India have a good chance to grab the World Cup this time around, says South Africa's batting consultant Duncan Fletcher. But he opines, so does South Africa and England. Hence, it looks like the mega tournament will be a three-way race. "You've got three sides on a par: India South Africa and England, all with different strengths and weaknesses," Fletcher said in Johannesburg on Friday.
Fletcher stated that South Africa pose the biggest threat to the other teams in the event as their one-day abilities have scaled new heights in recent times. But he added that the Proteas stiffest challenge will come from India who will come under tremendous pressure as they are playing on home soil, while England who probably have the most athletic side of the three is coming off of an enormously confidence-boosting Ashes, which could translate to Wolrd Cup glory as well.
However, Fletcher went on to hedge his bets by saying that this World Cup will be the most hotly contested event ever in the history of cricket as all teams will be playing on a level-playing field i.e. the subcontinents batting friendly pitches while the minnow teams have improved vastly in the recent past. "It's an open World Cup for a change. There are no firm favourites. You can't rule out Sri Lanka. Australia, although they have taken a huge dip, I don't know where they are at the moment and Pakistan, you can't write them off on those wickets."
He said the unique conditions of the pitches in India, Sri Lanka and Bangldesh give rise to two important factors in the preparations of the various teams. "Spinners are going to be crucial," observed Fletcher. "Secondly, you need fit cricketers, because it's going to be hot there and the players have to adapt to those kinds of wickets and get their techniques right and how to play on those wickets."
These warnings attain particular significance in light of the fact that many senior Proteas batsmen were reeling from cramps in the last World Cup, in the Carribean. They also don't have too many top-class specialist spinners to look to. The Pakistan-born Imran Tahir will be a significant prospect for South Africa, but they must use him in the series against India at home and not keep him on the sidelines or too long, Fletched added.
But Fletcher recognised that the Proteas pace bowlers will face the biggest challenge, trying to extract speed and bounce on the flat Indian wickets. "When they go to India those wickets may be a bit slower and a bit flatter, but they just have to get used to it. They have to adapt a bit quicker," he said.
In terms of track records in 2010, England leads the winning percentages, claiming victory in 9 out of the 12 one-day matches that they played (granted however, some of those wins came against lesser sides like Bangladesh and Scotland). South Africa's winning percentage is second-best with 9 wins from 13 matches and India managed to claim victory 11 times out of its 16 encounters in the year.