The thing about prediction is that on a good day, it will make you feel like a million dollars, but when it upends, there’s the proverbial egg on the face to contend with. The lines can easily blur between chutzpah and stupidity.
Most experts are inclined to take the ifs-and-buts highway to lace their predictions for reasons explained in the intro, but that can’t be much fun for a lay fan hooked to getting into the game early.
So, here’s the beef: I take heart from having predicted Sri Lanka the winners in fine print one month before the 1996 edition when I was last asked to dare. With no particular fear of being yolked, one is guided in this endeavour largely by team make-up and current form.
South Africa offer the best combination. Significantly, they have set new benchmarks. Led by AB de Villiers, the best willow-wielder in the game by a terrific notch, the line-up boasts batsmen and bowlers who are on top of their game to the extent they are finally threatening to pull the plug on “cho” in choking.
Potential biggest star
De Villiers promises to be the biggest star of Circa ’15, a batsman given to such outrageous innovation that you wonder if the game is even fair from the bowler’s perspective. That the Proteas are also arguably the best fielding side in the world can’t hurt their chances at snaring the most coveted prize in the business.
But New Zealand are genuinely threatening to make a maiden trophy call of their own. Brendon McCullum may not be in the same league as Martin Crowe with his inventiveness, but there’s quite a similarity in how he is poised to repeat the surprise package of the 1992 World Cup.
The Black Caps are perhaps the most improved ODI side and boast nearly as good an all-round mien as the Proteas. McCullum may turn out to be the impact captain of the World Cup.
Despite speculation surrounding Mike Clarke’s availability, which does little for George Bailey’s confidence as a stand-in, Australia with a clutch of stars will remain formidable contenders on home turf, and the team most likely to upset South Africa on their day.
Agreed that Misbah ul Haq’s parrot greens appear in need of a divine intervention but not the kind imagined by say, southpaw Haris Sohail. That the “supernatural” appeared in Christchurch was particularly galling.
On a serious note, Pakistan are in serious relapse (having lost 11 of their last 14 ODIs across two continents) and it would take perhaps a Pakistani freakonomics at the picturesque Adelaide Oval next week in a much-hyped humdinger against India — predicted to fetch the game’s biggest television audience ever — to revive hope for the former world champs.
So, will the latest Niazi (Misbah) provide an encore to the erstwhile Niazi (Imran) — also, in the twilight of his career — 23 years apart, down under? While his wards, too, appear “cornered”, will they also turn out to be tigers?
It would be stretching the imagination to set store by Abdullah Shaukat Chaudhry, the astrologer nicknamed Mamoon, who predicts that if Pakistan does not land the trophy it will be No.2. Hope he didn’t mean that in Urdu parlance!
— Kamran Rehmat, political analyst and cricket aficionado.