“ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 will attract TV audience of 1 billion”: Andrew Robb

MUMBAI: The countdown to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 has already begun with fans gearing up to watch the matches either on television or at the stadiums. Buoyant about the event, Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb is of the opinion that it will engage one fifth of the world’s population. Robb said, “India and Australia are both blessed with the love for cricket. The upcoming World Cup will attract a TV audience of one billion!”

Robb was speaking at the ‘Match Australia’ programme, which is part of the ongoing Australia Business Week being held in India. He had great admiration for the ‘God’ of Indian cricket, Sachin Tendulkar, who sadly will be missed at this year’s World Cup. “Tendulkar is not the God of Cricket just in India but also Australia,” he added.

Post his revelations, a panel discussion brainstormed and analysed on the current form of the Indian and Australian cricket teams slated to participate for the World Cup. Joining the panel were cricket expert and commentator Harsha Bhogle, former cricketer and current Cricket Australia board member Michael Kasprowicz and former Indian batsman Sanjay Manjrekar. The session was moderated by sports columnist Ayaz Memon.

Posing a question to Kasprowicz, Memon said, “Michael Clarke, who is recovering from a series of hamstring injuries, will be leading the Australian squad. From a fitness point of view, is it a wise decision?” In his reply, Kasprowicz said, “While that could be a concern, one needs to look at it at an overall point of view. It is a great, experienced and in my opinion a very balanced squad.” Manjrekar interjected saying that he found the overall game scenario in Australia changing, from a team that was earlier precise in decision making to today not being able to take a concrete call as in Clarke’s case. Kasprowicz didn’t differ with him as he agreed that the current scenario in Australian cricket was changing but only a bit, not more.

Memon with his insights of the game took to another parallel of the game by asking, “With Dhoni announcing his retirement from test cricket, is the state of mind of the current squad going to be crucial? Will the decision and the World Cup redefine the role for MS Dhoni ahead?” Manjrekar was all praise for ‘captain cool’ by speaking about his prowess for the game. He found Dhoni to possess a unique character wherein he, with his decision-making and on-field abilities, was able to make up for half of the overall team. “Dhoni is not someone who is concerned about the history of the game. In fact he will not be able to name even five captains of the Indian cricket teams from the past, if questioned.” Not stopping there, he went on to mouth his own version of the famous ‘Mere Paas Ma Hai’ dialogue from Bollywood movie ‘Deewaar’ by looking at Kasprowicz teasingly and saying, “If you guys have Steve Smith and Mitchell Johnson, we have Mahendra Singh Dhoni.” While the audience cackled, Kasprowicz, not surprisingly, was unable to comprehend the humour.

Memon then quizzed Bhogle about his biggest concern with regards to India’s squad for the upcoming event. The expert lamented, “India’s bowling skills are weakening a bit. If the bowling skills improve, we will have a great game. You don’t need to take many wickets but just bowl well.”

The panel then moved to discussing whether India’s celebrity cricketer Virat Kohli could become the biggest pivot at the World Cup this year? Manjrekar said it was a treat to watch both Kohli and Steven Smith bat at the last India versus Australia test series. “Kohli will be a great contributor at the World Cup after Dhoni,” he expressed.

The statement led to Memon asking the panel if India’s squad had the right balance of experienced as well as young players? Bhogle was the first to reply, saying, “With Tendulkar and most of the well known bowlers from the previous squad now gone, it looks very much younger but I know from the talent that was available to us, the best were picked.” Manjrekar added that one important feature of the World Cup was holding up one’s nerves even during the most testing times. He therefore was of the opinion that India’s squad had a balanced mix of young players as well as those who were not only experienced but also temperamentally strong.

While the panel picked up their home teams as favourites to win for the World Cup, Kasprowicz concluded by saying, “I wish to see the finals being played between India and Australia at a packed Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) stadium with both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Tony Abbot in attendance.”

Prior to the discussion Bhogle was honored with the ‘Friends of Australia’ award for his contribution to the game and helping foster better relations between the two countries. As part of the ‘Match Australia Programme,’ the gentlemen’s game will be used as an opportunity for investors to visit Australia, enjoy the game and also help boost commerce with a three day weekend programme. As part of the initiative, businessmen can attend investment roundtables on Fridays, followed by sight-seeing tours on Saturdays and by watching cricket matches at the stadium on Sundays.

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