Raise Your (Cricket) BatDecember 16, 2014

Ashutosh Gowariker's "Lagaan" (2001) is about the inhabitants of the small village of Champaner during the height of the British Empire in India and how they would win their freedom by playing a game of cricket against the English settlers. The story is said to be based from actual events, but not a few viewers would wonder if there's any truth to it after comparing the Indians to Rocky Balboa. But the message of this Bollywood feature is clear. Cricket would be a favourite game of many states of the Commonwealth.

The 11th Cricket World Cup will be held from February 14 to March 29 2015. Australia and New Zealand are co-hosts this quadrennial event. Fourteen countries will participate in the event, most of which are members of the Commonwealth of Nations. Cricket may not be an Olympic sports, but many of the sports' top athletes are as popular as football's superstars. Or close to.

Preparations have already began. Family-friendly ticketing programme was announced. Pre-tournament matches between participating countries and state provincial sides in Australia and New Zealand would be scheduled. (The venues include the Sydney Cricket Ground, Adelaide Oval, The Gabba, WACA Ground, Bellerive Oval, Manuka Oval, and Melbourne Cricket Ground.) There would be a travel guide for visitors who have time for sightseeing.

The excitement is building, and nothing can be better than enumerating some interesting tidbits about the tournament's history. Let's take a look:

1. 1975 marked the debut of the Cricket World Cup. Eight teams competed, namely Australia, East Africa, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the West Indies. (East Africa ceased to exist.)

2. Australia is the most winning team, raising the Prudential Cup trophy in three occasions (1999, 2003, 2007). The Aussies also reached the finals in 1975 and 1996. (Nothing surprising about it.)

3. England, which has yet to win the tournament, played host in four occasions. They would be hosting (for the fifth time) in 2019. (Cricket happens to be national game of the English people. Maybe five is their lucky number.)

4. Sri Lanka was at the losing end of the last two finals. After falling to Australia (2007) and India (2011), can they reach the finals once more? Can they win again? (Or will another team hand them another loss?)

5. This eleventh edition of the tournament will mark the debut of Afghanistan, which qualified through the WCL Championship. (Nice!)

6. The Man of the Tournament is an award introduced in 1992, given at the end of the World Cup. This would be given to the player who has the biggest part in the finals. Martin Crowe (1992) and Glenn McGrath (2007) are the only Aussie players to receive this prestigious honour. (Way to go!)

7. McGrath set a number of records during his career, with the most wickets, lowest average, and best bowling figures. But India's Sachin Tendulkar is the leading run scorer. He was a member of the Indian team that won the cup (in home soil) in 2011. (Wow!)

So what are you waiting for? Let's raise our bats!

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