Now that all the ten countries have announced their teams the battle lines have been drawn for the ICC Cricket World Cup that commences in England on May 30. And even a cursory glance at the squads leaves one with the clear impression that any one of half a dozen teams have an equal chance of lifting the trophy at Lord’s on July 14.

These squads have all the right ingredients in the team personnel – explosive hitters, stroke playing batsmen, high quality utility players who can contribute with both bat and ball, accurate pacemen and skilful spin bowlers.

There are no real outright favourities as the West Indies were during the first three editions of the World Cup or Australia were in the first decade of the new millennium. But yes, it can be said that Afghanistan and Bangladesh are there to make up the numbers while the chances of Sri Lanka and Pakistan must be rated as slim. However in the same breath one must also add that outsiders have been known to win the cup as India proved in 1983 and Sri Lanka in 1996.

The ICC rankings have England, India, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia in the first five positions and these are the teams seriously in the running for the title. The fact that the West Indies haven’t made the semifinals since 1996 may go against their chances. However even though they are ranked as low as ninth they can be considered as the dark horses simply because they have some of the best limited overs players in their ranks.

Past record and present form are two very important criteria in picking the teams most likely to win the title. The eleven editions of the World Cup have been distributed among Australia (five times winners), the sub continent (four times) and the West Indies (twice).

But New Zealand and South Africa have come close to clinching it more than once and though they have the tags of eternal bridesmaids and chokers respectively they will always remain serious challengers. New Zealand in fact after being semifinalists on six occasions finally broke away to make the title clash four years ago before going down to Australia.

Certainly on present form the chances of both New Zealand and South Africa must be rated quite high but England, India and Australia too are right up there in the pecking order which is what makes the competition an open field. There is very little to choose between the leading contenders and it can be taken for granted that most of the finishes will be very close. We are certainly in for a cracker of a World Cup!

What has already added spice to the flavor of the contest is the format. In a return to the format for the 1992 World Cup each team plays every other side once and the top four teams make the semifinals. This means that even a couple of bad outings may not be a serious setback for the teams have enough games to bounce back.

One remembers Pakistan almost down and out midway through their campaign in 1992 but they picked themselves from the floor, made the knock outs and went on to win the title.