With exactly one year to go before the first ball is bowled in Christchurch in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, Angelo Mathews of Sri Lanka, Misbah-ul-Haq of Pakistan and South Africa’s AB de Villiers preview ICC’s flagship event and talk about their sides’ preparations for the prestigious tournament.
Mathews, who missed the final against India in Mumbai in 2011 due to an injury, said Sri Lanka was aiming to be in the best possible shape when it takes on New Zealand in the opening match of the tournament in Christchurch on 14 February.
“We need to peak at the right time, and we need to peak going into the World Cup, so that’s going to be the main challenge for all of us. We need to stay positive and play our brand of cricket. I think the mental approach is going to play a vital role, because going into a World Cup, we don’t need to put a lot of pressure on ourselves.
“We all know that it’s probably the biggest event that you can participate in. So it is a privilege, and we need to take it like that and enjoy our game.”
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq said he was looking forward to leading his side in Australia and New Zealand for the tournament that the green shirts won in 1992 under Imran Khan. The 39-year-old middle-order batsman believed his side had the ability and potential but emphasised that the team that peaks at the right time will win on 29 March.
“Pakistan won its only ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 1992. So, you can well imagine my excitement and anxiousness. I’m sure a lot of cricketers, like me, will have their eyes on the World Cup and will be hoping that they’re selected for this prestigious tournament.
“You don’t require extra motivation when you represent your country, but returning to the environment or territory where you reached the zenith of glory 22 years ago can provide that extra confidence and boost you need to excel in a high-pressure tournament like the World Cup.
“Past records and current form are good discussion points but as the Pakistan side showed the world in 1992, the team that peaks at the right time, whose players remain fit and fire in key matches, and wins the most important matches, will emerge as the champion in 2015,” Misbah said.
Previewing his side’s opener against India, Misbah said: “It is interesting that our last game in the 2011 World Cup was against India and the first in the 2015 will be against the same opposition. We lost in Mohali and then again in Colombo and Birmingham in the ICC World Twenty20 2012 and ICC Champions Trophy 2013, respectively. But, we’re a side that is capable of winning big matches and high-profile tournaments.
“I’m confident that the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 will be a tournament that will provide the thrill and excitement any spectator would want to see in a truly global event.”
South Africa captain AB de Villiers, the number-one ranked batsman in One-Day Internationals, said that like any other cricketer, he was also looking forward to playing in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. “If everything goes according to plan, I’m looking forward to the tournament. I think it’s going to be a very exciting event and will be my first one as captain. Obviously, it will be a huge honour and privilege to play in the World Cup, represent your country and have lots of success.
“Representing your country in a tournament like that is a proud moment in the life of any cricketer. So, that’s the way I see it and I’m really excited to go out there and enjoy myself,” said de Villiers, whose side will take on neighbour Zimbabwe in Hamilton on 15 February in its opening match.
Talking about his team’s chances and the title contenders, de Villiers said: “I truly believe, without saying it in a negative way, we’re certainly one of the most dangerous teams but I don’t believe we are the favourites.
“We know we have to get things in order. We have to get a few things in place and a few to go our way for us to win the tournament. But there’s no reason why things shouldn’t go our way.
“I’m just very happy with the side I’ve got at the moment. The squad hasn’t been finalised yet, but I’m very happy with what I’ve seen leading up to this tournament, and very excited and confident that we’re going to have a good tournament.
“You always have to mention the home countries. New Zealand has been playing good ODI cricket of late and I don’t think they can definitely call themselves underdogs anymore and Australia, certainly, is the number-one ranked side in the world. Then, India is the defending champion, the Champions Trophy winner and the number-two ranked side in the world. An outsider that always does well in World Cups is Sri Lanka,” said de Villiers.
West Indies captain Dwayne Bravo said he was looking forward to appearing in his third World Cup and aimed to arrive for the tournament with a number of victories under his belt.
“The ICC Cricket World Cup is every cricketer’s biggest dream and if everything goes well this will be my third World Cup and I’m really excited about it,” he said, adding: “I know everyone else in the West Indies team and associated with it is very excited about it. You get excited to be involved in such a huge international event and I’m looking forward to doing something very special as a player and as a team.
“I just want us to play together as a group and develop a squad of players who will make up the core of the team for the World Cup. We need to start winning more matches and series, while at the same time enjoying each other’s success and enjoying each other’s company. That would give us the confidence to know that we can do well come the time of the World Cup next year. We need some wins under our belt.”
West Indies opens its campaign against Ireland on 16 February in Nelson and previewing the pool that also includes India, Pakistan, South Africa, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Zimbabwe, Bravo said: “This is a very good group. I had a look at it and I saw when and where we play our games.
“It’s a tough group but I expect us to do well and qualify. We have to take it one step at a time. We will come up against some great teams and some dangerous teams but we believe we will make it to the quarter-finals and beyond.
“Conditions will be testing but the team we have is good enough in any condition – we have good fast bowlers, good spinners, good batsmen – we have quality in every department. So, it’s a matter of putting it all together when the time comes.
“In New Zealand you can expect the ball to do a bit – a bit more than you will get in Australia – where the ball will bounce a bit more, but it will be ‘straight-on’ bounce, while in New Zealand you can expect ‘side-way’ movement. I expect the tournament to be great – two great countries for cricket.”