It all begins today, about four hours from now.
It's West Indies against Pakistan. West Indies wanted this game, didn't want to stack themselves up against the Aussies and thus Chris Gayle was conveniently injured, so was Roach and Chanderpaul continued to be the tourist he has been so far, largely.
I don't know what to expect from this game. Two unpredictable teams crossing swords, one seemingly resurgent, and the other see-sawing between ruthless domination and meek surrender from a winning position. West Indies will look to Roach, Bravo and Smith to take them through to the semis, while Pakistanis have Afridi, Gul, Umar Akmal and Misbah as the guys steering the ship. To me, Pakistan holds the edge, but then, they have been known to give it away, so often.
The marquee clash is tomorrow, and the mind games began the moment India secured their Chennai - Ahmedabad tickets. I believe that India will move ahead if they truly put into practice the current pet phrase of their skipper — "we believe in doing the process right, we aren't bothered about the result". So, if they go through the process properly, then Ricky Ponting's lack of form, Brett Lee's return to peak, or Shane Watson's calming presence will cease to matter. As an Indian, I want India to win and, as a lot of experts have been saying, it's time Australia got off the perch.
New Zealand plays South Africa and Sri Lanka plays England. My gut says that South Africa and Sri Lanka will come through, and if that happens, the two teams will play each other for a spot in the final. That's where it gets tough as the two are likely to run each other close, and on current form, it will be between Sri Lanka batting and South Africa bowling. South Africa has come here as a very different team. In the series against India just before the cup, it was Steyn and Morkel. In India, it's been Peterson, Tahir, Botha and the other part-time slow bowlers. The batters from South Africa have been mostly away from the limelight, but a man called AB De Villiers could change all that. So can Sangakara, and the man has truly been in great form. This is the semifinal I am most eager to watch.
And yes, my gut says that West Indies are likely to get to the semi final after a long time, even as Pakistan seem the stronger, more spirited team. Dhoni and India would welcome a semi final with West Indies, as a semi final against Pakistan can be too draining, emotionally, for the team as well as the country.
So, whats the prospect that I am looking at: India meet either SA or SL in the final, and Dhoni gifts the cup to India and Sachin.
Yes, I hope that India wins the cup, it's time to have a new champion, and time for a Champion batter to savor the moment. The country would like to see Sachin retire (whenever he does so) with the satisfaction of having delivered the cup that matters.