Co-Hosts On Show As Cricket World Cup Gets Under Way

14 February 2015
Read Time: 2.2 mins

Cricket fans are gearing up for a six-week festival of the one-day game, with the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 beginning in Australia and New Zealand today.

The tournament co-hosts commence their campaigns with tough looking fixtures, as New Zealand welcome one-day specialists Sri Lanka to Hagley Oval in Christchurch, while four-time winners Australia host bitter rivals England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in a day-night blockbuster.

The matches kick-start a marathon group stage, with a month-long schedule of 42 fixtures set to determine the tournament's quarter-finalists.

"Unlike the myriad one-day tournaments played globally each year, it is the winner of the World Cup that is remembered," explains sports broadcaster Glenn Mitchell of the tournament's significance.

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Bitter Rivals

Old foes India and Pakistan go head-to-head early in one of the World Cup's most anticipated matches, with all 52,000 tickets for their Adelaide Oval showdown on February 15 sold out within minutes.

The subcontinental giants will both expect to book a place in the final eight of one of world cricket's showpiece events, although they'll face stiff competition from some fellow heavyweights of the 50-over game.

"From a personal point of view, commentating the quarter-final between India and Australia at Ahmedabad in the 2011 World Cup is my favourite World Cup moment," says Mitchell. "India knocked out the defending champion with the atmosphere inside the ground electric from start to finish."

Having fallen at the final hurdle in 1979, 1987 and on Australian soil in 1992, England will be determined to go one better and finally claim a coveted Cricket World Cup trophy.

South Africa, semi-finalists in 1992, 1999 and 2007, will likewise be keen to improve a poor World Cup record, with the likes of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and co-hosts New Zealand all expected to provide stern resistance.

"I think the co-hosts are near certain semi-finalists and South Africa should join them," says Mitchell. "The last semi-final berth is tougher to predict. I fancy it will be England."

Tourism Windfall

With matches staggered between 14 different cities across Australian and New Zealand, the tournament is expected to provide a financial windfall for tourism and hotel operators.

An anticipated influx of Indian visitors prompted the South Australian Tourism Commission to enlist the services of former international Ajay Jadeja for a series of short videos showcasing the state's attractions.

In a similar move, Tourism Australia appointed popular Indian commentator and regular visitor to Australian shores Harsha Bhogle as a brand ambassador in a bid to promote the country to India's booming middle-class.

It's not just the Indian contingent expected to turn out en masse, with England's vociferous Barmy Army set to follow its team's fortunes throughout the six-week event.

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Joint Hosts

The 2015 tournament marks the second time Australia and New Zealand have co-hosted a Cricket World Cup, with the two nations joining forces to host the successful 1992 edition.

"Both teams are genuine prospects to take out the title and to do it as a co-host is a rarity," says Mitchell. "India was the first to achieve it when it won the final at Mumbai in 2011 and given it has been 23 years since Australia and New Zealand jointly hosted the event, this year provides a rare opportunity for the fans."

The 1992 edition was crowned by Pakistan's nail-biting 22-run win over England in front of more than 87,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and the venerable old venue will once again host the final this time around.

Australia will be determined to reach it after falling to India last time around, although the fate of captain Michael Clarke's ongoing hamstring concerns may determine just how far into the tournament the co-hosts go.

One thing is certain: the strains of 10CC's calypso-coloured classic 'Dreadlock Holiday' will be doing the rounds in earnest for the next six weeks as the eleventh edition of the Cricket World Cup springs into action.

Mike Tuckerman

From Europe to Asia and many places in between, there's rarely a town or city I've not enjoyed exploring. When I'm not wandering the streets and discovering new destinations, you can usually find me hanging out with the locals at major sporting events.