England, although they have never won the World Cup, have roughly as much chance as two of the hosts, India and Sri Lanka, along with Australia and South Africa.
Hard competition in similar conditions constitutes the right form of preparation — and no country is engaged in that now. All the international action is taking place in the southern hemisphere on very different pitches, as Australia meet England and South Africa meet India in 50-over cricket, while New Zealand and Pakistan will switch to one-day internationals after their current Test match.
But the sad thing is that there is absolutely no point in being fully prepared for the start of this World Cup. There is a week of warm-up matches for each of the 14 countries before the competition, then comes another month of warm-ups in the form of the qualifying rounds.
The World Cup, in effect, does not start on Feb 19 with the inaugural match between Bangladesh and India. It starts on March 23 when the quarter-finals commence: and the winners will be the team that conserves its energy for the first month and caters for the eventualities when the World Cup springs into life with the knockout stages which are crammed into the last 11 days.
It is incredible such a tedious schedule has been devised.
If you thought the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies was grim, it was a roller-coaster of thrills by comparison with the forthcoming one. At least the last tournament began with India and Pakistan being knocked out, before the weeks of ‘Super Eight’ tedium set in.
This time the number of countries has been reduced, from 16 to 14, and so has the fun. Nothing can happen in Group A of any interest whatsoever in more than a month of qualifying matches. Which four countries are going to qualify from Group A, folks: Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka? Surely not. There was I thinking Canada, Kenya and Zimbabwe were shoo-ins.
The only issue of any note in the first month will be whether Bangladesh can squeeze into the quarter-finals as one of the four qualifiers from Group B. West Indies look vulnerable, even if England, India and South Africa do not.
There is no sign yet of Caribbean cricket being coordinated: to wit, the West Indian players are currently engaged in a 20-over competition, along with Hampshire and Somerset.
Bangladesh might therefore squeeze into the quarter-finals at the expense of the West Indies as they have the impetus of home advantage, slow turners for pitches, loads of push-it-through spinners, and the confidence of recently having won a proper ODI series for the first time, against New Zealand. But seeing whether Bangladesh can qualify is hardly going to make the rest of the world hang on to their seat belts for four weeks.
Why does it have to be like this? Human greed: the usual answer.
The eight-year broadcasting deal signed by the International Cricket Council specifies two World Cups of 51 matches — and that deal brings a lot of dosh, some of which does a lot of good. But, if you are going to have that many games, it is almost unavoidable that some of them are going to be titanic mismatches such as Australia v Canada and South Africa v Netherlands.
Given 14 countries, the best format for this tournament could have been easily designed: two qualifying groups of seven teams, with the top two from each group contesting semi-finals.
From being sub-international to the "surprise package" That too coming from Scyld Berry. Winning games are the best way to attract attention, let's go tigers