Sri Lanka WC hot favourite: Hayden
Former Australian cricketer Matthew Hayden checks handmade items made by Mithra Foundation inmates in Chennai on Tuesday
Express News ServiceFirst Published : 02 Feb 2011 02:54:52 AM ISTLast Updated : 02 Feb 2011 11:47:02 AM IST
CHENNAI: Despite the Ashes low, former Australian batsman Matthew Hayden pins Australia as contenders for their fourth successive World Cup triumph. “They have a strong case as contenders. Th*ey have been doing alright in ODIs and are No 1 ranked side in the tournament,” he said.
That the Aussies have convin*c*ingly trumped England to claim the limited-over rubber (Au*stralia leads 4-1) is a fair en*ough indicator. “The series win will ensure that they go into the World Cup brimming with conf*idence. They have a settled team and some good match-winners in Ricky Ponting, Shane Watson and Michael Clarke up the ord*er. And remember they have be*a*ten hosts India, and few sid*es in recent times have achie*v*ed that, fair and square in the last bilateral series,” he said.
Speedster Brett Lee’s return to the fold has bolstered their bowling, which has been a tad one-dimensional. “Lee coming back and getting wickets is the best thing to have happened to Australia before the World Cup. His experience in these conditio*ns would come in handy, and as always he would provide them with early breakthroughs. Also, he has enough variations to tro*u*ble the batsmen at the death. He has made a huge difference to the side,” he maintained, on the sidelines of a charity auction organised by Mithra Foundation.
All the same, the lack of a quality spinner would hamper Australia’s bid for title retention. “Losing Nathan Hauritz to injury has been bit of a blow. But I’m happy with the way Stephen Smith has shaped up. His leg spinners are quite handy in the conditions, and mind you he is a good batsman as well. He can grip the surface and manage fair bit of turn, and would be quite hard to get away with,” he opined.
The 39-year-old tipped Sri Lanka as the favourites for the World Cup. “The top four teams are Sri Lanka, Australia, India and South Africa. But Lankans are the red-hot favourites. They ha*ve enough players to succeed in these conditions, besides some extremely experienced and dangerous players. And they are going to push hard for the World Cup,” he said.
A vital cog in Australia trium*phs in 2003 and 2007, he cherish*es his fellow-opener Adam Gilchrist hundred in the previous Cup final (149 against Sri Lanka) the most.
“He was just murdering the bowling. Some of the shots he played were most remarkable in power and execution. We made 170-odd (172) for the first wicket out of which I ma*de only 38,” he signed off.