Gavaskar tips big Indian crowds
Wellington - New Zealand and Australia can expect an influx of Indian fans for next year's Cricket World Cup as the world champions look to defend their title, legendary batsman Sunil Gavaskar said Friday.
Marking the one-year countdown to the event, Gavaskar said Indian fans were keen to relive the joy of 2011, when they became the first team to win the one-day tournament on home soil.
He said victory in the 1983 World Cup staged in England was the highlight of his career, but the Indian public's devotion to the game rose even higher with the win in Mumbai in 2011, meaning fans were likely to be out in force next year.
"There were so many people on the streets (of Mumbai), you just couldn't go anywhere," he told reporters in Wellington.
"It was absolutely massive. That's the passion that Indians have for this game. I'm pretty certain that the Indians will be coming here to enjoy their cricket and partake of the magnificent hospitality."
India are in a challenging pool for next year's event that includes South Africa, Pakistan and the West Indies. They play matches in both New Zealand and Australia.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the event promised to be a huge spectacle.
"It's going to get rolled out to 182 countries, over a billion people will watch the Cricket World Cup, that's a fifth of the world's population, so it's going to be a magnificent event," he said.
Key said the host nations had made it easier for overseas fans by introducing a single trans-Tasman entry visa for the event, so they did not need to fill out paperwork for each country.
- 'Mental barrier' -
In Sydney, Australian one-day bowler Pat Cummins said he was relishing the prospect of representing his country in a tournament atmosphere.
"You're playing to be world champions, which you don't get too often," he said. "Having the chance to be world champions for four years is pretty exciting."
Organisers said the price of tickets, which went on sale on Friday, had been kept as low as possible, a move Australian captain Michael Clarke welcomed.
"We want to encourage as many young kids to play this great game as we can and hopefully tournaments like this will inspire the next generation of Australian cricketers," he said.
New Zealand great Richard Hadlee said the Black Caps, riding high after a 4-0 one-day series win over India, needed to overcome a psychological hurdle if they were to win the World Cup.
He said New Zealand bore the mental scars of reaching the semi-finals six times but never going on to claim the trophy.
"If we can replicate the form that we're in now in 12 months time then we're in with a shot," he said.
"But we do have that mental barrier don't we? Six previous semi-finals but we've not gone beyond that.
"If we can make the semi-final and dig deep then it's 50-50 on the day when you're in the final, so we can live in hope."
The World Cup will be held from February 14 to March 15, 2015 with 49 matches played in 14 venues across the two host nations.