings a strong finish but McCullum clearly lifts his game when he bats up the order and if he can do it test matches then its good enough for me that he can do it in one dayers. I'm sure people will also say he has been rubbish recently but that is because he batted all over the show against Pakistan. In the recently concluded series he batted at 6,7,5 and 2. McCullum has proven in the past that he is a player that needs to clearly know his role and have solidarity in it to perform at his best so lets put some faith in a player and put our best foot forward with a player who can world class.

2.Jesse Ryder- Jesse Ryder is always going to open the batting, for a big man he times the ball impeccably and can hit through the infield or go over it. Can contribute some overs of medium pacers which could be a handful on the subcontinent with it's spongy bounce. Obviously should be coming back into some form with the best innings I have had the pleasure to watch live. Both times he has batted past the twenty over mark he has scored a hundred but unfortunately both times he has done this he has required a runner. The man himself has said that he is feeling the fittest he has in his life so hopefully he can give us some good runs without requiring a runner. Also who doesn't love the old adage that having a left-right combination throws off the bowlers.

3.Martin Guptill- The way New Zealand's top order performs in current times means that this number three spot can effectively be an opening position making Martin Guptill very suitable for it. Guptill is batting as well as I have ever seen him play, hitting sixes but following it up with sensible singles as well as hitting the gaps with ease. His recent stats show he is improving his consistency ten fold. In the recent series against Pakistan he was the leading run scorer with 209 runs at an average of 52 which may not be particularly overwhelming yet he only scored one half century with a high score of 65 showing that he clearly is stringing together some decent scores but just needs to push on to make them the big ones. He has already done this in the warm up match against Ireland scoring a very composed 130 off 134 balls. Strong performances from him at the top could make the difference to a faltering batting line up along with electric moments in the field which are sure to cause a few run outs.

4.Ross Taylor- Surely New Zealand's most talented batsman but in a current trough of form it would seem. Taylor is getting many starts but just not pushing on to score a big hundred with his last one day hundred coming in 2008 against Bangladesh. This is no cause for worry as the saying goes form is temporary but class is permanent and I believe the big stage can bring out the class in the man they call Rosco. He is very used to subcontinental conditions through extensive play in the IPL so there will be no major climate shock for him. The cow corner boundaries are often small enough to be very good for his beloved slog sweep. That is not his most dangerous shot I would say that if we see his cover drive come out then he is in form and will definitely pile on the runs. If he strikes any vein of good form during the tournament then New Zealand's chances will be greatly improved.

5. Scott Styris- The old hand now Styris will be key to producing nudgy runs and then providing impetus at the end of the innings. Was our best batsman at the last World Cup scoring 499 runs at 83 proving he is a man for the big stage. We will rely a lot on his experience especially to be a cool head in a pressure filled situation in the case of a most likely top order collapse. His bowling is not to be underestimated especially on slow low pitches. He will be able to bowl economically and force batsmen into mistakes, will definitely be a key player in surely his last World Cup.

6. James Franklin- Four years is a very long time in sport as proven by James Franklin. In the 2007 World Cup his key role was as a bowler and to provide lower order hitting but now his role is primarily as a batsman. Franklin is proving himself good enough to fill this role once owned by Jacob Oram in which he accumulates runs and then hits big in the last few overs as he did in New Zealand's wretched tour of India. He was probably our one verified success story as he came in played three matches and scored 187 runs without being dismissed including a magnificent 98*. Although I thought he had fallen away with the ball he proved that he is still able to contribute taking three key wickets in the last ODI against Pakistan and could be successful on the subcontinent especially if he finds some swing. I expect good things from Jimmy contributing at key times with both bat and ball.

7. Nathan McCullum- Someone who I used to think far too bits and pieces to be effective in international cricket but he has come a long way to proving me wrong. In the recent series against Pakistan he bowled attacking lines and was very difficult to get away as well as taking many wickets in limited overs domestic cricket but it was with his batting that he really began to shine through. Averaging 66 for the series with his first two international fifties he showed that he can batter an international attack. I was lucky enough to see his Eden Park innings of 65 which he paced very well starting off slowly with a low strike rate before knocking sixes into the crowd and taking New Zealand to a match winning total. His fielding is exemplary as he is excellent at ground fielding as well as catching. Through these performances I believe he has cemented the number seven spot as a finisher as well as second spinner to Vettori.

8. Daniel Vettori- Has to be the everything of the New Zealand attack from holding down an end to being strike bowler much of our hopes rely on Vettori. Luckily for us he is one of the best one day bowlers in the world able to tie down even the best batsmen while taking wickets. The subcontinental pitches will suit his style of bowling sometimes staying low or popping up and with the warm up pitches providing much turn for the spinners Vettori could become a major factor. With his batting I believe he should not bat any higher than eight as I believe his batting is not as effective in one day internationals but can be relied on to bat with batsmen and hit gaps with strange shots that no one else could. Will want to end a testing time as captain with as much dignity as possible.

9. Jacob Oram- Another case of massive role change with Oram (who once considered giving up bowling) now being used as more of a bowler than anything. His back of a length bowling with variable changes of pace will be very effective on the subcontinental pitches as he has proven in the past by taking a hat trick in Sri Lanka. I thought his days of opening the hips and smashing sixes in the arc were over but in the recent series against Pakistan he showed on a few occasions that he still has that skill which gives me hope that he can refind his batting form. If this happens he could become very useful for quick runs and even come in ahead of Vettori.

10. Tim Southee- My hopes for Tim Southee this World Cup are mile high (sorry had to do it). He is beginning to remove the rough edges of his game and is becoming a genuine strike bowler. Had an excellent series against Pakistan being able to keep from being taken to by the batsmen as well as taking quality wickets with good swing bowling in the process taking his first one day five for. Will hopefully be able to find some swing in the humid conditions and if so he will be a genuine threat. His lower order violent swings to leg could take New Zealand to some good totals as his batting has improved in a new found maturity that is taking him to new heights as an international cricketer.

11. Kyle Mills- An excellent if some what under rated bowler. Has been rated in the top ten ODI bowlers constantly over the past few years and will be the experienced leader of the attack. Has been bowling excellent line and length recently showing that his control is far from waning. Will be key at the start of the innings and in the batting powerplay for restricting batsmen. His batting is solid and could be great use for a batsman who needs supporting so is not guaranteed to bat eleven.

Possible changes

Hamish Bennett- Can offer a variation if Southee or Mills gets taken to by the batsmen. Runs in hard every time he bowls and will offer a quicker option to bring in but is unlikely as he can be far more expensive than his bowling companions but is learning all the time at international level and could well prove me wrong.

Kane Williamson- A definite player for the future who I think should be in the starting line up now. Proved he can bat on the subcontinent getting a century in Bangladesh and one in India but the problem is that he bats too slowly for the one day game. If there are batsmen going strongly at the other end then he can be an anchor to build an innings around but as it so often is with New Zealand there is little to no support. Can come in for Oram if the batting is weak and can also contribute with his dubiously actioned off spinners.

I think that this side would be New Zealand's best bet to take them deep into the tournament. Eight players who are able to bowl as well as a batting line up which can comfortably bat all the way to eleven. This team on paper could win New Zealand the World Cup but as always on paper is where New Zealand always looks best and only time will tell if this line up even plays together let alone performs on a level good enough to win the World Cup.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Four ways the Phoenix can win the A-League

This is proof that I'm not just restricted to cricket as for this season I have become quite the follower of the Wellington Phoenix. This piece wont be the usual pessimistic piece on the Phoenix (for those seeking out that kind of rubbish please return to the latest offerings of negative tripe from Billy Harris and Paul Thompson). This is going to be a positive piece about how the Phoenix can actually win the A-League. Sure we were struggling to make the playoffs but now that I'm confident we will make it here are the 4 ways the 'Nix can win the A-League:

1. Rojas- Plain and simple Marco Rojas. This kid should be nicknamed Midas because at the moment everything he touches turns to gold. He plays fast attacking football and is one of the best distributors of the ball in the A-League at the moment. He draws in multiple defenders and manages to beat them all. We need to get the ball to him regularly so that he can provide excellent balls for the other players and he has been doing this very successfully as he has 6 assists which is one of the best rates in the league especially considering he hasn't played as many games as most of the players above him. The best part of having Rojas is that he changed the 'Nix tactics so dramatically. When we had Ifill we would rely on merely booting the ball up field and rely on his magic to get us goals, a strategy which did have some success but once oppositions started focusing defence on Ifill it began failing. With Rojas it is completely different as now the 'Nix play a lot more along the ground and rely on good distribution and good ball to get goals. Even now when teams are become wise to Rojas' skill and try to shut him down he is good enough to draw the defenders then fast enough to beat them and provide scoring opportunities to other players. The one problem with Rojas is that while he can set up goals very well he does not have the same opportunity to score them which means we need to put more emphasis on finishing and at the moment we are succeeding very well with Dylan McCallister in a purple patch as well as hard working striker Chris Greenacre also getting into the scoring (both with seven goals each) almost completely due to excellent ball from Rojas and if he keeps it up then I believe we will be able to progress all the way to the title.

2. No more yellows- The Phoenix are one of the more physically aggressive sides in the A-League and as a result of that we concede a lot more fouls than other teams, this means far more yellows than most teams as we have conceded 58 yellow cards and one red card from just fifteen players over the season only bettered or maybe worsened by the despicable Victory who have 60 yellows and 2 reds. To really get further this season we have to maintain the best team possible meaning no more suspensions. Once we get back Sigmund and Durante we have to stop the silly challenges. Yes Ben Sigmund's late challenges can sometimes be amusing but really we can't afford to be missing one of our best defenders as proven by him being suspended twice for eight yellow cards. Other offenders are Durante (eight yellows), Tim Brown (seven yellows), Vince Lia (six yellows, one red) and Manny Muscat (eight yellows) almost guaranteed to pick up a yellow card. These guys especially need to hold back just slightly so we can maintain our best team for the whole playoff phase and truly challenge for the title. If we do lose players such as Sigmund or Durante again it will cause a complete re-shuffle of our team and require Manny Muscat going back to defence. That would be disastrous for the Phoenix as we need Manny in midfield to bring out his moments of brilliance (don't forget he is yet to score this season and most definitely do not rule out a Manny screamer in the playoffs). With a consistent team building momentum and all our players in their best positions we are giving ourselves the best opportunity to win the title.

3.Solid defence-For a small pool of players we have excellent defending options. Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante and Jade North have provided very sturdy defence for this season and we even have Tony 'Blockhead' to provide some good defence with young James Musa looking a very good prospect if called on. We have to keep this up especially for the playoffs as to advance we are going to have to keep cleansheets as we don't quite play enough of the total football to be chasing the pack from two-nil down. I'm confident that with a pairing such as Durante and North (who have taken the Jets to the title) as well as Sigmund to keep out any attack the A-League has to offer and as they say a strong defence is the best offence which could be the key to taking us to the title.

4. Turn it into a fight- Let's face it the 'Nix are not the most glamorous players in the A-League, they play physical, scrappy football it's a style that suits players who may not be world class but know how to get the best out of their talent which is a very New Zealand trait obviously passed off by Ricki Herbert. The Phoenix's best chance of taking down the favourites the Roar and the Mariners is to stop them playing the beautiful football they have been playing all season. We need to shut down their slick passing and strong runs into space. If we can do this I'm sure we can be successful proved already by our gritty victory against Adelaide. We were able to shut down Flores easily and stop good ball going to their finishers such as Van Dijk. Sure if the Phoenix are going to go all the way they are going to eek out some scrappy 1-0 victories much the way Spain did in the World Cup but in the end when you're holding the title it doesn't say how you won it just that you won it.

These things may seem fairly straight forward but many people still doubt that the Phoenix could do it. The thing with finals football is that in this case you only have to be at your best for a few games and when you do this you string along victories and suddenly you're playing in the Grand Final and in that case we may be up against a team like the Roar who have been amazing all season but if on the day we are better than them then we end up with the title which reflects one of my favourite ideologies that I have heard which comes from Tennis hall of famer Andre Agassi is that you don't have to be a perfect just that when your time comes you have to be better. The 'Nix have proved that they can do that as although we often struggle during the season and then make a mad dash to make the finals where we begin playing our best football and really this season could be ours for the taking but we will just have to wait to see how right my theories are.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

My players to watch in the World Cup

With a long and arduous World Cup dawning upon us I thought I'd list a few players who I believe are going to succeed in what is one of the most anticipated events in the cricket calender.

All-rounder to watch-Shane Watson: Despite a very strong dislike for Shane Watson there is no way you can argue with his numbers. The arrogant opener was the leading run scorer for the calender year of 2010 and not to forget the second highest wicket taker. He has the ability to take the game away from the opposition from the start as his 1784 runs at 43.51 since his reinvention as an opener and lets not forget his very good start to 2011 with 161*. Also worthy to watch for his exploits in the field from his bucket hands in the slips to his out fielding (see his run out of Ab De Villiers in the 2007 World Cup for proof). He has good experiences in the sub continent specifically in India with his success with the Rajasthan Royals in the inaugural IPL. He is a definite early candidate for Man of the Tournament and will be key to Australia's success.

Bowler to watch-Brett Lee: Strange to refer to him as a veteran but at the age of 34 he is heading towards the end of career which makes it all the more amazing that he still bounds in and sends the ball flying at around 145kph. Many suspected his elbow injury to end his career but he is back and with more control and wile than ever proved by leading the wicket charts in the current series against England with 11 wickets at only 24 showing good form and a good platform for what is likely to be his last World Cup. Don't rule out his batting either capable of lusty blows or nudging it around to pull his team out of trouble he can provide very able assistance for any top order batsman. Watch out for the wicked jumping celebrations and smile of one of Australia's only nice guys.

All-rounder to watch- Shakib Al Hasan: Bangladesh's lead from the front inspirational captain and recent tormentor of New Zealand is proving himself to be quite a player. Since 2009 he has 1458 runs at an average near 40 picking up three centuries against top ranked nations such as India and sadly New Zealand. His off spin is accurate and nagging causing many players to throw away their wickets showing why he has a career average of under 30. Excellent in home conditions and can be a match winner with either of his disciplines, will be the most likely hero in any of Bangladesh's upsets.

Batsman to watch- Tamim Iqbal: Bangladesh's answer to Virender Sehwag. While Tamim may seem small he packs a mighty punch. Was a key player in Bangladesh's defeat of India at the last World Cup scoring a vital 54. While he has been out of the game for a small while getting surgery on his wrist it is a certainty that he will be keen to keep up his 2010 strike rate of 96 and with home advantage the small sub continental boundaries will not be safe. A player for the big stage he could even threaten to better Bangladesh's best individual innings of 154 (set by himself of course). If you're seeking entertainment make sure you watch one of his innings and look out for booming pulls and square cuts.

Batsman-John Davison: Without a doubt the best player Canada has ever had despite the fact that he is Australian. A batsman who does not like to wait around to see what will happen he just throws caution to the wind and swings with great success shown by the then fastest World Cup hundred in 2003 when he scored his century off just 67 balls to go along with two brisk half centuries against New Zealand in the 2003 and 2007 World Cups. Bowls surprisingly decent off spin which will be very useful on subcontinental pitches to plug up an over. This World Cup should be the last assignment for the now 40 year old Davison so be sure to watch him go out with a bang.

Bowler-Balaji Rao: Who doesn't love a slightly over weight spinner? Well Andy Flower but lucky enough for us he isn't Canada's coach as this slightly tubby leg spinner could be quite the bowler to watch in this Canadian team. He is a bowler who can turn it both ways and should be hugely effective on these subcontinent pitches even having good Indian experience playing first class cricket there and being part of the Indian Under 19 team back in the day. Look forward to this spinner waddle up and hopefully rip a few past some over confident batsmen.

Batsman-Jonathan Trott- Perhaps the player I thought most likely to be rubbish at one day cricket aside from Alistair Cook in the English test team but boy has Jonothan Trott proved me wrong. In the form of his life in Australia scoring four centuries this tour and holding together England's fragile line up in the ODIs. The subcontinent should suit his nurdle and nudge style of play with his wristy leg side flicks being prominent but also look of for his mediums which are being a great success at the end of the innings and should be successful on the slow low pitches at the World Cup.

Bowler-Graeme Swann: The player who has made off spin fun. Swann is one of the most entertaining player both on and off the field and at this World Cup he could be one of the most successful. Not at all afraid of giving the ball a rip we are very likely to see many balls turning into the batsmen and a fair pace. Swann also possesses excellent accuracy and can tie many a batsman down shown in his excellent one day average of 23 since 2009. His batting will also provide good entertainment with his hit out or get out mentality very prominent. He could take this English side further than they have ever been and take them to their first win to add to Andy Flowers rapidly growing trophy cabinet.

Batsman-Ed Joyce: Back for his country of birth after briefly being a traitor and going to play for England. A batsman of high class with every shot in the book he could be the one to hold the Irish innings together from the top as it should not be discounted that while he did play for England he managed a century against the then far superior Australians. Will be most interesting when he has to come up against England on March 2nd.

Bowler-George Dockrell; The Irish's great young hope as he has been called at only 18 his bowling performances have been excellent in international cricket with an average of 26. Had to turn down playing the Australians in a one dayer due to the fact that he had exams! Holds an excellent economy rate of 4 in one dayers and will be great to look out for simply due to the fact that he is a teenager (which I always like watching and being jealous that I'm not that good) and good spinners on the subcontinent often provide great results. Should be key to helping Ireland try repeat their stellar 2007 campaign.

Batsman- Sachin Tendulkar; The legend, the one and only Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. So many stats to choose but lets go for since the start of 2006 he averages 49, and the fact that he has the most World Cup runs ever. In home conditions Tendulkar is generally very very hard to get past even scoring big runs such as the only double hundred in one day internationals. Despite owning pretty much every good record you can own he does not have a World Cup so this is his big chance to finally tick that off his list in surely his last World Cup (his sixth!). If India do not make it be sure to look of for effigies and burnt players houses all over the place.

Bowler-Zaheer Khan; India's most dependable bowler and leader of their attack. His left arm pace bowling has given him a World Cup average of 21. Very experienced in his home conditions and will be sure to pull out pin point yorkers at the death and most likely find vicious reverse swing to fool many a batsman. Will definitely be India's go to bowler in high pressure situations.

Batsman-Steve Tikolo: The grand daddy of Kenyan cricket. Steve Tikolo was widely regarded as the best batsman to not have played test cricket when at his prime but now at the age of 40 he is a bit past it now but still the best batsman Kenya have. Dragged out of retirement specifically for this event be sure that he will be the technically sound rock of the Kenyan batting as he has often lifted himself for the big stage. Will most likely send down some overs of dull flat off spin which will be very effective. Hopefully will bring out at least one more good performance before this legend of Kenyan cricket retires for good after playing in everyone of Kenya's World Cup games since 1996.

Bowler-James Ngoche: Young and inexperienced Ngoche's first year in international cricket was 2010 managing to take 13 wickets at an excellent average of 18. Is Kenya's best spinner and will most likely bowl full quotas of overs on these turning pitches in the hopes that Kenya can give some of the big boys of cricket a fright.

All rounder- Ryan Ten Doeschate: The best the Netherlands have to offer by quite a fair distance. Ten Doescate actually owns the best batting average in One Day Internationals currently as it sits at an astonishing 68. Will be the Netherlands rock and will be required to score a good chunk of their runs. His fast mediums are very effective as well with a great average of 21 and will work out well on the slow subcontinental pitches. Now becoming a hired gun around the world in twenty20 cricket playing in Australia and being MVP in the New Zealand HRV Cup. As well as being a great player is as tough as nails recently copping a 140kph ball to the neck and shrugging it off. Will be the Netherlands biggest hope of causing some upsets.

Bowler: Adeel Raja: A spinner much like Graeme Swann with a habit of giving it a bit rip. Also quite controversial for failing random drug tests more recently for a drug that is used to help grow hair back. Should provide great control and a few good turning balls on these turning pitches and could provide a very good foil bowling in tandem with Ten Doeschate.

New Zealand
Batsman-Martin Guptill- The ex-Avondaler known as Marty Two Toes will definitely be a key batsman for New Zealand. In this current series against Pakistan he is striking the ball better than I ever seen him before. Will be looking to hit balls in the 'V' as he is very strong off the front foot and if things get too short he is not adverse to putting balls into the crowd. Electric in the field great prowling close in at short cover or with his bullet arm in the out field I am sure he will pull of at least one run out and one great catch in his maiden World Cup.

Bowler- Tim Southee: It's strange to think that Tim Southee as so young since it seems like he has been round forever but he is bowling at his best at the moment. He is managing to swing the ball prodigiously and bowl very good lines and lengths. Will be New Zealand's bowler at the death proving he can do the job with very good yorkers in the past. Will be interesting to see if he can manage to not be slaughtered around the park as he has been in the past. His batting will also provide good wild leg side swinging entertainment.

Batsman- Misbah Ul-Haq; A batsman who only a few months ago would not have been considered for the World Cup team but is now a definite starter. Is in the form of his life on this current tour to New Zealand and in touch with his game better than ever before. Plays in a very orthodox fashion and will no doubt be the rock amongst an often collapsing Pakistani team, will be key along with his partner in crime Younis Khan.

Bowler-Umar Gul: The definite leader of this Pakistani bowling attack. Bowls with good pace and is one of the best exponents of the one day game in recent history. Has a very respectable ODI average of 27 but his true talent will come out in his great death bowling as he can bowl a perfect yorker at a snap of the fingers. If there is reverse swing to be found he will find it and could be a very dangerous prospect in conditions he knows very well. His batting can also provide some good lower order entertainment.

South Africa
Batsman-Hashim Amla: Undoubtedly the best batsman of the last year in both long and short formats of the game with over 1000 runs 5 centuries at an average of around 75 in 2010. His game of wristy flicks and accumulation will sort the slow low subcontinental pitches very well already proven by his recent success there in 2010. He will be a very likely candidate for leading run scorer in the tournament and could even take this South African team past their usual choking status.

Bowler-Imran Tahir: South Africa's secret weapon. A player who has player all over the world and done very well. It is no wonder that as soon as he was eligible for the South African team he was put in their World Cup squad. Is a very attacking leg spinner capable of great control and wicket taking prowess. Has a bowling average of under 23 in first class one day matches but will be interesting to see if Graeme Smith can get the best out of him. Has subcontinental experience and should be one of the players to truly announce himself on the world stage.

Sri Lanka
Batsman-Tillakaratne Dilshan: Another dashing opener in world cricket who is very good in his own conditions. Has been exceptional in the past two years averaging over 50 in 2009 and 2010. Will be expected to give Sri Lanka a good fast start to lay a strong foundation for the middle order. A man who can do everything from bat, bowl, field and wicket keep it is hard to know what to expect from Dilshan but be sure he will score some quick runs at the top, provide some handy wickets and pull off good stops in the field.

Bowler-Muttiah Muralitharan: Sri Lanka's epic stalwart in his last ever international assignment will want to take Sri Lanka one better than he could in 2007. Will no doubt be high in the wicket taking charts taking wickets with amazing control and deception its no wonder he has 53 World Cup wickets. Will definitely want to retire on a high and has a good chance to in his home conditions. Expect his back away and slog batting to be cheered ferociously as international cricket bids farewell to a legend.

West Indies
Batsman- Darren Bravo: The young brother of Dwayne Bravo who has modeled his batting style on Brian Lara and it clearly shows with a high back lift and very punchy drives. Has had a very good start to his test career but not quite so much in ODIs but is a great talent and I'm sure along with the experience of the the other players can be very successful.

Bowler-Kemar Roach: The bowler responsible for Ricky Ponting losing faith in his pull shot. Will be the West Indies best wicket taking option as he has a great strike rate with a wicket every 26 balls in ODIs. Wont let the slow pitches of the subcontinent stop him from trying to bowl as fast as possible and try and intimidate batsmen and show off his very good yorker. Look out for him as a reminder of the good old days of West Indian fast bowling.

Batsman-Brendan Taylor: Has been excellent in the past 18 months carrying an often very weak Zimbabwe batting order and scoring heavily with one day hundreds against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and South Africa along with a few 90s. Has a great cover drive and should be remembered fondly as the batsman who beat Australia with a great 50 in the 2007 World T20. If he gets going Zimbabwe could be very capable of causing upsets.

Bowler-Ray Price: A spinner with a fast bowlers mind set. Ray Price may be on the wrong side of 30 but he loves getting in the oppositions face regardless of what he is doing. He has an amazing economy rate of under 4 per over he will offer great control and entertainment for all who watch. Look out for his great wicket celebrations as he quite likes jumping about and yelling.

Now we will just have to wait and see to the end of this epically long World Cup to see how right I am.