Wednesday, March 9, 2011


A month ahead of the world cup, there were multiple favorites to win it all. India, with its thundering batting lineup led by Sehwag at the top headed the list. A close second was South Africa, badly wanting to lose the chokers tag. Not far behind were England, fresh from their Ashes triumph, and the Aussies determined to make up for the Ashes humiliation. The always South Asian dark horses Pakistan and Sri Lanka were lurking around the corner. This set the tone for the WC to be a cracker of a tournament. Then the warm-up games prior to the start of the regular games, vaulted India above all others, thanks to their impressive victories over the Down Under rivals, the Aussies and the Kiwis. So ahead of the WC, there was India and the rest of the field.

The world cup regular games began on February 19th and India continued its sparkling form, smacking 370 against the co-hosts, Bangladesh, though the latter did bat well chasing this huge score. An 87 run victory basically helped India stamp their supremacy and most importantly wipe some bad memories of their devastating loss (and eventual exit) against the same opponent in the 2007 edition of the tournament. The next few games that followed delivered predictable results with the minnows always losing to the test playing nations, though the Dutch did give the English a scare. It was not before match 7 did a game between equals (on hindsight maybe I should say, not so equals after all) happen. But the Proteas here were too good against the Caribbeans and strolled to an easy victory. As the matches became more and more dull and banal, all were preparing for the predictable 8 to reach the quarter finals. Then one match caught the eye of the world, when England produced a remarkable chase to almost beat the Indians in their own territory – trying to back their big words which they let out after winning the Ashes. The nerve wracking rare tie game provided a much needed shot in the arm to the tournament and left both the team fans arguably happy with the verdict. After all, it was a stellar display of overall cricket and astute captaincy where both captains capitalized on the small window of opportunity provided to them to bring their respective teams back into the game. The excitement generated by this game was dampened a little by the next 3 games. A couple of them finished even before they started. Then came the upset of the tournament or maybe the upset for ages to come. The Irish team celebrated St. Patrick’s Day early by shocking England in a thrilling chase. They pulled off what England couldn’t against India. Kevin O’Brien became an overnight hero after the blitzkrieg, knocking down the fastest century in the WC. With England reeling after the loss, it seemed like the initial lofty expectations were shattered and the reigning T20 champions were brought down to earth. This talented yet underperforming team, dying to satisfy the nation’s craving for sporting success, seemed to be still in a state of shock as they faltered their way to score 171 in their next game against SA. But the Proteas, being the chokers that they are, seemed to oblige to the English fans’ desperate prayer for a miracle and lost the game narrowly. Following this performance, England now seals itself as the team to watch because it is really going to be a nail biting experience for all English fans, no matter whom their team plays. Now the South Africans look towards the clash with India next Saturday as an all important one. Well, at least now they should not be short of any motivation to win that game. In between a new drama unfolded as the Tigers, playing under high expectations from their home fans (as expected), were a sitting duck against a suddenly charged up Caribbean team, and succumbed to their lowest total of 58. As expected violent scenes erupted, buses were stoned, glasses broken, prompting WI captain Chris Gayle to tweat if they should be expecting bullets next. But the ICC desperately wanting to showcase the venues as a safe haven, delivered a PR googly claiming that this was caused by a few pebble throwing individuals!!

As non-cricketing incidents seemed to grab headlines, Pakistan which was quietly cruising along in group A with 3 victories, suddenly were clobbered by Ross Taylor on his birthday and went on to lose the game badly. Suddenly a rejuvenated Kiwi team sits atop the table in group A. Sri Lanka and Australia are right there in the mix. The minnows did shine, but as expected it was only for a brief period. In group B, though India are sitting in the top, an enigmatic England, a desperate South African team and an erratic Caribbean squad is close on their heels.

Granted a lot more matches are to be played, but this World Cup is living up to the initial hype and analysis of being the most open World Cup since its inception in 1975.


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