The ICC World Cup in England and Wales is hardly five months away and the mind games and predictions have already begun, with the ICC CEO David Richardson on Thursday saying it is very difficult to pick a clear winner even as he backed India and England for leading the race.
Richardson, who was here to announce a partnership with leading soft drink brand Coca Cola and unveil the World Cup trophy, also hailed South Africa's recent performances.
"It is extremely difficult to pick a winner. Obviously, India is playing really well. England has got their best ODI team in many years. South Africa has also performed. But the progress the Indian team has made in the recent years, it will be exceptionally difficult to beat them," the International Cricket Council (ICC) CEO told reporters here.
Highlighting the 5-year partnership with Coca Cola, the former South Africa wicket-keeper also spoke on the various forthcoming international tournaments -- the ICC T20 World Cup 2020, ICC Test Championship, ICC Women's U-19 World Cup.
On being asked about the recently released ICC T20 World Cup groups, where arch-rivals India and Pakistan are placed in different groups, Richardson said: "We have arranged the groups in a way that has credibility and is based on the rankings. We have several techniques one of them is called the Snake Method. Teams are placed according to their ranks and play each other accordingly."
"In this case, Pakistan were number one in the rankings in their group and India number two. Obviously, everyone likes to see them play but to maintain the integrity and credibility of the groups we found no credible way of putting them in the same group."
"Hopefully from a world perspective they will meet each other in the semi-finals or final," he added.
Richardson, who is set to step down in July, also spoke on the various highs and lows that international cricket has undergone during his tenure.
"Some things took a little longer than we'd like to implement like one of them was to convince India that Decision Review System (DRS) was a good thing, it probably happened because the first trial that we conducted all the decisions seemed to go against India."
"So we had to convince Anil Kumble that it could work," he added.
With the amnesty period given to whistleblowers to come out on corruption issues plaguing Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), ending on Thursday, Richardson said: "It's not just about anti-corruption but also about player conduct. In recent times we have had several unruly incidents around the world and we have taken really firm steps there to make sure that everybody understands we need to protect the spirit of cricket."
"On the anti-corruption side, we have taken more proactive steps to disrupt the actions of certain frivolous individuals that wander around trying to fix cricket matches."
"In the past, we have tried to do the right thing by taking steps against these individuals and now also we are trying to disrupt them as much as possible and the players are doing the right thing by reporting any incident," he concluded.