Former Black Caps captain Stephen Fleming on Friday, tipped joint hosts Australia and New Zealand to reach the final of the forthcoming 2015 World Cup, also identifying South Africa and the West Indies as the dark horses of the tournament. (Maxwell says he was desperate for World Cup call-up)
It will be the first time the mega event will be held in the two countries since 1992 when Pakistan emerged champions. The tournament starts Feb 14 and the final is slated for March 29. (Warner will fire at will during World Cup: Pat Cummins)
"New Zealand and Australia to make the final. South Africa will be close and West Indies are the dark-horse," he was quoted as saying by the International Cricket Council's (ICC) official website. (Ross Taylor confident of not fizzling out during World Cup)
Fleming said New Zealand will be a tough team to beat since they have several players who are potential match-winners.
"All the usual suspects, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum and then the bowling group with Tim Southee, Daniel Vettori and possibly Trent Boult. The beauty of it is that I could name another three or four players to watch out for - and that's why I'm optimistic about the Cup," the former left-handed batsman said.
He also tipped experienced batsman Martin Guptill to be the perfect foil for destructive opener Brendon McCullum, also the captain of the World Cup.
The 41-year-old, widely regarded as the finest captain of New Zealand, expected McCullum to provide a quick start to the Kiwis saying his form would be crucial to the home team's chances in the quadrennial event.
"Martin Guptill would prove to be the perfect foil for Brendon McCullum for the opening partnership. McCullum would give the Kiwis a quick start," he opined.
Fleming, who also became a successful coach after retirement guiding the Chennai Super Kings to two Indian Premier League (IPL) titles, also identified his match-winning unbeaten knock of 134 against South Africa in the 2003 edition as his fondest World Cup memory.
The former left-handed batsman, who is the New Zealand's most capped ODI captain, having led the side for a record 218 times, said the Kiwi team for the 2003 edition was most capable of lifting the trophy and regretted having missed the opportunity.
New Zealand crashed out of the Super Six stage of the tournament, finishing fifth in the group.
"In South Africa in 2003, we didn't achieve what we should have achieved, but I felt that was one of our most talented sides," he rued.