Mahendra Singh Dhoni was facing Nuwan Kulasekara in a packed Wankhede Stadium on 2nd April 2011. 122 crore people in India were chanting ‘Dhoni, Dhoni, Dhon!’
Dhoni did not disappoint the crowd, and finished the game off in style. The 28-year wait had ended; the hopes had finally transcended into reality.
The victory created a huge buzz in India, and the party went on long into the night.
Such is the aura of the World Cup. It is that period in the cricketing calendar when the best meet the best. It is cricket’s biggest carnival, and it can make you a great player from just a good player.
The ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 is scheduled to take place in England and Wales this year. England will be hosting the event for the first time in two decades, and the format will be a complete round robin one. The best 10 teams will lock horns against each other, with each team playing 9 games.
With just a few months to go for this blockbuster event, let’s look at the four hot favourites to lift the trophy.
England are probably the strongest contenders for this year’s World Cup, especially since they are playing at home.
Although England are the inventors of the game of cricket, they have failed to lift the prestigious trophy even once. But after a heartbreaking exit from the 2015 World Cup, they have undergone a huge transformation under the leadership of Eoin Morgan.
Today, England's cricketers play an aggressive brand of cricket throughout the 50 overs. The country has a tremendous ability to produce all-rounders; their lower order batsmen almost always give them handy runs. That gives the top-order batsmen the license to go hard right from the beginning.
With batting firepower like they have, they can back their lineup to chase down most scores. Their batting has been complemented nicely by the combination of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid. Both of them create inroads into the opposition's batting lineup during the middle overs.
However, a one-dimensional fast bowling attack is a concern that England need to address.
India is not a long way behind England. Virat Kohli's men have left behind the nightmare of the 2017 Champions Trophy final and have made significant changes to the squad.
One of those is the introduction of the leg-spinning twins Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. They still remain a mystery to most teams around the world.
India not only has the two best ODI batsmen in the world currently, but also the best death bowler in the world - Jasprit Bumrah. It's no surprise the team has lost just one bilateral ODI series since 2017.
The aggression of Kohli and the calmness of the evergreen Dhoni will form a lethal combination, making India a formidable side. Although the over-reliance on the top 3 has exposed the fragility of the middle order at times, this issue is not expected to haunt India too much.
#3 New Zealand
The Black Caps are a bit underrated; whenever they play in ICC tournaments, they never fail to make a mark.
New Zealand has the luxury of playing their home matches in conditions which are somewhat similar to the English conditions. This makes them strong contenders for winning the trophy.
The Kiwis have been the most successful side at home in ODI cricket since the last World Cup. Led by Kane Williamson, they have played really good cricket in recent times.
Ross Taylor is in the form of his life and the new ball combination of Tim Southee and Trent Boult is as threatening as it has ever been.
They lack a genuine keeper-batsman though, as Tom Latham is not a full-time keeper. Moreover, Colin Munro has failed to perform well in ODI cricket despite doing a great job in T20Is for New Zealand.
If these concerns are addressed, New Zealand will be a tough team to beat. They came really close to winning the trophy last time around, but this time, they will try their level best to go over the line.
#4. South Africa
Every World Cup South Africa start as favourites, but at the end of every tournament, they remain disappointed. This year again, they have a tremendous side which will try to change the fortunes for South Africa in the tournament.
Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis are in the twilight of their careers. They are not the same players that they used to be, but they would want to finish their careers on a high.
If AB de Villiers had not retired, their chances of winning the tournament would have been significantly higher. But their pace attack, which is led by Dale Steyn, has venom as well as variety.
With new players like Reeza Hendricks and Aiden Markram coming to the fore, South Africa have a good mix of youth and experience. If they can handle the pressure well, they will make a strong claim for themselves.