Who will triumph in the Caribbean in 2007?

As the world's top cricketers gather in the Caribbean for the ICC Cricket World Cup, James Fuller looks at the strengths and weaknesses of each team

Australian batsman Michael Clarke. Photograph by Robert TaylorAustralian wicket keeper Adam Gilchrist celebrates the dismissal of West Indies captain Brian Lara. Photograph by Robert TaylorEnglish bowler Andrew Flintoff. Photograph by Robert TaylorIndian batsman MS Dhoni. Photograph by Robert TaylorIndian bowler Harbhajan Singh. Photograph by Robert TaylorPakistani batsman Younis Khan. Photograph by Robert TaylorPakistani bowler Shoaib Akhtar. Photograph by Robert TaylorSouth African batsman Ashwell Prince. Photograph by Robert TaylorSouth African batsman Boeta Dippenaar. Photograph by Robert TaylorWest Indies batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Photograph by Robert TaylorWest Indies players Dwayne Bravo and Ramnaresh Sarwan in a moment of cricket ecstasy. Photograph by Robert TaylorZimbabwean top-order batsman, wicket keeper and bowler Brendan Taylor. Photograph by Robert Taylor

Competition Format

The ICC (International Cricket Council) World Cup takes place every four years. The 2007 tournament begins on March 13 and ends on April 28.

Sixteen teams will compete in a 50-over-a-side format across eight Caribbean countries.

The competing teams are divided into four groups of four, with the top two from each group advancing to the Super-8 round. The eight teams in the Super-8 play each other in a “round robin” format, and the top four sides advance to the semi-finals. The two semi-final winners then contest the final.

Australia

It’s hard to see who is going to stop the Aussies, the reigning champions and overwhelming favourites.

Their ageing warriors are now being blended with talented youngsters such as all-rounder Shane Watson and left-arm paceman Mitchell Johnson. The experienced Mike Hussey has added some steel to a vaunted middle order, and has provided the Aussies with a dependable finisher of matches for the first time since the retirement of Michael Bevan.

The “baggy greens” have carried off the last two World Cups, and since obliterating India in the 2003 final in South Africa they have shown few signs of deterioration. Ranked number one both in Tests and one-day matches (ODIs), they confirmed their status as top dogs by taking their first ICC Champions Trophy title in India last October.

After losing their opening game of the tournament to the West Indies, they were never seriously tested again. They romped past England, India and New Zealand before taking revenge on the West Indians with a chastening eight-wicket victory in the final.

Players currently enjoying sparkling runs of form include skipper Ricky Ponting, who was recently hailed as Australia’s “best since Bradman”.

The explosive blade of all-rounder Andrew Symonds is also likely to be much in evidence as the world champions take on South Africa, Scotland and the Netherlands in Group A in St Kitts and Nevis.
Players to watch: 1 to 11, but look out for Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds and Mike Hussey

Best result: Champions 1987, 1999, 2003

Odds: 2/1

Chances: Worthy favourites

Bangladesh

Bangladesh only became a Test nation in 2000. Blessed with some talented players, they have also been plagued by inconsistency.

Some of their wins have been spectacular, though. They beat Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup and, in perhaps the biggest upset in one-day cricket history, defeated world champions Australia by five wickets in June 2005. Two of the country’s most promising youngsters were crucial on that day: 22-year-old Mohammed Ashraful and Aftab Ahmed, now 21.

The Tigers romped home with the help of a century by Ashraful, who was named Man of the Match, and Ahmed’s bowling, allied to his nerveless 21 not out. Ashraful (then 16) served notice of his talent when he went on to hit 114 against Sri Lanka on his Test debut, to become the youngest ever Test centurion. But consistency has proved elusive.

The classy 21-year-old left-hander Shahriar Nafees, currently averaging over 40, is providing reliability at the top of the order. But the real problem for Bangladesh, skippered by 34-year-old Habibul Bashar, is their bowling. The right-arm fast-medium bowling of Mashrafe Mortaza is their most potent threat; but the attack can prove lightweight against the stronger teams.

Pakistan finished 2006 well, with series whitewashes of the Zimbabweans and Scots. Matched against India, Sri Lanka and Bermuda in Trinidad’s Group B, the Tigers’ aim will be a spot in the Super 8s
Players to watch: Shahriar Nafees, Aftab Ahmed, Mohammad Ashraful

Best result: First round

Odds: 200/1

Chances: Getting past the first round would be a success

Bermuda

Debutantes Bermuda, coached by Gus Logie, are the tournament’s rank outsiders.

The proudest moment in Bermudan cricket history came at the 2005 ICC Trophy, when they reached the semi-finals. The competition doubled as a qualifier for the World Cup. Bermuda’s first official one-day international was against Canada at Trinidad’s Queen’s Park Oval in May 2006, which they won.

Since then, their form has been patchy, and disciplinary issues, rifts between players and board preparations have dogged the team. Concerns were also raised over players’ fitness levels during a 3-0 series defeat by Kenya and a disappointing ICC Tri-Series campaign in South Africa.

Much reliance is placed on David Hemp, the 36-year-old Glamorgan skipper and former England “A” batsman, who was born in Bermuda. Further down the order, 35-year-old all-rounder Saleem Mukuddem and the hard-hitting Irving Romaine are players to look out for. Romaine thumped 13 fours and five sixes in his 101 against Canada last August.

With no realistic chance of getting past India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in Trinidad’s Group B, the Bermudans will nevertheless relish the opportunity of locking horns with the likes of Tendulkar and Muralitharan.
Players to watch: David Hemp, Irving Romaine, Saleem Mukuddem

Odds: 2000/1

Canada

Canada’s team has relied on the experience of players such as all-rounders John Davison and former Guyanese international Sunil Dhaniram, as well as batsmen Ian Billcliff and Desmond Chumney.

Davison, who plays for South Australia, is a hard-hitting bat and talented right-arm off-spinner. Skipper since 2004, he stunned the West Indies at the 2003 World Cup when he clubbed the fastest century in tournament history, a 67-ball whirlwind. He later hit a 25-ball fifty against New Zealand.

But Davison is nearly 37 now, Billcliff, 34, veteran all-rounder George Codrington 40, Chumney 39, and Dhaniram 38: Canada will be the oldest team in the tournament. They do have a rising star in 25-year-old Asish Bagai though — a smart wicketkeeper and cool-headed middle-order bat.

Among the smaller ICC teams, Canada has a good record, having qualified for three World Cups. At the 2003 tournament they defeated Bangladesh and lost narrowly to Kenya, but have yet to make it beyond the first round.

Canada forms part of the oldest international cricket rivalry, with its neighbour the United States. The two first met at the St George’s Cricket Club, New York, in 1844.

Based in St Lucia, where they face England, New Zealand and Kenya, many of the players will view this tournament as an opportunity for a glorious swansong.
Players to watch: John Davison, Sunil Dhaniram, Asish Bagai

Best result: First round

Odds: 1500/1

Chances: No realistic chance of Super-8 qualification (but try telling them that)

England

Over the last two years, England’s one-day selectors have seemed unsure about what their best side is.

There are established players such as Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Freddie Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood, but others are less permanent. Many hopefuls have come and gone, amid much tinkering aimed at finding a settled bowling attack. Answers are proving hard to find.

The team’s form has reflected this inconsistency: 2006 saw England walloped 5-0 by Sri Lanka, draw 2-2 with Pakistan, and exit the ICC Champions Trophy in the first round.

The team is often too dependent on the flamboyant bat of Kevin Pietersen, named 2005 ICC One-Day Player of the Year. The South-African born star’s 90 not out against the West Indies yielded England’s only Champions Trophy success.

The ever-popular all-rounder Freddie Flintoff is also a talismanic figure, and England will need him at his best if they are to advance. Paul Collingwood’s stock has risen enormously over the past two years. A solid middle-order bat and steady medium pacer, he is also a fantastic fielder, pouching many spectacular catches.

England’s World Cup record is a case of always the bridesmaid, never the bride: they have been runners-up three times. If they get past New Zealand, Kenya and Canada and achieve a fourth final, they will have surprised a lot of people.

Players to watch: Andrew Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood

Best result: Runners-up 1979, 1987, 1992

Odds: 10/1

Chances: Not many backers on recent form

The Netherlands

The Dutch national side played their first game way back in 1881, but it took more than a century for real success to arrive. The highly competitive 1990s team recorded one-day victories over the West Indies, England and South Africa.

Like Canada, this will be Holland’s third World Cup appearance, but they have only managed one win to date. The Dutch qualified by finishing fifth in the 2005 ICC Trophy in Ireland, with opening batsman Bas Zuiderent scoring 474 tournament runs at an average of 118.

The Netherlands, famous for their orange kit, also won the 2006 ICC Tri-Series (against Canada and Bermuda) in South Africa, where 26-year-old all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate starred. Born in South Africa to Dutch parents, the Essex player is a hard-hitting top-order bat and right-arm medium-fast bowler.

Other key players are likely to be veteran all-rounder Tim de Leede and emerging 24-year-old Daan van Bunge. De Leede, 39, is Holland’s most capped international; van Bunge, 24, is a sound bat and useful leg-spinner, and one of the country’s rising stars.

The Dutch can put up a struggle against top-level opposition (the Sri Lankans smashed a world record 443 against them in July 2006). This year, they are grouped alongside Australia and South Africa.
Players to watch: Bas Zuiderent, Ryan ten Doeschate, Tim de Leede

Best result: First round

Odds: 1000/1

Chances: It’s difficult to see them progressing from this group

India

India’s precociously talented cricketers misfired all too often in 2006.

Following series victories against Pakistan and England, they lost 4-1 to the West Indies, failed in the ICC Champions Trophy, and then went down 4-0 in South Africa.

The bowling attack is an area of concern and, as a result, experienced spinner Anil Kumble is now back in the one-day frame. With batsmen such as Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, runs are usually guaranteed, but here too the Indians have been less than assured.

The majestic powers of an injury-plagued Tendulkar appear to be in slow decline, and the resolute Dravid more regularly holds the batting together now.

Whether the Indians can pull themselves together in time for the World Cup is the big question. Traditionally, they struggle on bouncier, pacier pitches away from the subcontinent, though they did contest the last World Cup final, in South Africa in 2003, and have been champions before, beating the West Indies in 1983.

But they will need out-of-sorts opener Sehwag to regain his swaggering best, batting superstar Tendulkar to roll back the years, and the explosive hitting of wicket-keeper batsman Dhoni to come to the fore.
Players to watch: Rahul Dravid, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar

Best result: Champions 1983

Odds: 6/1

Chances: Indifferent form lately, but they have too many stars to be discounted

Ireland

Though this will be Ireland’s first World Cup appearance, cricket has been played on the Emerald Isle since the 19th century.

The Irish have enjoyed some success over the years. They even beat a West Indian side containing Clive Lloyd and Clyde Walcott in 1969. Narrowly missing out on qualification for the 1999 World Cup, losing a play-off to Scotland, they booked their ticket to the Caribbean as runners-up at the 2005 ICC Trophy. They will need to perform without their best player of recent times, though, as 28-year-old Dubliner and Middlesex batsman Ed Joyce has opted to switch to English colours.

The Irish put up a gritty performance against England last June, and followed it up by winning the European Championship (against the Netherlands, Scotland, Denmark and Italy) in August.

Key men include the 32-year-old Aussie-Irishman Trent Johnston, the right-arm fast-medium bowler who played for New South Wales in the 1990s and has recently captained the national side. All-rounder Andrew White, of Northamptonshire, could also prove invaluable if his off-break bowling and powerful stroke play come off; he scored 152 against the Netherlands on his debut.

Ireland are the underdogs in a group containing the West Indies and Pakistan, and may have to concentrate on a wooden spoon clash with Zimbabwe.
Players to watch: Trent Johnston, Andre Botha, Andrew White

Odds: 1000/1

Chances: Might have to pack some four-leafed clover

Kenya

Kenya came into international cricket as part of the East Africa team in 1966, before going it alone in 1981.

Often considered the best non-Test-playing nation, they produced a huge shock at the last World Cup in South Africa by beating Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to reach the semi-finals. However, internal politics, player strikes and match-fixing allegations later threatened to stunt progress.

Promise was shown in 2006 with a drawn series against Zimbabwe and triumphs over the Bermudans and Canadians. However, seven straight defeats to Bangladesh have left the Roger Harper-coached side with food for thought.

Like his team, Kenya’s premier batsman and skipper, Steve Tikolo, is often labelled the best among the smaller nations. The 35-year-old was instrumental in the Kenyans’ first big upset, beating the West Indies at the 1996 World Cup, and he is also a capable bowler with his medium pace off-cutters.

Another important performer is bustling all-rounder Thomas Odoyo. The 28-year-old medium-fast bowler and powerful bat was the first Kenyan to reach 50 ODI wickets, and he has also passed 1,000 ODI runs. Of the youngsters, 20-year-old batsman Tanmay Mishra and 22-year-old left-arm orthodox spinner Hiren Varaiya look to be good prospects.

In their group with New Zealand, England and Canada, Tikolo believes Kenya can progress to the Super-8s. If South Africa 2003 is a guideline, they have a chance.
Players to watch: Steve Tikolo, Thomas Odoyo, Hiren Varaiya

Best result: Semi-finalists 2003

Odds: 500/1

Chances: It will be tough to repeat those 2003 heroics

New Zealand

One of the most consistent one-day sides of recent years, the Kiwis base their performances more on outstanding team endeavour than individual brilliance. Habitual semi-finalists, they have reached four World Cup semis, and were in the last four again at the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy.

Stephen Fleming, an elegant left-hander who has matured into a major international batsman in recent seasons, is New Zealand’s most successful captain ever. The bespectacled Daniel Vettori, Fleming’s vice-captain, is a 28-year-old left-arm spinner whose control and nous are imperative at crucial stages. So is his gutsy lower-order batting — he already has two Test hundreds to his name.

One man who could make or break New Zealand’s World Cup is 31-year-old Shane Bond. One of the fastest bowlers on the planet, he has the best strike rate in ODI history (he takes a wicket every 26.5 deliveries). He took 6 for 22 against Australia in 2003. But he is often sidelined with injury. If they can keep him fit, New Zealand have a match-winner.

Other players who could impress include batsmen Nathan Astle and Lou Vincent, wicketkeeper/batsman Brendan McCullum, and all-rounder Jacob Oram.

The New Zealanders face England, Kenya and Canada in St Lucia’s Group C.
Players to watch: Stephen Fleming, Shane Bond, Daniel Vettori

Best result: Semi-finalists 1975, 1979, 1992 and 1999

Odds: 10/1

Chances: A good one-day unit with the ability to surprise

Pakistan

Pakistan arrive with a strong pool of players and must be considered serious title contenders.

In 2006, Pakistan were again predictably unpredictable. Defeat to India was followed by victory in Sri Lanka, a draw against England, failure at the ICC Champions Trophy, and then a 3-1 series win against the West Indies. Bowlers Umar Gul, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Mohammad Sami and Abdur Rehman all enjoyed good years. With controversial paceman Shoaib Akhtar and the dependable Mohammad Asif likely to return to head up the attack, and assuming no further twists in their drug-testing saga, Pakistan have an embarrassment of bowling riches.

Of the batsmen, Mohammad Yousuf was nothing short of phenomenal during 2006, and claimed the record for the most Test runs in a calendar year. His composed stroke play yielded 1,788, including nine centuries, at an average of 99.33. He is the player all opposing sides need to dismiss early.

Other pillars of the Pakistani middle order — the combative Younis Khan and much-loved skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq — pick themselves. Add some talented all-rounders like Shoaib Malik into the mix and you have a side that can beat anyone.

Pakistan has an excellent World Cup record. They have reached the semi-finals three times, been runners-up once, and champions once as well, in Australia in 1992. Coach Bob Woolmer is a wily campaigner and may well prove as important as any on-field presence in burying his team’s image as brilliant but inconsistent.
Players to watch: Mohammed Yousuf, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan

Best result: Champions 1992

Odds: 6/1

Chances: Should be strong challengers

Scotland

Scotland played its first match in 1865, but only joined the full international ranks in 1992. Most games are against English county sides where fewer restrictions apply: Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Rahul Dravid and Clive Rice have all represented the Scots at this level.

Scotland qualified for their only previous World Cup in 1999, and have since won the 2004 ICC Intercontinental Cup and the 2005 ICC Trophy, qualifying for this year’s World Cup as a result.

Their success has owed much to the form of all-rounder Dougie Brown, who played nine one-day internationals for England before requalifying for Scotland. Now 37, the Warwickshire man is still a great competitor, and his fast-medium bowling and positive batting will be crucial.

Also key to the Scottish cause is Ryan Watson, a Zimbabwean-born all-rounder who hit a 43-ball century against Somerset in 2003. He added a fine 80 against the Pakistanis in June 2006, in a game where the Scots threatened an upset before finally succumbing.

After running second in the European Championships, Scotland ended 2006 with two heavy defeats by the Bangladeshis. Led by Craig Wright, they have high hopes for one of their youngest players in 2007, 20-year-old Warwickshire opening batsman Navdeep Poonia.

They face Australia, South Africa and the Netherlands in St Kitts and Nevis.
Players to watch: Dougie Brown, Ryan Watson, Navdeep Poonia

Odds: 1500/1

• Chances: Unlikely to cause any big upsets

South Africa

Often viewed as the world’s second-best one-day team, South Africa have grappled with champions Australia on many famous occasions — none more so than on March 12 last year when they chased 434 to win the greatest ODI game ever played and win the series 3-2. Built on the back of an open-shouldered 175 from the mercurial Herschelle Gibbs, the victory laid to rest the team’s reputation as chokers.

Historically, the South Africans had tended to fall short when it mattered most. In the 1999 World Cup semi-final, a horrific last-wicket run-out handed Australia a place in the final. They had also reached the last four in their first post-apartheid World Cup in Australia in 1992.

The Australian series win set the scene for a successful 2006. The South Africans beat the Zimbabweans 3-0 before advancing to the ICC Champions Trophy semi-final in October, and finished off with a 4-0 triumph over India.

Left-handed opening batsman Graeme Smith leads a highly talented side that includes Gibbs, who can turn any game; gritty wicket-keeper/batsman Mark Boucher; bowling spearhead Makhaya Ntini; and two of the best all-rounders in the game in Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock.

Grouped with Australia, Scotland and the Netherlands, it would be no surprise if the old adversaries square up in the latter stages once more.
Players to watch: Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini

Best result: Semi-finalists 1992, 1999

Odds: 5/1

• Chances: A classy one-day side — but can they beat Australia?

Sri Lanka

Still one of the most dangerous one-day sides, the Sri Lankans have a team that blends youth with experience.

Young left-handed opener Upul Tharanga, 22, highlighted his potential with a Lords century during Sri Lanka’s 5-0 victory over England last June.

He partners the vastly experienced 37-year-old Sanath Jayasuriya, one of the best one-day batsmen of all time and also a wily left-arm spinner.

Captain Mahela Jayawardene showed he is not only a very fine batsman, by scoring a national Test record 374 against South Africa in July, but also a canny tactician. He was named ICC Captain of the Year for 2006.

Behind the stumps, vice-captain Kumar Sangakkara is proving a reliable wicketkeeper, a genuinely talented batsman and an astute strategist.

Added to these men, the bowling attack features the raw, slingy pace of Lasith Malinga; the control of Chaminda Vaas; and Muttiah Muralitharan’s irrepressible off-break and top-spinner variations. Murali, the smiling assassin, is a consistent match-winner and was a major part of the Sri Lankans’ fairytale 1996 World Cup triumph.

Having scored an ODI world record 443 against the Dutch in July last year, the Sri Lankans endured a disappointing Champions Trophy. But with a team packed with gifted batsmen, and with Murali the magician casting his spells, Sri Lanka are not to be discounted.

They face India, Bangladesh and Bermuda in Trinidad and Tobago.
Players to watch: Mahela Jayawardene, Muttiah Muralitharan, Upul Tharanga

Best result: Champions 1996

Odds: 8/1

Chances: They can beat anyone on their day

West Indies

Don’t shout it too loudly, but the West Indies, on home soil, have got a serious chance.

Home advantage is one of those sporting intangibles which can either inspire or become a millstone. If the Windies can seize that advantage, they could be riding it all the way to the final at Barbados’s Kensington Oval on April 28.

The team may not have the vast resources of batting and bowling talent which seemed in inexhaustible supply during the 1970s and 80s, but they still have some wonderfully accomplished players.

At the top of the order, Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul have established an opening partnership as exhilarating as any in the world game.

Gayle’s 2006 form was exceptional, and was highlighted by a Man-of-the-Tournament display in the West Indians’ run to the ICC Champions Trophy final in October. The languid Jamaican’s stand-and-deliver batting style yielded him 474 runs at an average of 79.

But it wasn’t just his dismissive brutality with the bat which earned him plaudits. His brisk off-spin, which has turned him into one of the world’s best one-day all-rounders, brought him eight wickets and broke stands at crucial times.

Gayle’s opening partner, Chanderpaul, is a seriously classy player who is blossoming in his role. Despite an awkward-looking stance, the 32-year-old Guyanese is a joy to behold when in full flow. His trademark exquisite deflections have recently been supplemented by more expansive shots of real power.

Then of course there is the holder of batting’s holy trinity of records — highest first-class score (501 not out), highest Test match score (400 not out) and highest Test match aggregate of all time (11,953 and counting): Brian Charles Lara. The 37-year-old Trinidadian left-hander’s one-day form in 2006 was patchy, but if ever a player has a sense of occasion it’s Lara. Though he has hinted at ODI retirement after the World Cup, he still has some match-winning innings left as the greatest player of his generation.

At one stage in 2006, Ramnaresh Sarwan was rated the world’s best one-day batsman. The West Indies will need him to reproduce that form and stamp his authority on the team’s middle order. All-rounder Dwayne Bravo justified his rise up the batting order with a century against England in the ICC Champions Trophy in October. The 23-year-old, who has long been touted as the West Indies’ biggest talent, is a genuine all-rounder, his sound batting allied to some invaluable fast-medium swing bowling spells. These are especially valuable at the death, when he makes good use of the yorker and slower ball.

Bravo forms part of a steady, rather than explosive, attack spearheaded by the fast-developing talent of Jamaican Jerome Taylor. At 22, Taylor is quick and accurate, and became the first West Indian to take an ODI hat-trick, in the Champions Trophy group game against Australia.

This is not a team that could compare with the great West Indian sides of yore: you only have to look at their Test record for that. But this is not Test cricket, and deficiencies which are exposed under the pressure of a five-day match are not necessarily so crucial in the shortened form of the game.

The current team has become a solid one-day unit, and enjoyed some satisfying results in 2006, defeating India 4-1 and Zimbabwe 5-0, and carrying that form into the Champions Trophy, where they were eventually beaten by Australia in the final.

They were then defeated 3-1 by Pakistan in December, but that will matter little when the two sides line up at Sabina Park, Jamaica, on March 13 for the opening game of the World Cup.

The West Indies have won the Cup twice, in 1975 and 1979, and were only prevented from making it a hat-trick by a huge upset defeat by the Indians in 1983. Lara’s men could take cricket’s biggest one-day prize if they truly believe in themselves, if their big guns fire, and if they ride the emotional wave of home support.
Players to watch: Chris Gayle, Jerome Taylor and Shivnarine Chanderpaul

Best result: Champions 1975, 1979

Odds: 7/1

Chances: Potential finalists

Zimbabwe

The political turmoil that has brought Zimbabwe to its knees in recent years has taken its toll on the fortunes of its cricket team.

Today’s side is a pale reflection of the nuggety, competitive one-day unit of the late 1990s. Gone are stars like Andy Flower, Grant Flower, Murray Goodwin, Heath Streak and Henry Olonga; many had their careers cut short after disputes with the local board. The team became so weak that by early 2006 it withdrew from Test cricket. It suffered three one-day-international series whitewashes during the year.

But there is hope in the form of talented players like Brendan Taylor, a top-order batsman who was also a bowler until the lack of a wicketkeeper meant he was handed the gloves. Still only 21, he is already one of the side’s most experienced and valuable players.

Prosper Utseya was enrolled as captain last year at the tender age of 21. A parsimonious off-spinner, he has excellent control of flight and the ability to turn the ball. Other players of note include all-rounders Sean Williams and Elton Chigumbura. Williams, 20, is a promising top-order bat and left-arm spinner, and Chigumbura, 21, is an aggressive middle-order batsman and pacey first-change bowler, injuries permitting.

Zimbabwe reached the Super Six stages (second round) of both the 1999 and 2003 World Cups, but are unlikely to repeat that on current form.

Players to watch: Brendan Taylor, Prosper Utseya, Sean Williams

Best result: Super Sixes 1999, 2003

Odds: 250/1

Chances: A young side without enough big guns.

Previous ICC Cricket World Cup champions

1975 West Indies

1979 West Indies

1983 India

1987 Australia

1992 Pakistan

1996 Sri Lanka

1999 Australia

2003 Australia

The 2007 ICC World Cup

Stage 1: warm-up matches, March 5–9

• In Jamaica: West Indies, Kenya, India, The Netherlands

• In St Vincent: England, Bermuda, Australia, Zimbabwe

• In Trinidad and Tobago: South Africa, Ireland, Pakistan, Canada

• In Barbados: Sri Lanka, Scotland, New Zealand, Bangladesh

Stage 2: group playoffs, March 13–25

• In St Kitts and Nevis: Australia, SA, Scotland, The Netherlands

• In Trinidad and Tobago: Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Bermuda

• In St Lucia: New Zealand, England, Kenya, Canada

• In Jamaica: Pakistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland

Stage 3: Super 8s, March 27 to April 21

• Matches in Antigua, Grenada, Guyana and Barbados

Stage 4

• Semi-finals in Jamaica (April 24) and St Lucia (April 25)

• Final in Barbados, April 28