Imran Khan sees World Cup as most open yet

Pakistan's former World Cup-winning captain Imran Khan has said this year's tournament is the most open he has seen.

KARACHI: Pakistan’s former World Cup-winning captain Imran Khan has said this year’s tournament is the most open he has seen.

Imran, who skippered Pakistan to victory in 1992, said the opening matches in the Feb 19-April 2 tournament being held in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh had highlighted the fact that no team stood head and shoulders above the rest of the field.

“This is perhaps the most wide open World Cup I have seen and after the results of the India and England match and the way Ireland upset England I don’t think there are any clear favourites,” he told Reuters on Friday.

Ireland pulled off one of the biggest shocks in the 36-year history of the event by beating England by three wickets on Wednesday in Bangalore after being set 328 to win. England and co-hosts India tied on Sunday.

“The pitches in all three countries will support the batsmen more as the month progresses and it is very hot and humid at this time of the year. So you need to have maximum wicket-taking bowlers in your side to do well,” he said.

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He pointed out that India’s bowling was exposed in their game against England.

“Teams which don’t have variety and pure pace in their bowling and prefer to rely more on batting all-rounders are already facing problems,” he added.

The former cricketer-turned politician felt that Ireland were capable of causing more upsets in Group B before the quarter-finals. Kevin O’Brien scored the fastest ever World Cup century in 50 balls.

“The century by Kevin O’Brian was one of the best one-day innings I have seen in my life. The Irish are a fighting unit and I don’t think you can rule them out of contention by any stretch of the imagination,” Imran said.

“Teams which have the mental strength to chase down 300 plus totals have to be respected.”

He said Pakistan’s shoddy performance against Canada on Thursday which they only won by 46 runs was a wake-up call for the players but still backed his compatriots to make the quarter-finals.

“To me the real contests will start from the knockout stage. I think the International Cricket Council (ICC) need to rethink the format for future World Cups.”

Imran said the ICC needed to help associate members build up domestic structures in their countries rather than just providing them opportunities to play in international competition.

“Unless these minnows don’t have proper domestic cricket they can’t come up,” he said.

The ICC said before the tournament started that it would reduce the number of teams playing from 14 to 10 for the next edition in Australia and New Zealand in 2015.