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A dummy’s guide to the Cricket World Cup

With the Cricket World Cup upon us, for those who don’t really understand one of the most archaic sports going around, here is what you need to know about the teams competing (the ones who can win the tournament at least … apologies to the associate nations, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh), important players and other loose ends:

Where is the tournament being hosted?
Games are playing played in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India.

Does this affect game conditions?
Yes. Cricket on the subcontinent is dominated by spinners, such as this guy …

How important is this tournament to one-day international (ODI) cricket?
Right now, it’s everything. The Mordor of T20 cricket runs rampant. If it is going to be stopped, it must be now.

Which side has won the most titles and who else has won the tournament?
Australia have the most titles.

The West Indies were in the throes of world domination in 1975 and 1979.

India won it in 1983 against all the odds and changed the game forever.

It all began for Australia in 1987.

Pakistan claimed the title in 1992 after nearly not getting there.

Sri Lanka were balls to the wall in the first 15 come 1996.

Australia couldn’t be stopped by a tie in 1999.

They continued in the same fashion in 2003.

And won their fourth in the darkness of 2007.

Team profiles
Host nation. Will be Sachin Tendulkar’s last tournament. The Little Master never leaves the field empty-handed. India are a balanced side and will be roared on by a tidal wave of support that can drown out a jumbo jet. If they are going to win it again, this will be the time. Pressure will be their worst enemy.

Skipper:MS Dhoni. Adored by thousands … and Gary Kirsten. A clever captain and leader of men. A honey badger of a batsman.

Lance Klusener: Yusuf Pathan. He showed in South Africa that even from the worst situation he can keep captains up at night. Recently joined the Hashim Amla Club with his facial hair.

Defies physics: Virender Sehwag. He stands at the crease, and upon delivery sways like a reed would in a breeze. He is the ultimate carver of a cricket ball and the most unique opening batsman at this tournament.

One with the cricket ball: Harbhajan Singh. He is tall, allowing him to get more loop and bounce off the pitch. Highly experienced. Seen by many as “The Turbinator”.

Likely finish: Winners.

South Africa
The All Blacks of world cricket. Awesome when not playing for World Cup glory (most of the time anyway), but who also have the amazing ability to morph into Tobias from Arrested Development when facing elimination. They’ve done that sad walk many times. Still, on paper, they have one of the best sides around. Suddenly have three spinners when at one point there were none.

Skipper: Graeme Smith. This will be his swansong in the ODI format as skipper. A real brute of a batsman in the Matthew Hayden mould.

Lance Klusener: JP Duminy. A class act who, when on song, makes batting look poetic.

Defies physics: AB de Villiers. Great fielder and can do anything with the bat. Bats at a fast pace and will receive strong support from Kallis and Duminy for the rest of the tournament.

At one with the cricket ball: Dale Steyn. cricketwithballs says it all.

Likely to finish: Finalists.

Pakistan, for all their troubles, are the team no one likes facing. They are unpredictable, impossibly so. A team packed full of talent that can explode or self-destruct at the same time and still win the game. Shahid Afridi will be their talisman, and he is already one of the best around.

Skipper: Shahid Afridi. A real folk hero across the cricketing world. Has the super power to create Bowler’s Hell. Fact. Holds the record for the fastest century in ODI cricket (37 balls) and bowls highly effective leg spin. Will lead by example.

Lance Klusener: Umar Akmal. He only knows one way. Lives his life in perpetual war with cricket balls. Afridi gets an honourable mention.

At one with the cricket ball: Umar Gul. He has a toe-buster of a yorker. Bowls thoughtful cutters that are awkward for batsmen to put away.

Likely to finish: Semifinalists.

The defending champions. Ricky Ponting will be looking for his third consecutive and last World Cup crown to end his ODI career, since this will be the end for him. They have BMT in bucket loads and have been there before. Their spin department might be weak, but you can never discount them. Never. Ever. Just ask Allan Donald.

Skipper: Ricky Ponting. While his powers seem to have declined somewhat, when he gets going he is unstoppable. His thunderous century at the Wanderers in the 2003 final is evidence of that. A fine fielder at backward point.

Lance Klusener: Shane Watson. He hits hard, plays straight and bowls a bit too as a bonus.

Defies physics: Michael Clarke. When the spinners come on, watch him dance. Also dated a model and nearly married her.

At one with the cricket ball: Brett Lee. A real thoroughbred of a bowler when fit. Honourable mention to Shaun Tait, who is like Lee’s more douchy cousin.

Likely finish: Semifinalists.

They haven’t cared too much for the World Cup since 1992. However, Andrew Strauss notched his highest one day score in that epic tied match against India on Sunday. They seem to a be a bit more serious don’t they? Their best players are often born in South Africa.

Skipper: Andrew Strauss. A real schemer of a captain, who runs a very tight ship that saw the English kick the crap out the Australians during the Ashes. They then went back into character, losing the ODI series 6-1. As Sunday showed, a fine player who is a real figurehead for his team.

Lance Klusener: Kevin Pietersen. He isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but he has a fine ODI record. One of the most destructive batsman on earth when feeling gung-ho.

Defies physics: Paul Collingwood. He looks awkward, like Timmy taking the lead in the school play. Has a back lift that suggests he won’t make many runs … but often does. A real team man and outstanding fielder.

At one with the cricket ball: Graeme Swann. Destined for a career in TV following his now-cult Ashes Diaries. A big turner of the ball, who didn’t have the best of days on Sunday. Will get better as the tournament progresses.

Likely finish: Quarterfinalists.

Sri Lanka
Finalists in 2007. A team packed with players who know the subcontinent so well, they will pose a challenge to any team they face. Sanath Jayasuriya gets an honourable mention for not being in the squad. Boast a couple of the most unorthodox bowlers around, who happen to be rather nasty to face.

Skipper: Kumar Sangakarra. One of the classiest batsman on the planet, the Sri Lanka wicket-keeper will lead the batting line-up. Has no obvious weaknesses in his technique and a fine glove-man behind the stumps. Can single-handedly destroy an attack on his own and will be looking to former skipper Mahela Jayawardene for vital support in the middle order.

Lance Klusener: Tillakaratne Dilshan. Averaged a touch under 30 at No 6. Strike-rate? 78. Opening the batting? His average borders on 50. Strike-rate? 100. Can play any stroke.

Defies physics: Lasith Malinga. Also known as Slinger Malinga. Bowls with the most round-arm, awkward-looking, bone-popping action ever. This would be a problem weren’t it not for being a bigger problem for the batsman. Member of the toe-cruncher club.

At one with the cricket ball: Muttiah Muralitharan. Old snake eyes. Revolutionised spin bowling through bowling off spin with his wrists. That is very, very weird. It didn’t stop him from becoming the leading Test wicket-taker of all time. His record will most likely never be broken.

Likely finish: Quarterfinalists.

New Zealand
Have played in three semifinals. For a team that doesn’t have as many people playing cricket as in other nations, that’s an excellent record. Play as unit and are led by the professor of world captains, who does it all. Their fielding is of a high standard and they are a match for any side on their day.

Skipper: Daniel Vettori. He bats. He bowls. He captains. The only current international player to take the field in glasses. That’s chutzpah. The most important player in the team.

Lance Klusener: Jacob Oram. Injury has reduced his bowling and ended his Test career. He’s back for one last hurrah and is an explosive monster of a man at the crease.

Defies physics: Brendon McCullum. The Black Caps wicket-keeper hit the first ever IPL century and will be the engine that drives New Zealand’s campaign.

At one with the cricket ball: Daniel Vettori. As one of the best spinners around (though his record doesn’t reflect that), Vettori will need to take wickets.

Likely finish: Quarterfinalists

West Indies
The fallen giants of the world game. Still capable of beating the more consistent nations on the world stage, but appear to be lacking the will to push their undoubted ability. They are a dangerous side to face, with big hitters sprinkled in their line-up. The World Cup wouldn’t mind if the Windies went far.

Skipper: Darren Sammy. Not a great batsman or bowler, but an honest tryer of a skipper. He needs to contribute more for the Windies to have a chance.

Lance Klusener: Kieron Pollard. The ultimate T20 warrior, Pollard can hit the ball out of any stadium. Whether he achieves consistency is a different matter entirely.

Defies physics: Chris Gayle. Mr. Cool. Takes batting to a whole new level. Languid and savage at the same time.

At one with the ball: Kemar Roach. A real quick hustler of a bowler with shades of Malcolm Marshall. Will need to take more wickets to trouble the opposition.

Likely to finish: Quarterfinalists.