Team by team guide of Group A at the Cricket World Cup

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Best World Cup performance: Champions (1987, 1999, 2003, 2007).

Last World Cup: Winner.

Captain: Ricky Ponting.

Coach: Tim Nielsen.

World Cup record: 51-17, 1 tie.

Key players: Ricky Ponting, Brett Lee, Cameron White.

Strengths: Australia are No 1 in the ODI rankings, went through the 2007 World Cup undefeated, and have the best win-loss ratio in the tournament. Ponting, who has played in the last four World Cup finals, is back at the helm after overcoming a broken finger which sidelined him since late December. Australia beat England 6-1 in a recent ODI series to rebound after an Ashes loss.

Weaknesses: Many stars of the last World Cup — including Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden — have retired and their replacements do not have the same skill or experience. If the front line pacemen are wayward, Australia could concede some big totals. Lack of an experienced, specialist spinner - Jason Krejza only made his ODI debut earlier this month and was a late addition to the squad because of injuries - could hurt.


Best World Cup performance: Group stage (1979, 2003, 2007).

Last World Cup: Group stage.

Captain: Ashish Bagai.

Coach: Pubudu Dassanayake (Sri Lanka).

World Cup record: 1-11.

Key players: John Davison.

Strengths: Canada reached their fourth World Cup by finishing runner-up to Ireland in the qualifying tournament. The team has a talented top-order contributor in Davison, who made headlines at the 2003 tournament with what was then the fastest century in the tournament. Rizwan Cheema, the No 7 batsman who battered the West Indies bowling for a 69-ball 89 in 2008, gave England a massive scare in a World Cup warm-up match on Tuesday when as he blazed 93 from 70 balls and although Canada eventually lost by 16 runs it showed they can be a dangerous batting side.

Weaknesses: Their lack of depth and experience. Canada left out some seasoned veterans in a gamble to promote a handful of younger players into the international arena, compounding the pressure on the likes of Davison and Bagai to perform in every match.


Best World Cup performance: Semi-finals (2003).

Last World Cup: Group stage.

Captain: Jimmy Kamande.

Coach: Eldine Baptiste (West Indies).

World Cup record: 6-16, 1 tie.

Key players: Thomas Odoyo, Collins Obuya.

Strengths: Kenya have some vastly experienced leaders in Steve Tikolo and Thomas Odoyo, who are playing in their fifth World Cups. The will benefit in the field from hiring Jonty Rhodes, the energetic former South Africa international to enliven their fielding performance.

Weaknesses: They are an ageing squad well past their prime and not expected to repeats their surprising run to the semi-finals in 2003. The squad also contain nine World Cup rookies and lack depth in the bowling department, a deficiency exposed in a series of losses to domestic teams in India during a recent tour to acclimatise to local conditions. Kenya also lost by two wickets to the Netherlands in a World Cup warm-up match at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo, on Tuesday


Best World Cup performance: Semi-finals (1975, 1979, 1992, 1999, 2007).

Last World Cup: Semi-finals.

Captain: Daniel Vettori.

Coach: John Wright.

World Cup record: 35-26, 1 no result.

Key players: Vettori, Brendon McCullum.

Strengths: Recruiting John Wright, the former New Zealand Test player and India coach to oversee preparations will help Vettori focus primarily on what happens on the field. New Zealand generally lift for the World Cup and have a team of solid all-rounders capable of producing an upset result if they all click at the same time.

Weaknesses: New Zealand are coming into the tournament with only two wins in their last 14 ODIs, including an 11-match losing streak in which it went down 4-0 in Bangladesh and 5-0 in India before winning in the first and last matches of a 3-2 home series loss to Pakistan. Vettori is the only star in the squad and until Wright's appointment was overburdened by additional selection and preparation responsibilities.


Best World Cup performance: Champions (1992).

Last World Cup: Group stage.

Captain: Shahid Afridi.

Coach: Waqar Younis.

World Cup record: 30-24, 2 no results.

Key players: Afridi, Abdul Razzaq.

Strengths: In all-rounders Afridi and Razzaq, Pakistan possesses two batsmen who can turn an innings quickly and they are well suited to the subcontinental conditions.

Weaknesses: No team has had a more tumultuous preparation — senior batsman Salman Butt and front line pacemen Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer were recently banned by the International Cricket Counci; for a minimum of five years after being found guilty in a spot-fixing scandal. Pakistan was supposed to be a World Cup co-host but was stripped of those rights after gunmen attacked the Sri Lanka team bus en route to a Test match at Lahore almost two years ago. Pakistan are relying on Shoiab Akhtar to lead the pace attack, with much riding on the injury-prone fast bowler.


Best World Cup performance: Champions (1996).

Last World Cup: Finalist.

Captain: Kumar Sangakkara

Coach: Trevor Bayliss (Australia).

World Cup record: 25-30, 1 tie, 1 no result.

Key players: Sangakkara, Muttiah Muralitharan.

Strengths: Sri Lanka won the World Cup the last time it was held in Asia and reached the finals in 2007. Record-holding spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan will be playing his last tournament and is aiming to deliver a second World Cup title to Sri Lanka. This is a well-rounded squad with the only question mark being over the middle-order. They are likely to stick to a combination of seven batsmen and four bowlers, a line-up that has served them well in home games, with Angelo Mathews battling in the top six as well as having bowling duties.

Weaknesses: The pressure of expectations — Sri Lankans are expecting Sangakkara and Muralitharan to win the tournament which their country is co-hosting, despite little practice on the relatively new surfaces prepared for the World Cup.


Best World Cup performance: Super 6 (1999, 2003)

Last World Cup: Group stage.

Captain: Elton Chigumbura.

Coach: Alan Butcher (England).

World Cup record: 8-33 1 tie, 3 no results.

Key players: Chigumbura, Tatenda Taibu.

Strengths: The squad have played reasonably frequently in Bangladesh and have experience in the subcontinental conditions, which suit their spin-orientated bowling attack led by Ray Price and Prosper Utseya. Zimbabwe are not burdened by any expectations and are growing in confidence after a restructure of the domestic competition and some coaching assistance from Brian Lara, the former West Indies captain.

Weaknesses: Zimbabwe have not returned to the form of 1999, when they beat India and South Africa in the World Cup. The squad lacks depth in batting and bowling departments and does not have a stand-out match winner. Suffered back-to-back World Cup warm-up defeats against South Africa and Ireland.


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