Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Let the MADNESS begin!

No, not *THAT* Madness... March's *OTHER* Madness: The CRICKET WORLD CUP begins today! Hosts WEST INDIES take on PAKISTAN in Jamaica, the first step toward the April 28 final in Barbados.
The cricket played at this world cup is the one-day variety. It is a shortened form of the sport that can take as many as five days to complete a standard match.
Here are six things you probably didn't know about this year's CRICKET WORLD CUP:
1) Three-time winners and defending champions (from 2003) AUSTRALIA might not win it all this year. Top bowler Brett Lee is missing with an ankle injury, and Australia recently lost one-day tournaments to both England and New Zealand.
2) Male and female fans of INDIA swoon for Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He is the world's third-ranked batsman in one-day cricket and his shoulder-length hair and Bollywood-star looks make him an idol among the masses. (Check out more about Dhoni at this Web site here.)
3) BANGLADESH might be cricket's biggest underachievers. With a population of 150 million and a history of cricket dating to the 1700s, Bangladesh should succeed on a par with regional neighbors India and Sri Lanka. Instead, they struggle in the sport. Bangladesh have even lost to CANADA.
4) CANADA -- of all countries -- has a team at the World Cup. Their best player, John Davison, is a bit of a ringer. Although born in British Columbia, he grew up in Australia and attended that country's famed cricket academy. Canada actually have more Caribbean-born players (six) than Canadian-born players (three).
5) NEW ZEALAND could surprise the field this year. Habitually bullied by near-neighbors Australia, the "Black Caps" could finally gain some revenge, thanks in part to young stars such as Ross Taylor. The 22-year-old debuted in style last year, scoring an unbeaten 128 runs against Sri Lanka.
6) Watch out for Yassir Arafat.
No, not *THAT* Yassar Arafat. He's dead and doesn't play cricket. *THIS* Yassir Arafat could become a star for PAKISTAN. He has already made a name for himself playing for Sussex in English county cricket (that's him pictured on the right) and the Punjab-born, 24-year-old right-handed batsman and bowler has represented Scotland 30 times internationally. He got his first big break playing league cricket in Scotland for Clydesdale.
The Cricket World Cup field seems wide open this year, with any number of competing nations boasting a chance to win the trophy. Let the MADNESS begin!


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