South Africa and India are the favourites

cricket blogs for Yahoo Cricket Columns

Home ground advantage is an international sporting concept on the wane. Crowds are one thing, but as far as on-field conditions are concerned I'm not sure whether the South Africa players have any more idea of what to expect than all the other teams.


It's very early in the season to be playing such a high profile tournament and the grass at the Wanderers and Supersport Park has barely started growing again after it's winter hibernation. That might mean that the pitches are a bit low and slow - bare pitches usually are - but nobody is quite certain!


Even if they do have the pace and bounce of traditional Highveld pitches, the home side has the depth and cover in every department to be able to adapt on the day, even during the course of a match. 


We saw last season how effective Johan Botha and Roelof van der Merwe can be bowling spin in tandem in the middle overs and JP Duminy is far better than a part-timer, especially if there is some turn on a dry surface.


There is plenty of new ball firepower with Dale Steyn and Wayne Parnell while Jacques and Albie can both take advantage if the ball is swinging. It is one of the most balanced bowling attacks the Proteas have ever had - and the batting isn't bad either!


I am a huge fan of Sri Lankan cricket in general but in complete awe of them for one simple reason: Sanath Jayasuriya is the same age as me and I retired almost seven years ago! He is extraordinary - and Murali is no less amazing at the age of 37 and still turning on the magic. 




I worked pretty extensively with Sanath at the Mumbai Indians during the IPL and, although he didn't score a mountain of runs, he worked as hard as anyone in the entire squad during fitness and fielding drills and was able to make a sliding boundary stop or take a stinging catch at cover point as well as just about anybody.


Young players can be intimidated sharing a dressing room with men who are literally living legends but my experience of Sanath and Murali suggests that they are the sort of men who don't forget that cricket is a team game and indiduals rarely succeed for long by ploughing their own path. Certainly not as long as those two have succeeded!


South Africa and India are the favourites and that's understandable but when I look at the squads I can't help but see how seven of the eight teams could win this tournament. The West Indies are obviously below strength but if Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand or Australia lifted the trophy on October 5th nobody would be too surprised. England's recent thrashing by Australia makes them rank outsiders but I'm prepared to dismiss their chances completely...