New Delhi: Former New Zealand fast bowler Geoff Allott feels it would be foolish to write off defending champions India ahead of next month's Cricket World Cup despite their pedestrian showing in the ongoing tour of Australia.
Allott, who rose to fame by ending as the joint-leading wicket-taker of the 1999 World Cup, is "super" excited to see the mega event return at home after 23 years.
He goes on to predict that the edition beginning February 14 will be the toughest ever with as many as eight teams capable of lifting the coveted Cup.
"I think it would be foolish to write off India. My assessment is anytime India plays, you know you are in for a big match. I know the results have not gone their way of late but the big advantage they have over other teams is that they have recently played in Australia. They will have that advantage when they play other teams on those same venues in the World Cup," the affable Allott told PTI today.
Many former players and experts tend to pick hosts as favorites and it is no different this time. Ask Allot about New Zealand, who have never won the World Cup despite six semifinal appearances?
"I honestly hope New Zealand are able to go the distance this time. Their preparation could not have been better. The management and players have done a huge amount of work in the last 12 months to be ready for the Cup at home. But New Zealand are the only ones playing good cricket at the moment.
"It is probably going to be the toughest contested World Cup. Australia are playing well, so are South Africa. I think there are about eight nations who can go all the way," said the 43-year-old, who is also in the board of directors at New Zealand Cricket.
On whether a possible quarterfinal exit for India will take sheen off at the business end of the quadrennial event, Allott replied: "A World Cup should be all about performance on the park. The best team wins the competition. India have already won it twice and some countries including New Zealand have never won it. So lets see how it pans out".
Allott, as a NZC official, cannot complain about the
allocation of games. New Zealand had hosted 14 games to Australia's 25 in 1992 while this time it is almost a 50-50 deal. Twenty six matches will be played in Australia including the final and 23 in New Zealand.
"We really have to thank Therese Walsh (organising head in New Zealand) with the Australian counterparts. It is an amazing decision to allocate almost the equal number of games to New Zealand, particularly the opening game at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch, given the circumstances of the region with the earthquake. It has been a special gesture and much appreciated by the locals including myself," said Allott.
The opening match of the New Zealand leg will be held on February 14 in Christchurch with the co-hosts being pitted against Sri Lanka.