Speaking at the launch of Match Australia business networking programme for the ICC Cricket World Cup (CWC) 2015 here on Wednesday, Shastri said co-hosts Australia will start favourites along with India. “Australia have bounced back in brilliant fashion after their Ashes defeat in England. They reclaimed the Ashes in Australia and followed it with a win in South Africa. Though it might be Test cricket, the confidence will bounce into one-day cricket. They will obviously be a big threat for any opposition in Australia. “It is is going to be a very evenly-matched World Cup. The volumes of limited-overs cricket, the amount of T20 cricket that is being played have made batsmen more innovative. They are fearless. Bowlers have a new trick up their sleeve all the time. That is why I feel this World Cup in Australia will be exciting. They pitches will typical Australian ones with a little bit of bounce. The grounds are big, so you have to come up with new ideas, be fit and strong
“India embark on a very long tour of Australia (this year end). It is interesting to see how fit the players will be, how mentally fresh they will be. It is going to be one heck of a World Cup.
“Australia have pulled out a lot of things in the past – the pyjama cricket, night cricket, etc. India have the IPL. India can be innovative in their own way. There are a number of Australians that embrace the IPL. The mix between India and Australia is fabulous. A lot of people in the Australian public, when they watch India playing, they identify those players with different teams in the IPL. That is a big start that kicks off during the World Cup. It is going to be one heck of a tournament.”
Former Australian fast bowler Shaun Tait agreed with Shastri about the favourites for next year's World Cup and added: “South Africa have always gone in as favourites but they can’t get there in the last minute. Definitely India and Australia will be up there. I think Sri Lanka and Pakistan are dangerous at times. It is going to be pretty exciting.”
John Harnden, CEO of the organising committee of the 11th edition of the cricket world cup, said that the India-Pakistan Group B match in Adelaide on February 15 “will be one of the most watched matches in the whole history of the cricket”.
While saying that preparations for the quadrennial event “are in great shape” unlike the protests and other issues relating to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Harnden added, “Given the reach of cricket, the Cricket World Cup broadcast globally only ranks behind the FIFA World Cup and the Summer Olympics. More people will watch CWC next summer than they watched the recent Winter Olympics. The ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh was the most successful of all time, 1.2 billion people watching it. But the ICC has been growing and increasing the broadcast reach since then.”
Harnden said that bringing the city alive during the World Cup was their challenge. “I actually think what is really going to make compelling is the whole fan experience. We are working with governments across Australia and New Zealand. For a lot of us in the organising committee, the challenge is not about running a cricket match. It is about bringing the city alive.”
Harnden said he could not wait for the India-Pakistan match in Adelaide. “Interestingly, the opening game is in New Zealand where Sri Lanka will be playing New Zealand (Christchurch) on March 14, followed by Australia playing England (Melbourne) the same day. The big news that weekend, the India-Pakistan match in Adelaide is going to be massive. “For us, we don't have to build many venues. We are fortunate in that New Zealand and Australia have got great cricket grounds, no different than in India. The root challenge was how do we make everyone to buy, how do we spread the tournament across two countries because it is about two countries, not about one, and how do we make certain changes, with Melbourne Cricket Ground having a 1,00,000 people through to some of the great picturesque venues in New Zealand, Napier for example that can hold 5,000.”
Harnden said that he wanted every participating team to feel at home during the seven-week long tournament. “For us, the biggest emphasis to organise a tournament is not about the Australian team, not about the New Zealand team. We have 14 teams coming and we want to make certain every one of those teams is given the best possible opportunity to play well and ultimately win. Behind that is the really core philosophy of making every match a home match for every team. For eg. when India is playing Pakistan, we want to make certain we work with the Indian community to make that a home game for India. We will be working with the Pakistan community to do that as well. We have seen traditionally, if Australia is not playing, it doesn’t attract a lot of attention. We have found that all of those games, all of those communities that live there are absolutely passionate about their cricket. Australia is a really big multi-cultural community with a lot of diversity and we have been able to get everyone passionate about coming.
“India-Pakistan is one game of the tournament other than the final that I actually want to be there to see the atmosphere. Australia is offering you to come and use cricket as the uniting language to meet people and break down the barriers. This is about one of the world’s biggest events and the world’s best cricketers coming together in one moment in time to win that trophy.”