18 February 201019:42

One year to go - captains look forward to ICC Cricket World Cup 2011

Friday marks the one-year countdown to the start of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, the sport's most prestigious and eagerly awaited event

One year to go - captains look forward to ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 - Cricket News

India's cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Friday marks the one-year countdown to the start of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, the sport's most prestigious and eagerly awaited event.

Exactly 365 days from Friday (19 February), all eyes will be focused to the National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka, where host Bangladesh will be taking on neighbour and co-host India in the opening match of the 43-day tournament that will feature the 10 Full Members and four qualifiers, namely Ireland, Canada, the Netherlands and Kenya.

Sri Lanka is the third co-host of the tournament which is being staged in the subcontinent for the third time. A total of 13 venues will be used across the subcontinent and 49 matches will be played with India hosting 29 matches, including the final, a semi-final and a quarter-final, Sri Lanka 12 matches, including a semi-final and a quarter-final, and Bangladesh eight matches, including the opening match, and two quarter-finals.

Captains of the subcontinent sides, Mahendra Singh Dhoni of India, Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka and Shakib Al Hasan of Bangladesh are excited and upbeat about their teams' chances in the most-awaited tournament.

Dhoni, looking ahead at the mega event, said: "The ICC Cricket World Cup is the most important and prestigious event on the cricket calendar. With billions watching and following, and the stakes very high, it is any cricketer's dream to play in it and I'm no different.

"The fact that the event will be staged in the Asian subcontinent excites me further as the facilities, passion, enthusiasm and cricketing environment here are second to none. This will also be an excellent opportunity for Team India to play in the sport's pinnacle event in front of our die-hard supporters who have always backed us and have been one of our motivating factors.

"It is also nice to be in the top three of the Reliance Mobile ICC ODI Rankings over the past two seasons but in the end all that matters is our showing in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. India won the World Cup in 1983 and we want to do the same at home.

"The past two years have helped us get the right combinations in place and that is reflected in our consistent performance. In the next 12 months, we will focus on our preparations to ensure that we enter the competition in top condition. The World Cup only comes around once every four years and that requires that the team peaks at the right time."

Sangakkara, who was a member of the side that reached the final in 2007 in the West Indies, said: "Playing in a World Cup in your home country is a wonderful experience for any cricketer and leading your country is a lifetime honour.

"With subcontinental conditions being as they are, especially with the home support, we will enjoy many advantages.

"However, the key to our success will be the amount of hard work, passion and proper preparation we put in to bringing back the World Cup and fulfil not only our dreams, but the dreams of all Sri Lankans."

Bangladesh captain Shakib feels his side has come of age and is now ready to take on the best of the best. "I just get this feeling that the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 is going to be huge for Bangladesh. When I see the kind of individual performances some of us have put up in ODIs in recent times I find genuine reasons to feel optimistic," he said.

"We will go into the World Cup knowing and believing that we can progress far. It is not like the 2007 tournament where some of us were teenagers and we did not know what to expect. Now there's more maturity and calm in the group and importantly, we are unearthing world-class performers. It won't be easy for any side to come to our backyard and get a result against us if we can put in a team performance," he said.

Shakib also reflected how Bangladesh's performances in the 1999 World Cup in England attracted the youngsters to the sport. "The 1999 World Cup had stirred the imagination of the whole nation which watched the Tigers taking the world stage for the first time.

"I was fascinated by the game and my mind kept going back to the match against Pakistan which we won. Boys like me turned to the bat and ball instead of kicking football and a cricket generation was born.

"In 2007 we took the world by storm when we reached the Super Eight and knocked over India and South Africa along the way. Now every young kid in Bangladesh aspires to become a cricketer. A solid campaign next year for us would mean a fresh cricket revolution."

Four-time world champion Australia will once again be the side to beat as it aims to stretch its record of 29 World Cup matches without a loss.

Ricky Ponting's side has been in terrific form of late having won the ODI series in England 6-1, the ICC Champions Trophy 2009 in South Africa and then making a clean sweep of the five-ODI series against Pakistan. It leads the West Indies 3-0 in the current series taking place Down Under.

Captain Ricky Ponting agrees that his side has turned into a versatile unit but admits that a lot of hard work still needs to be done. "Over the past six months, we've developed a versatile squad which has experienced success in all conditions," he said.

"One of the strengths of the team during this time has been the depth and quality of players we've been able to call on. These new players have been significant contributors to the success extended run of success that we've enjoyed in England, South Africa, India, and at home in Australia.

"There's a lot of hard work to be done before the World Cup but I'm confident we'll arrive in the sub-continent well-prepared to win a fourth straight title."