Cricket World Cup: team profiles and betting tips
The Aussies warmed up for this World Cup by stuffing their great rivals England 6-1 in the ODIs, making amends for their poor display in the Ashes.
While doubts remain whether they can be a major force in the Test scene over the next few years, there can't be any denying that they are a huge threat in the 50-over game, and the Twenty20 for that matter too.
With explosive pace from the likes of Brett Lee (2/1 top Aus bowler, 20/1 tournament) and Shaun Tait (11/4 Aus, 25/1 tournament) they shouldn't have many problems taking wickets, and Shane Watson (5/2 top Aus bat, 16/1 tournament) seems to be getting better all the time at the top of the order, taking the pressure off captain Ricky Ponting (7/2 Aus, 25/1 tournament).
Their top order will be missing Mike Hussey, and that is a big loss, but if Australia are bowling first with their attack it might not matter.
One player that will hope to be in that attack and use the conditions in his favour is Jason Krejza, injuries have put him in the squad but he can turn the ball and could be a great shout at 6/1 to take the most wickets for Australia (66/1 for the tournament), Steven Smith (12/1 Aus, 100/1 tournament) will be guaranteed more games but they look at him as more of a batsman so Krejza could find himself bowling many overs.
Co-hosts Bangladesh aren't just here to make up the numbers, and with a bit of fortune they could get to the quarter-finals at least (6/4 to be eliminated at that stage).
The Tigers have some fine individual players, and they'll showcase their talents at the IPL, but as a team they aren't really going to trouble the top teams.
They did well to get a win against England in an ODI series last summer, but they can't do it consistently enough.
What they will do though is get runs, you won't see them getting low totals too often with some of the quality they possess at the top of the order, the likes of Tamim Iqbal (5/2 top Bang batsman, 50/1 tournament), Shakib Al Hasan (4/1 Bang, 100/1 tournament) and Imrul Kayes (11/2 Bang, 150/1 tournament) are all fine batsman, they just don't have enough quality options to take wickets.
A lot of pressure will be on their skipper Al Hasan to deliver with bat and ball (6/4 top Bang bowler, 33/1 tournament) and if he's at his best then they'll have enough to get the wins against the 'lesser nations' Holland and Ireland, the match against West Indies will be the one that could decide who takes the 4th spot in Group B.
Canada are racing certainties to be eliminated in the group stage (1/33), but their performance against England in a warm-up match has generated a little bit of hope for the minnows.
With this in mind it might be worth looking at 'number of group wins' for your value on Canada - none is 6/4 which seems very plausible, but, if they avoid a serious beating against Sri Lanka in their opener then winning against Kenya and Zimbabwe isn't totally out of the question at 7/2, it will be tough for them though.
In that match against England the performance of Rizwan Cheema (4/1 top Can bat) stood out with the player scoring 93 from just 71 deliveries, but none of their first five batsman scored more than eight runs so they'll really need to address that if they're to have any hope of competing in the competition.
Confidence has been sapped a bit from the England squad after their poor performances in their final series before the tournament against Australia.
The batting was poor in that series, but ironically when they did post their highest total they ended up losing the match. Different partnerships were tried as openers and they didn't really do the trick, Matt Prior (11/2 top Eng bat, 66/1 tournament) in particular struggled, but likewise the skipper Andrew Strauss (4/1 Eng, 33/1 tournament) was the victim of some extremely soft dismissals.
Now England look they're going to go with Strauss and Kevin Pietersen (7/2 Eng, 20/1 tournament) as opening pair, with the dependable Jonathan Trott (3/1 Eng, 25/1 tournament) as number three.
The Three Lions will unfortunately be missing the industrious Eoin Morgan, who has impressed greatly since switching his allegiance from Ireland, Ravi Bopara (8/1 Eng, 80/1 tournament) has replaced him.
While the batsman have been struggling, the bowlers have been performing fairly well considering their three main players haven't played together recently.
Graeme Swann (5/2 top England bowler, 20/1 tournament), Stuart Broad (3/1 Eng, 33/1 tournament) and James Anderson (7/2 Eng, 33/1 tournament) have all been missing at one stage or another so it's been difficult to gage a true opinion on a team that, let's be honest, had played a lot of cricket going into this tournament.
With the front three in full operation, and the economical Tim Bresnan (11/2 Eng, 66/1 tournament) in support, England will have a great chance and shouldn't be written off, they were outstanding in the World Twenty20 and they haven't become a bad side from just one series in Australia, the 9/1 for them to win the thing really does appeal, but maybe the most sensible bet would be a brave exit in the semis at 2/1.
You look at the odds and think 'Holland will be whipping boys', you'll probably be right to be fair, but they do know how to cause a shock in big tournaments.
That shock of course was when they beat England, in England, at the 2009 World Twenty20, they didn't make it through to the knock-out stage however as England bounced back to qualify with Pakistan.
Since then, they've sadly lost Dirk Nannes to Australia (although he hasn't been selected for this World Cup), he's a lightning quick bowler, but in Ryan ten Doeschate they have a player of real quality that will still take wickets.
'Tendo' will play in the IPL after the World Cup finishes and has been a fantastic performer in the limited-overs format for a few years now, he averages 68 in ODIs and has taken 48 wickets to boot. It's understandable he's the favourite in both markets for the Dutch, 13/8 top bat, 5/2 top bowler.
Peter Borren (4/1 top bowler) is the captain of the side and will support with right-arm medium.
As joint-hosts and with a wealth of talent it should come as no surprise to see India as the favourites.
Any team that contains the legend that is Sachin Tendulkar (3/1 top India bat, 12/1 tournament) will always do well, the Little Master is a couple of months shy of his 38th birthday but he shows no signs of slowing down. Around this time last year he blasted 200 from 147 balls in an ODI with South Africa, the Proteas only scoring 248 as a team.
To get a double ton against anyone is an impressive feat, but to do it against a team of that magnitude just shows the brilliance of the man, there's pretty much no record that he doesn't hold in the limited-overs format, and to be fair he has quite a few records as a Test player having recently scored his 50th century in that format.
It's not just Tendulkar though, the Indians are blessed with an abundance of batting talent, Virender Sehwag (3/1 Ind, 16/1 tournament), Yuvraj Singh (7/1 Ind, 50/1 tournament) and the skipper MS Dhoni (10/1 Ind, 66/1 tournament) are no slouches and even Harbhajan Singh (66/1 Ind) has shown some good nick with the bat of late as well.
Harbhajan (2/1 top India bowler, 14/1 tournament) is going to be the main man with the ball, but he'll be ably supported by pace ace Zaheer Khan (9/4 Ind, 16/1 tournament) and the accurate line of Munaf Patel (6/1 Ind, 33/1 tournament).
Another of the outsiders are Ireland, led by the skilled batsman William Porterfield (7/2 top Ireland batsman).
Since the last World Cup they've lost Eoin Morgan to England (who's injured for this tournament), but they've got Ed Joyce (11/4) back from them. (Which I find bizarre, what if he looks amazing and England want to play him again, can they?)
You can never doubt the spirit of the Irish, but they're not going to get enough runs on the board to really challenge the major teams, that said they did have a shock win over Pakistan in the last World Cup so you never know!
The O'Brien brothers (Niall 5/1 top Ire bat, Kevin 7/1) will certainly go out swinging and give it a good crack, while Andre Botha (14/1 top Ire bat, 9/2 top Ire bowler) is what Nasser Hussain would describe as a 'bits and pieces player' that can be useful with bat and ball in spells, but they'd need two or three games where they score big, and I can't see it happening.
Looking at some of Kenya's warm-up games, they seem to have no problems scoring runs, with Steve Tikolo (4/1 top Kenya bat) and Seren Waters (7/2) both scoring centuries lately, but will they be able to do it on the big stage?
No is the probable answer, but I'm sure they'll provide some good entertainment trying.
Taking wickets will be their big problem, in the last World Cup they only managed to bowl a team out once, but with Canada and Zimbabwe in their group they could have a chance this time and then who knows.
Thomas Odoyo (4/1 top Kenya bowler) has 20 World Cup wickets to his name over the years, so his experience will be vital for the likes of Ilijah Otieno (9/2) and Nehemiah Odhiambo (9/2).
New Zealand (20/1)
The Kiwis are one of those teams that when they get it all together, they can be lethal and could be considered a dark horse for this tournament.
Their problem, if you can call it a problem, is that they've got several players that can do a job with bat and ball, but not too many who are world class at either.
The possible exception is the captain, Danny Vettori (15/8 top NZ bowler, 25/1 tournament) who's a fantastic slow left-armer, who can really mix it up when he has to.
The 32-year old is the most vital player in their team for sure, but with the likes of Ross Taylor (7/2 NZ bat, 40/1 tournament) and Jesse Ryder (4/1 NZ, 50/1 tournament) they have players that can smack the ball out of the park and build a big total.
Unfortunately, NZ don't have a particularly potent attack, I would look at Jacob Oram (8/1 top NZ bowler, 100/1 tournament) as the man most likely to offer any threat, but if you're backing Vettori then your money should be safe.
Sadly, Pakistan's name has been tainted in the cricket world and a lot of respect has been lost for several of their players.
The likes of Salman Butt and Mohammad Amir are two players that would've had a key role to play in this World Cup were it not for the spot-fixing scandal.
That is all in the past now for Pakistan, the current crop of players will hope to make the nation proud of their favourite sport again by bringing the World Cup home.
In captain Shahid Afridi (9/1 top Pak bat, 9/2 bowler, 100/1 tournament bat, 33/1 bowler), they have a genuine world class performer who can change a game in an instant.
He is absolutely vital to their chances, if it weren't for his presence in the 2009 World Twenty20 I don't think Pak would've won the tournament, he had MOTM performances in the semis and the final to almost single-handedly win the trophy.
Umar Gul (5/2 Pak bowler, 20/1 tournament) and Shoaib Akhtar (9/2 Pak, 33/1 tournament) both have phenomenal pace, but, the latter in particular, aren't always known for keeping it going in long spells.
The familiarity of the conditions should see them there or thereabouts though, I like the look of 'losing semi-finalists' at 3/1.
South Africa (9/2)
These are my tip for the tournament, and will be where my hard-earned will be going.
They have a squad that is positively brimming with talent, with outstanding players in almost every position. Wicketkeeper is the only place I'm unsure about as I've yet to see AB de Villiers play there, he's behind the stumps due to Mark Boucher's injury.
One thing I do know about De Villiers (7/2 top SA bat, 33/1 tournament) is that he's a top class batsman who's incredibly quick between the wickets, if it weren't for the abundance of talent he'd be an outstanding shout for top bat, he still could be, but I think Jacques Kallis (3/1 SA, 14/1 tournament) is a better bet.
Kallis is a legend of the modern game, and one of the best allrounders that I've seen in my lifetime, at 35 years of age he's the oldest player in the squad, but for me he's their most important, the 10/1 on him being SA's top wicket taker could be a great shout too, he's 66/1 for the tournament.
One player that could run him close for South Africa is Imran Tahir (11/2 top SA bowler, 25/1 tournament), the Pakistan-born player has only been eligible to play for the Proteas since the start of the year, but on these pitches his leg-spin will be very handy indeed.
Sri Lanka (7/2)
If you want a 'name the finalists bet' then South Africa v Sri Lanka at 12/1 could be a great shout.
Another side that will be all too used to the conditions are the Sri Lankans, and like South Africa they have many outstanding players throughout their squad.
Their leader Kumar Sangakkara (11/4 top SL bat, 20/1 tournament) is not only a vital cog in the batting order but also the man behind the stumps, so for him to have the year in 2010 that he did, averaging nearly 50 and scoring seven fifties, just shows you how well he deals with pressure, he also lost led the team to all but one ODI series win in that 12 months.
While Shane Warne just plays IPL these days, his rival as the greatest spinner of all time, Muttiah Muralitharan (10/3 top SL bowler, 20/1 tournament) has only just packed in Tests and is going strong in the limited-overs stuff, he has hinted he will be calling time after this tournament though.
Murali will also this tournament play at his stadium, the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium renamed itself as the Muttiah Muralitharan International Cricket Stadium in the summer of 2010.
Ahead of Murali in the betting though is Lasith 'Slinga' Malinga (5/2 SL, 10/1 tournament), another player who's had to face questions on his action over the years, he's a devilishly quick bowler, who with Ajantha Mendis (7/2 SL, 25/1 tournament) forms arguably the best bowling attack in the competition.
West Indies (20/1)
I think the price on the Windies is more of a reflection on some of the other teams that are worse than them in this competition.
I personally won't be going near them for the outright, instead I'll be having a cheeky bet on them to get eliminated in the group stage (11/4), I think Bangladesh could pip them to that 4th place.
They have some fine batting talent in their team, Chris Gayle (9/4 top WI bat, 28/1 tournament) can hit a ball further than anyone and Shiv Chanderpaul (4/1 WI, 50/1 tournament), but their bowling attack, so long a strength of West Indian cricket, is seriously lacking in quality.
Kemar Roach (9/4 top WI bowler, 33/1 bowler) is an exciting talent who bowls at a great speed, but I just don't think they have the players to support him.
I like Darren Sammy (9/1 top WI bowler, 66/1 tournament), but now that he's the captain he might not be using himself as bowler too much, especially in a major tournament such as this where he'll have plenty on his plate.
Dwayne Bravo (3/1 WI, 40/1 tournament) is a solid rather than spectacular bowler, and I can't consider him to be a major threat, I hope to be proved wrong as they're a likable bunch of players the West Indies, but they're not likely to make an impact in this tournament.
Zimbabwe are another team that aren't going to bring much to the table this World Cup.
I think things might have been ever so slightly different if they hadn't dropped one of their better players Hamilton Masakadza, the opener was one of the best players in ODI cricket in 2009 scoring over 1000 runs, but his form deserted him in 2010 and he averaged under 20.
It's a massive call from the selectors; you'd think somebody of his experience would be worth having in the team despite his bad run of form, like Paul Collingwood for England, just for his knowledge of the game.
Hamilton's brother Shingirai is there and he'll be looking to use his slower ball to good effect, while also mixing it up with swing. He's not a bad shout at 7/1 for top Zim wicket taker.
Ray Price (11/4) tops that market because of his fine flight from his slow left-arm deliveries, he'll also have a word or two to say to opposing batsmen!