Sri Lanka among Tendulkar’s favourites to win 2015 World Cup

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500 day countdown celebrations in Auckland. Sri Lanka will play New Zealand in the first game of the 2015 World Cup in Christchurch. (Picture by ICC)

500 day countdown celebrations in Auckland. Sri Lanka will play New Zealand in the first game of the 2015 World Cup in Christchurch. (Picture by ICC)

Celebrations in Auckland and Sydney with 500 days to World Cup

With exactly 500 days to go before the first ball is bowled in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 on 14 February, batting wizard Sachin Tendulkar has predicted that the trophy will remain in the subcontinent with India favourite to retain the title.

Tendulkar, who along with Pakistan’s Javed Miandad is the only player in the history of the game to play in six World Cups, hoped that if Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side successfully defended the title, then it will once again provide tremendous joy to the nation while making it only the third country after West Indies and Australia to win back-to-back titles.

“Along with India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are also good sides,” said the champion batsman, adding: “I am partial towards India and want them to do well. That would be really exciting. It will give so much happiness to the entire nation.

“That is something I would want, along with a billion plus people who will also be expecting the same thing to happen.”

The Indian icon retired from ODI cricket in December 2012 as the leading run-getter with 18,426 runs. Tendulkar had a lion’s share in India’s historic victory in Mumbai on 2 April 2011 when he finished as his side’s top scorer with 482 runs from nine matches.

India, which leads the Reliance ICC ODI Team Rankings table by a distance, has been drawn in Pool B and will open its campaign against Pakistan in Adelaide on 15 February. India’s other matches in the first round are against South Africa (in Melbourne on 22 February), Qualifier 4 (in Perth on 28 February), West Indies (in Perth on 6 March) and Ireland (in Hamilton on 10 March) and Zimbabwe (in Auckland on 14 March).

Four-time world champion Australia will launch its campaign against traditional rival England under the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) lights in Melbourne on  the opening day, 14 March, while co-host New Zealand will feature in the tournament opener against Sri Lanka in Christchurch.

Pool A includes Afghanistan/UAE*, Australia, Bangladesh, England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Qualified 3 while Pool B comprises India, Ireland, Pakistan, South Africa, Qualifier 4, West Indies and Zimbabwe.

The top four sides from each pool will progress to the quarter-finals, followed by the two semi-finals and the final. All the seven knock-out matches will have reserve days.

Tendulkar, who is also the highest run-getter in the history of ICC Cricket World Cup with 2,278 runs from 45 matches (1,195 runs more than Miandad), hoped India players will quickly adjust to the conditions in Australia and New Zealand.

Brett Lee poses on Sydney Harbour with the ICC Cricket World Cup trophy and junior cricketers from Mosman cricket club during celebrations to mark 500 days to go until the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup on October 2, 2013 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images for the ICC)

Brett Lee poses on Sydney Harbour with the ICC Cricket World Cup trophy and junior cricketers from Mosman cricket club during celebrations to mark 500 days to go until the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup on October 2, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images for the ICC)

“Well I think most of our guys have been to Australia. They know what to expect, (as) they have played there already,’’ said Tendulkar who was part of the squad that toured Australia in 2011-12.

In the lead up to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 in 2014-15, India will again be in Australia for a four-Test series. This will be followed by a tri-series also featuring England, apart from the host.

More than Australia, Tendulkar’s worry was about adjusting to New Zealand conditions.

Recalling India’s ICC Cricket World Cup 1992 match against New Zealand, Tendulkar said: “I remember our match in Dunedin, where it was extremely cold and windy. Whenever a batsman hit the ball with the wind, it would travel 10 yards further, but when we had to play against the wind, the ball travelled 10 yards less!

“As there is a tour to New Zealand planned in early 2014, it should give them good exposure to the conditions there.”