The ICC Cricket World Cup got under way with the minnows of the cricketing world suffering heavy defeats. Kenya were the first victims, swept aside in a blizzard as they were bowled out for just 69 by a ruthless New Zealand (Kiwi) bowling attack.
The Kiwi’s reached their target in eight overs, without losing a wicket, making it the fastest game at this World Cup. Sri Lanka also condemned Canada to a humiliating defeat by over 200 runs.
The subcontinent pitches will mean that spin will play a major role in tournament. This could help India and Sri Lanka, who have become accustomed to spin bowling and as host nations will be used to their pitches, but this by no means guarantees that a subcontinent nation will lift the trophy.
Here are the favourites and the key players to lookout for.
South Africa (Proteas): The team regarded as the chokers will have that title put to test throughout the month-long tournament. Having reached the semi final in two of the last three tournaments, the team that boasts talents such as Jaques Kallis, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, amongst others, could finally silence their critics.
Key Player: Fast Bowler Dale Steyn will be a force to reckon with even on sub-continent pitches. His ability to get a late swing at high speeds of close to 150kmp/h will definitely make facing him a daunting task. This is his second World Cup, but he has since become the best fast bowler in the world. If he is at his very best, then there is no doubt that with him the Proteas will find themselves in the later stages of the tournament.
India: As hosts, India may well be favourites to win the trophy come the final in April. With an array of bowling and batting talent, they pose a serious threat to any opponent they face. With spin king Harbhajan Singh, they could well spin their way to victory.
Key Player: Virender Sehhwag is undoubtedly one of the most explosive batsmen in the whole tournament. His ability to get runs early in the innings will help his side reach very high totals. His opening partnership with the legendary Sachin Tendulkar makes India the most dangerous batting team inside the first bowling restrictions.
Australia: The current World Cup champions have undergone a transition period that has seen them lose a number of big-match players, replacing them with relatively inexperienced players who have yet to really prove their worth.
This problem is more apparent in the test arena, but in the 50 over format they remain the team to beat. The return of Ricky Ponting from injury means they will have the experience of a World Cup winner leading them.
Key Player: Brett Lee has always been a crowd favourite, his long run up usually accompanied by the roaring of the crowd as he charges to the crease, but in India one may view Brett Lee as celebrity amongst the cricket fraternity. His popularity, for an overseas player, is second to none, having been in a few Bollywood acts.
There is no doubt if Lee gets revved up by the crowd, he will deliver match-winning performances. Whatever the outcome, the tournament will serve up a lot of runs as most pitches will be batter-friendly.