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THE 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup gets underway tomorrow (19 February) with two of the three co-hosts, India and Bangladesh, taking each other on at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka. The other host nation, Sri Lanka, begin their campaign on Sunday (20 February) against Canada.

The three sub-continent countries were awarded the 2011 World Cup on 30 April 2006 along with Pakistan. But Pakistan were stripped of their hosting rights back in 2009 after a group of terrorists opened fire on the touring Sri Lankan team’s bus in Lahore. This attack killed six Pakistani policemen and two civilians while injuring six Sri Lankan cricketers, two of their staff and a reserve umpire. As a result, eight of the games Pakistan was scheduled to host were moved to India, four to Sri Lanka and two to Bangladesh.

The tournament itself contains 14 teams unlike 2007 when there were 16. All ten full ICC members: Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe all qualified automatically either as hosts or by being full members. The other four teams (all associate members) had to qualify and are: Canada, Ireland, Kenya and Netherlands.

They have been split into two groups of seven, with each side playing each other once. The groups are listed below:

Group A

Group B

Australia – Reigning Champions (’87, ’99, ’03 & ’07 winners)

India – Co-host (’83 winners)

New Zealand

England

Pakistan (’92 winners)

South Africa

Sri Lanka – Co-host (’96 winners)

West Indies (’75 & ’79 winners)

Canada

Bangladesh

Kenya

Netherlands

Zimbabwe

Ireland

 The top four from each group progress to the Quarter-Finals, and from then on it is a case of if you lose you go home. This is a change to the format we have seen in the last few World Cups. The second stage was either a ‘Super Six’ or a ‘Super Eight’ affair that just took too long. I still believe that the format is wrong though. Just have 16 teams (four groups of four) and have the top two go into the Quarter-Finals and so on. But then again the more games that are played the more money the competition makes I suppose.

Unfortunately the building work in India has again been a joke. England’s game against India at Eden Gardens (the Lords’ of India) has had to be moved because the redevelopments wouldn’t be completed on time. The game will now be played in Bangalore, adding to the cost of the trip for England fans that had already brought their tickets. Also the venue for the Final, Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, has just failed a fire safety inspection. If you add this to the fun and games we had with the Commonwealth Games in India last year, they can forget bidding for the 2020 Olympic Games.

However, I am backing India to win this World Cup. They will be playing at home and since last October they have beaten Australia and New Zealand 1-0 and 5-0 respectively in O.D.I. series at home, and only just lost their O.D.I. series in South Africa 2-3. But will all their home fans put too much pressure on them? Even if this is the case I still say it would be very brave person indeed not to back India.

Given England’s previous O.D.I. and World Cup form I reckon we’ll get into the knock-outs, but then it really will be a case of fingers and everything else crossed.

The official mascot for this World Cup is an Elephant called Stumpy, 10, who (like Zakumi) will be following the World Cup with me.

Stumpy: “Hello everyone.

P92: “So Stumpy, India or Bangladesh. Who is your money on?

Stumpy: “I can’t say. I don’t want to see one of the hosts lose but in this game one of them will have to.

P92: “Not if it’s a tie.

Stumpy: “I’ll settle for that then. India and Bangladesh will tie.

P92: “Can’t see that happening. India will win.

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