18 December 2014
World Cup race wide open: Border and Waugh
The race for cricket’s greatest prize is wide open, according to two former ICC Cricket World Cup-winning captains.
Allan Border and Steve Waugh both captained Australia to World Cup success
“It’s going to be a great tournament, I think it will be the most open World Cup for 20 years,” Waugh, who led Australia to victory in 1999, said.
“I think there’s probably six to eight teams that could win it and that will mean evenly contested games, really good quality cricket.”
Border, captain of the 1987 champion Australia team, agreed. He said with so many sides in the running, fans could be assured of blockbuster games throughout the tournament.
“Realistically there’s probably half a dozen of the sides that will have a chance to win the tournament so there will be a lot of important games played throughout the six or seven weeks” Border said.
If the ICC ODI team rankings are anything to go by, the former Aussie skippers are spot on.
Australia and India are neck and neck at the top of the ODI rankings as of December 17, with Sri Lanka and South Africa nipping at their heels.
Waugh believes having the home ground advantage could be both a blessing and a curse for Australia and New Zealand.
Waugh, a member of Border’s team the last time the tournament was played in Australia and New Zealand in 1992, said all of the encouragement a home crowd offered also brought with it a great burden.
“We certainly did (feel the pressure) after we lost the first game to New Zealand,” Waugh said, referring to the unexpected start to the 1992 tournament at Auckland’s Eden Park.
New Zealand came into the World Cup off the back of a series loss to England while Australia were the reigning 1987 champions and red-hot favourites.
But that was before Martin Crowe scored an unbeaten century and Gavin Larsen took 3-30 to help New Zealand to a 37-run, upset win.
“We thought ‘hang on, there’s a bit of pressure now’ because we didn’t expect to lose that game over in Auckland,” Waugh said.
“At that time we thought we had a fantastic side that we thought could win the World Cup and suddenly after we lost that game we were behind the eight ball a bit, and chasing our tails.”
But the pressure could also be used in the home nations’ favour, Waugh added.
“At the same time it’s nice to have pressure because that means people expect you to do well and you should expect that of yourself anyway. So you can use it as a positive effect as well.”
He said it was incredibly important for Australians and New Zealanders to get behind their teams.
“You do recognise that the crowd is supporting you and it does make you feel good as an Australian cricketer walking out to a massive cheer, and people appreciating every good shot you play or a good bit of fielding or when you take a wicket,” he said.
“It does lift the team and I think it’s just great to have that sort of atmosphere for a World Cup.
“It only happens every four years so you want to play in front of big crowds in all the games.”
Border said while playing at home did bring extra pressure, he encouraged the Australia and New Zealand players to embrace it.
“In India in 1987 we were a young side playing away from home so we flew under the radar a little bit – it’s very hard for the Australian team to fly under the radar in this day and age,” Border said.
“So there will be extra pressures on them but my advice to them is to embrace it, really get involved in the tournament and embrace the fact that you are the home side and love the crowd support.”
Even the support of adopted fans can make all the difference. Recalling the final of the 1987 World Cup, when Australia battled England in front of 90,000 fans at a packed Eden Gardens in India, Border said the crowd’s preference for the Aussie team had been a major boost.
“It was amazing in ’87, we were the underdog team that found ourselves in the final and playing against the arch-enemy England, and we had the crowd support which was phenomenal in Calcutta (now Kolkata),” Border recalled.
“It was just deafening the noise, but to have it on our side was pretty special so you can imagine if Australia do well in this tournament and going to the MCG (for the final) it will be the same sort of feeling.”
Both captains encouraged Australians and New Zealanders to adopt teams from other nations and make the most of the quality cricket the even tournament would offer.
“The game of one-day cricket and Twenty20 cricket has changed so much that you’re going to see innovation, you’re going to see an exciting last five or 10 overs when a lot of runs are going to be scored and I would definitely advise people to go out and buy a ticket,” Waugh said.
While the clashes between the main cup contenders will be crucial, the encounters featuring the World Cup’s less fancied teams, including Afghanistan, Scotland, United Arab Emirates and Ireland, could also produce stunning upsets to turn the tournament on its head.
Ireland has produced giant-killing wins over England and Pakistan in recent World Cups - results that altered the course of the tournaments.
Likewise, Bangladesh toppled an India team packed with stars in the 2007 World Cup, sending India’s campaign into disarray.
“I would say (to the Australian public) get out and support the Australian team, that goes without saying but there’s a lot of good contests to be played throughout that tournament,” Border said.
“So for me (I would say) don’t just support Australia, there will be a lot of good games being played in your city so get out there and watch the lot.”
Ireland “Quietly Confident”: Kevin O’Brien
A swansong at home to remember