The 10 best teams will do battle in the next four weeks for the second biggest prize in world cricket - the ICC Champions Trophy.
Defending champions West Indies begin their campaign in the qualifying round, while the likes of world champions Australia, hosts India and England start the following week.
With the World Cup only five months away, the matches are likely to provide clues as to where each side is in its planning for the main event.
BBC Sport takes a look at the competitors...
Champions history pedigree: Surprisingly, only two semi-finals in four attempts. But the Aussies have won two World Cups and just about everything else in that time so can be forgiven for this aberration.
One-day record since last Champions Trophy: P55 W38 L13 T/NR4
Coach - John Buchanan: Triumphs galore for Queensland and Australia - but the former schoolteacher's unorthodox ideas - such as blind fielding practice - led Shane Warne to say: "His methods over-complicate issues and at some stages he has lacked common sense." Buchanan will not be in charge for much longer, having confirmed he will be leaving after next year's World Cup.
Captain - Ricky Ponting: One of the all-time great batsmen and a phenomenally successful skipper but "Punter" threw the toys out of the pram when ex-England spinner Phil Tufnell taunted the Aussies after their Ashes misery. "For someone who never did anything against us it was hard to swallow," he lashed out.
Big hitter - Andrew Symonds Birmingham-born ("but I'm a fair dinkum Aussie") Symonds holds the record for sixes in a first-class innings (16) and his highest score of 156 last December against New Zealand featured eight maximums.
Bad hair day - Andrew Symonds: "Roy" wins this one hands down too. He's a big lad, mind you, so not many have dared to mention it to his face.
He's a real character - Andrew Symonds: You get the picture...Roy (as in "of the Rovers") loves reading Bacon Busters, an Australian magazine about his favourite hobby - pig hunting.
All-rounder - Brett Lee: The paceman is part of a rock band (Six & Out), plays the piano, owns a coffee shop and Indian restaurant, designs clothes for his own fashion label and somehow manages to fit in plenty of charity work.
Did you know? Explosive wicket-keeper batsman Adam Gilchrist attracted the interest of American Major League baseball team Boston Red Sox early last year.
Verdict: The team to beat but don't be surprised if they fail to win it. The focus for them is a certain Test series taking place later this year...
Champions history pedigree: Lost all previous five games - and by big margins. They were the first hosts, but not allowed to take part. The Tigers didn't make much more of a contribution in the next three tournaments.
One-day record since last Champions Trophy: P38 W15 L23
Coach - Dav Whatmore: Sri Lankan-born, former Australia batsman Whatmore guided his homeland to a stunning World Cup triumph in 1996 - beating the Aussies in the final. Known for his colourful language, he's done well to keep his sense of humour - and his job - after a succession of heavy beatings.
Captain - Habibul Bashar: Bangladesh's most successful batsman is also their only skipper to win a Test match and one-day series, and often props up a fragile middle order.
Big hitter - Habibul Bashar: There are few other candidates. The skipper is arguably their most aggressive batsman but, being a compulsive hooker, often pays for it.
He's a real character - Mashrafe Mortaza: Gave his team-mates a real fright when they were staying at Redworth Hall, near Durham, during their tour of England last year. The hotel has a reputation for being haunted and Mortaza raised a chuckle by hiding under a bed sheet and playing ghoulish noises on a tape recorder.
Did you know? Mohammad Ashraful became the youngest player to make a Test century against Sri Lanka in September 2001 - aged 17 years and 63 days.
Verdict: Twelve of Bangladesh's 15 wins in the last two years have come against Kenya and Zimbabwe, and although they stunned Australia last year in Cardiff, expect them to live up to their billing as the 10th best one-day team in the world.
Champions history pedigree: Nothing to write home about - until they hosted it in 2004. Michael Vaughan's men ought to have celebrated a first major one-day triumph on home soil but squandered a strong position against the West Indies in the final.
One-day record since last Champions Trophy: P43 W16 L22 T/NR5
Coach - Duncan Fletcher: Has failed dismally to work his Test magic on the one-day team. A dour figure with no great liking for the media, the Zimbabwean has seen his men slip to eighth in the one-day rankings.
Captain - Andrew Flintoff: Freddie's record in limited-overs cricket is even more impressive than in Tests. However, he will not have played for three months when he takes the field in India because of an ankle injury.
Big hitters - Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen: England's hopes of going anywhere in this tournament - and indeed the World Cup - depend heavily on these two. Only Shahid Afridi hits more sixes per innings than Flintoff and only Mike Hussey averages more than Pietersen in one-day cricket.
Bad hair day - Jon Lewis: In the past KP would have been a certainty for this tag but since opting for a shaven head, it falls to Lewis, a poor man's Hugh Grant.
He's a real character - Kevin Pietersen: Man about town, glamorous girlfriend (Jessica Taylor), the jewellery - only Shane Warne can rival KP's ability to hit the front as well as back pages of newspapers.
All-rounder - Andrew Flintoff: Freddie covers most bases in terms of being a fan - he follows home town Preston, Manchester City, and Liverpool's football teams but he also likes rugby union and rugby league!
Did you know? All-rounder Michael Yardy used to supplement his income by working in a sports shop at Gatwick Airport during the off-season.
Verdict: Judging by their poor record in limited-overs cricket only the foolish or brave would back Flintoff's men to return home with the trophy. When you throw in the fact that they play Australia and India in the group stage, it doesn't look clever.
Champions history pedigree: Shared the trophy with Sri Lanka in 2002 when two attempts to play the final were thwarted by monsoons in Colombo. They were also surprised by a Chris Cairns-inspired New Zealand in the final two years previously.
One-day record since last Champions Trophy: P54 W29 L23 T/NR2
Coach - Greg Chappell Apart from a row with ex-skipper Sourav Ganguly, seeing effigies of himself burned, and accusations of arrogance and control freakery, it's been a pretty quiet spell in charge for Aussie Greg. Poor campaigns in the two big one-day tournaments will see the pressure on him cranked up even more.
Captain - Rahul "The Wall" Dravid: What he lacks in charisma, Dravid more than makes up for with calm authority. Only five men have scored more ODI runs, although his elegance often looks out of place in the hurly burly.
Big hitter - Mahendra "Mahi" Dhoni: On his day simply brutal - when he hits it stays hit, as Sri Lanka found in Jaipur last November, when 10 sixes were thrashed in a breathtaking unbeaten 183.
Bad hair day - Mahi: Like some of his shots, Dhoni's hair often defies explanation.
He's a real character - Mahi again: The former train ticket collector's hair and batting style and his penchant for mischief - frequently taking drinks carts for joyrides - has won him an army of fans.
All-rounders - Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar: These two share more in common than their role as blasters at the top of the Indian batting. Both own restaurants and do a considerable amount of charity work.
Did you know? Tendulkar was caught up in a row in 2003 when Michael Schumacher and Fiat gave him a Ferrari. The Indian government initially exempted him from import duties but Fiat stumped up the cash after an outcry.
Verdict: On home soil, with their potent batting line-up, they will be one of the fancied teams but they can be frustratingly inconsistent.
Champions history pedigree: Not many people remember it, but the Kiwis actually managed to win it in 2000 in Kenya. They have been more true to type since, leaving the scene fairly early.
One-day record since last Champions Trophy: P33 W17 L15 T/NR1
Coach - John Bracewell: Former Test spinner Bracewell was a massive success in coaching Gloucestershire but has found things more difficult at the highest level. Rumours abound of clashes with skipper Stephen Fleming. Shane Warne said in March 2005: "I wouldn't be listening to him - I'd be listening to Fleming."
Captain - Stephen Fleming: New Zealand's longest serving and finest skipper has worked wonders with players of modest ability. He is also a high-class batsman in both forms of the game and a superb slip fielder.
Big hitter - Nathan Astle: In a team with few genuine stars, Astle often shines like a beacon. He can hit the ball a long, long way but his laid-back attitude has cost him in the past.
Bad hair day - Hamish Marshall: Likeable chap he might be but Hamish (and his identical twin brother James) has to sort out that mop.
Did you know? Injury-prone paceman Shane Bond has the best average and strike-rate in the history of one-day cricket - but he has managed only 45 matches since his debut in January 2002.
Verdict: A well-drilled and efficient outfit, their hopes depend on the fitness of Bond. The Kiwis face a tall order, however, after being drawn in the same group as Pakistan and South Africa.
Champions history pedigree: Two semi-finals in 2000 and 2004 will not have satisfied the cricket-mad public back home. Just like England, they were surprised by the Windies two years ago.
One-day record since last Champions Trophy: P44 W25 L17 T/NR2
Coach - Bob Woolmer: Erudite, assured and innovative - former England batsman Bob has been a success at Warwickshire, South Africa and now Pakistan, whose talented yet inconsistent group of players has been moulded into a formidable outfit.
Captain - Younis Khan: A typical soap opera-like week in Pakistani cricket saw Younis turn down the captaincy, board chairman Shaharyar Khan resign and Younis finally accept the leadership. There could be more fun and games when the action actually starts for them.
Big hitter - Shahid Afridi: "Boom Boom" likes to get on with things and there is no harder hitter of the ball in the game. A staggering 216 sixes in 230 games and the fastest century (37 balls) make him arguably the biggest hitter the sport's ever seen.
Bad hair day - Shoaib Akthar: The Rawalpindi Express' mane can be as wayward and lacking in control as his bowling and he mixes it up - ponytail, neatly combed or all-over-the-place.
He's a real character - Shoaib Akhtar: While Afridi is the maverick on the field, Shoaib usually makes the headlines off it with his Bollywood lifestyle - he was once offered a role in a film - which often exasperates the Pakistan hierarchy.
Verdict: As they have shown frequently in the past, they can be brilliant one day and pretty ordinary the next. Woolmer has made them more consistent but the absence of Inzamam could harm their chances significantly.
Champions history pedigree: As good as anyone's with a Jacques Kallis-inspired triumph in the inaugural event and two semi-finals after that.
One-day record since last Champions Trophy: P40 W27 L10 T/NR3
Coach - Mickey Arthur: One of the younger coaches in international cricket, he did not play at the highest level. More approachable than his predecessor, disciplinarian Ray Jennings, he earned respect in the domestic scene in South Africa before surprisingly landing the top job.
Captain - Graeme Smith: Intelligent and articulate, Smith was his country's youngest ever captain at 22. He has no time for whingers, particularly Kevin Pietersen, of whom he said: "I'm patriotic about my country, and that's why I don't like Kevin Pietersen." The respect is mutual, with Pietersen calling Smith a "muppet".
Big hitter - Justin Kemp: Once smacked five sixes in an over for Eastern Province - the sixth bounced just short of the boundary - but has yet to really reproduce that at international level.
He's a real character - Andre Nel: One of the great sideshows in cricket - when his temper flares there is no sight like it, all glare and vitriol. He usually earns half what his team-mates do, so often is he fined for abusive language and gestures.
Did you know?: Andrew Hall was shot in his left hand by a mugger while attempting to draw money out of a cash point in 1998.
Verdict: With some handy batsmen and bowlers, as well as one of the best keeper/batsmen in Mark Boucher, the Proteas have as good a chance of winning this as anyone.
Champions history pedigree: Joint winners in 2002 and semi-finalists in the first edition, the Sri Lankans have taken the tournament as seriously as most, although they will want to improve on their limp effort last time round when they failed to get beyond the group stage.
One-day record since last Champions Trophy: P49 W24 L23 T/NR2
Coach: Tom Moody: If the speculation is true this could be the penultimate tournament in charge for former Australia all-rounder Moody. He has been strongly linked with a return home to replace Buchanan (see above) and his stock soared after their successful tour of England.
Captain - Mahela Jayawardene: His attacking, positive leadership has been a breath of fresh air compared with the conservative Marvan Atapattu. A brilliant batsman too, as England were reminded earlier this summer.
Big hitter - Sanath Jayasuriya: Made a mockery of suggestions that he was a spent force at 37 by flaying England's bowlers in the 5-0 one-day series romp, particularly his 152 off only 99 balls at Headingley.
Bad hair day - Lasith Malinga: You have to wonder how many wickets "The Slinger" takes through the shock value of his locks. Even before he hurls the ball down, baseball pitcher-style, there is enough to put a batsman off.
All-rounder - Kumar Sangakkara: In between series, the wicket-keeper/batsman is training to become a lawyer and his fluency in English often sees him put forward to do media interviews - regardless of his performance!
Did you know? Moody broke the world record for throwing haggis with a 230-ft effort in Scotland in 1989.
Verdict: As they demonstrated to English fans, the Sri Lankans are a talented, organised unit, who can beat anyone on their day and should be a handful if, as expected, they come through the qualifying round.
Champions history pedigree: Surprisingly good. They were runners-up to South Africa in Dhaka in 1998 and, against all odds, stunned England in the final at The Oval two years ago.
One-day record since last Champions Trophy: P39 W14 L23 T/NR2
Coach - Bennett King: The Australian has his critics in his homeland despite his success at Queensland - Greg Matthews said of him: "He's not in the top 20 coaches or the top 100 people I've ever talked cricket to." There have been voices of discontent in the Caribbean too with generally poor results.
Captain - Brian Lara: Brought back to inspire the troops ahead of their hosting of the World Cup, it's been tough going for the great left-hander. Disagreements with the selectors over the make-up of his team and contractual rows have tested his patience.
Big hitter - Chris Gayle: Although he has tried to be more responsible, the laid-back Jamaican is happiest when trying to hit the leather off the ball - and when it comes off it's spectacular.
He's a real character - Runako Morton: Expelled from the Windies academy in 2001 for a series of misdemeanours, in 2002 he lied about his grandmother dying so he could return from the 2002 Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka.
Did you know? In 1999, during a romantic rendezvous with his girlfriend in Guyana, Shivnarine Chanderpaul shot a policeman after mistaking him for a mugger.
Verdict: Who knows? After winning the 2004 tournament their form dipped alarmingly but has picked up under Lara's leadership this year and they could either be knocked out very early or go very far.
Champions history pedigree: They have taken part in the four previous tournaments, but not much more than that, with six defeats out of six.
One-day record since last Champions Trophy: P40 W10 L29 T/NR1
Coach - Kevin Curran: Known more for his exploits as a successful all-rounder in county cricket than his 11 ODI appearances, Curran has a thankless task. Despite his belief that they will soon be ready to return to Test cricket, the recent 3-2 triumph over Bangladesh is about as good as it is likely to get.
Captain - Prosper Utseya: The young skipper embodies much of what this Zimbabwe team is all about: a tidy off-spinner who makes the most of what he has at his disposal. He only took over in July and can look forward to more difficult times.
Big hitter - Few if any of the Zimbabwe batting line-up will have opponents shaking in trepidation but when - or more likely if - Elton Chigumburu makes bat connect with ball, expect it to travel some distance.
Did you know: Chigumbura, Utseya, Hamilton Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri and Vusi Sibanda all went to the same school - Churchill High - in Harare.
Verdict: A quick exit is more than likely, with none of their 10 wins in the last two years coming against quality opposition.