Cricket World Cup groups announced

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The Independent Online

Pakistan will play all its 2011 World Cup group games outside India after being placed in a different pool to its arch rival and neighbor.

The groups were finalised during the International Cricket Council's (ICC) board meeting in South Africa yesterday.

Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Canada and Kenya form group A while group B comprises India, South Africa, England, West Indies, Bangladesh, Ireland and Netherlands.

The fixtures will be announced next month, but the groupings ensured Pakistan will play none of its pool games in India.

Pakistan was initially going to be co-host of the tournament but that right was stripped on security grounds, leaving India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as co-hosts.

Political tension between India and Pakistan remains high and sporting contacts limited. Wednesday's draw, placing them in different groups, prevented a security headache for organizers.

On current performance, Group A appeared marginally the more difficult of the two, including this week's Champions Trophy finalists Australia and New Zealand, plus Sri Lanka and Pakistan sides that thrive in limited overs games.

After much criticism of the elongated World Cup of two years' ago, the 2011 event will be shortened by at least a week and include 49 matches - two less than what were organized in the Carribean in 2007.

"We're on record as saying that we acknowledged that 2007 might have been longer than desired. So we want to take a week off, if not more," ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said.

"We wanted to get the balance correct. We had one proviso that we would not have wanted more than two of the subcontinent teams in any one group.

"The rest depends on where you stand in the rankings and you use the formula that allocates the teams, dependent on your positioning in the ranking tables."

The just-completed Champions Trophy won praise from teams, having been streamlined from previous versions.

"Most experts of the game and the opinion-makers are now convinced the ICC Champions Trophy definitely has a place in the cricket calendar," ICC president David Morgan said.

"It also gives me immense pleasure to say the quality of cricket we have seen in the last 14 days (in Champions Trophy) proves that 50-over format can comfortably coexist with the traditional five-day test and the short 20-over formats."