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   People are saying this is an open World Cup... (November 2, 1996)

People are saying this is an open World Cup. It is true. You will have to bet carefully if you want to make money out of it, and possibly hedge your bets a little. However, money can be made. First thing, you eliminate the minnows: Zimbabwe, Kenya, Hollands and United Arab Emirates. With the possible exception of Zimbabwe, they have no business being in this tournment. They may be safely ignored.

I have given some thought to New Zealand. It is certainly not in with a chance, and it is not a dark horse. In the department of will-to-win, perhaps Zimbabwe has a better records. I think New Zealand can be safely dropped from our calculations.

That leaves the number of contenders to seven, a more manageable list. England is always a contender, whether it is in form or otherwise. I have a healthy respect for it. Besides, it's got a captain who leads from the front, though most of the captains in this World Cup are frontline leaders. And it has got a very determined manager, probably too determined. But in a big field, you have to go by form, and, I suggest, we drop England.

If we go by form, we have to drop the West Indies also. But it has the World's greatest batsman, and you cannot ignore that fact. In this form of cricket, a single batsman can win a match. However, Brian Lara's returns is marked by Carl Hopper's unaccountable absence. There is something very wrong with the current West Indies team, and, under the circumstance, I would not like to risk my money on it.

Who does that leave us with: joint hosts India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and Austalia and South Africa.

Australia have been installed favorites, and they will continue to remain so, except for a lot of sentimental betting on India, which is understandable. However, if you want to make money, there is no room for sentiment, remember that.

The Australians also appear to be a little over-confident, apart from being whingers and whiners. The way they have treated Sri Lankan fans is not cricket. And I suspect Shane Warne made up that sotry of his being offered a bribe by the Pakistanis. In any case, Warne is going to have a hard time on this tour, and I don't think Australians are going to end up at the tip. Forget it.

Of the three home teams, I think we can let Sri Lanka be. That leaves India and Pakistan. Pakistan loves to play before its home crowds, if feels pepped up by it. India does not. It feels intimidated by too much home support. Also, when India and Pakistan play, one to one, we know who wins.

And, in case you have forgotten, there is South Africa. It has an outstanding record leading to the World Cup, it has the finest fielders in the world, and a team minus big names, but where every man pulls his weight. I advise a small wager on South Africa. I am going to my bookie now.

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