Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Strong Statement...

India Vs South Africa

With 130 runs win over South Africa, India made a strong statement. Yeah, we are not pushovers in this WC. More importantly, we are here to defend it !!!

I had my judgment reserved despite resounding victory over arch-rivals Pakistan. After all, Pakistan isn’t a great side in this this edition and India defeating Pakistan was always on the cards. But India defeating South Africa wasn’t expected. I’m sure even the most optimistic supporter would buy me. And here, India beat South Africa (one of the favorites to win this edition of the tournament), very convincingly. The message is now very loud and clear. From here on, it’s all about how any other team can snatch the trophy from India.

Coming back, India played extremely good against South Africa. After the early loss of Rohit Sharma to a poor run out, Kohli walked in to join Dhawan. Kohli curbed his aggressive instinct only to stitch a 120 runs partnership with Dhawan that laid the foundation for India’s big total. Kohli played a classic anchor for his 46 that included just 3 fours, which is very unusual of him. On the other hand, Dhawan, was altogether playing in a different planet. Did I crib before for selecting Dhawan? Well, I’m here happily chewing my words. That was a classic Dhawan show. Upper cuts, smashing square cuts, gorgeous cover drives, thudding pulls… he was truly on a zone to pile 137 runs. If that wasn’t enough, Rahane delivered a beauty towards the latter half of Indian Innings to score quick fire 79. For the solid foundation laid by Dhawan, Kohli and Rahane, it would have been fitting, if India ended up with a total of 325+. Never mind, 307 isn’t small total on MCG.  South Africa losing was only a formality. But the way India pushed South Africa to surrender inside 175 is THE STATEMENT. India is the team to watch out from here!!!

Pakistan Vs West Indies
Good to see West Indies win this match and come back into the tournament strongly. Pakistan on the other hand put a very pitiable display. I wish Pakistan take these defeats into stride and put better show in the remaining encounters. Honestly, it is difficult to stay optimistic on Pakistan chances. There is no point in Pakistan playing with fear. It is time to overcome the anxiety and start playing Akmal - Afridi at the top for any change of fortune. Without any rearguard action, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pakistan finishes behind Zimbabwe. Hopefully they turn into party poopers at some point in the tournament. 

West Indies Vs Zimbabwe
At the time when Gayle was criticized for no show, here he delivered the first double century of the WC. A rampage that started late after 35 overs when Gayle just reached the century. Samuels gave good company and he made his presence felt with a century. Good to see West Indies reclaiming their composure after the upset over Ireland. It would be very interesting to watch West Indies Vs South Africa. I’m not sure if Bravo is ready by then.  

New Zealand Vs England
Nobody expected this game to be so one sided. England fell like a deck of cards to Southee’s late swingers. No batsman was willing to put their head down and support Root at the other end. In the end, England bundled to a paltry 125.  After Southee’s swingers, one would be tempted to expect an Anderson magic. McCullum completely took him to cleaners was a laugh riot.

I would say, it is little harsh on England to start their campaign against Australia and New Zealand, the two top sides of the pool. So defeats in these two matches were expected. The manner in which England were defeated was a tough pill to swallow. With Bangladesh game against Australia washed out, Bangladesh earned a point which they were supposed to lose. The game between England and Bangladesh will more or less decide who will proceed to the playoffs. Both pools have started to excite with each game making a purpose.

Thanks to associates for producing nail biters. Ireland Vs and UAE and Afganistan Vs Scotland and also the good fight by Afganistan against Sri Lanka.

Games to watch

New Zealand Vs Australia

West Indies Vs South Africa


Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Cricket World Cup 2015 begins...

The CWC 2015 started with the bang. Full houses for the NZ – SL, AUS – ENG and IND – PAK games. All the three games produced expected results. The winners (New Zealand, Australia and India) in their respective games delivered convincing victories.

Australia - England

Australia was momentarily brought to earth when England quickly pegged the wickets of Warner, Watson and Smith. But then the steep batting line up proved to be too much for England to hammer down. Finch, Bailey, Maxwell, Marsh and Haddin made sure Australia posted a mammoth 330+ on that huge MCG ground. England coming second was meagerly a formality.

For records, Finch scored century. The first century of the tournament while Finn bagged the first 5fer including a hat-trick in the final over. Clarke sat out for the opener. If Watson extends his poor run for another game or two and if Marsh continues to succeed like the way he is doing currently, it would not be too long before Australia flips Watson for Clarke. At the moment, Clock ticking for Watson.

New Zealand – Sri Lanka

One has to say, it is unfortunate for Sri Lanka to start their WC campaign against New Zealand.

India – Pakistan

The match hardly lived up to the hype. Pakistan barely put up a show against India. Kohli yet again hogged the lime light with a timely century. Shikar Dhawan, who has been under scanner for a while, sealed his spot in the XI by delivering in the game that matters. Raina made the most use of the weak Pakistan attack with his onslaught.

Now that Pakistan lost to India, they should revisit their strategy to get the campaign back on track. No business for Younis Khan to open the innings. It should be Shezad and Jameshed opening and Umar akmal should bat at No.3. Also there is no room for Umar Akmal to do wicket keeping. By any means, their bowling still looks brittle. The game against West Indies should be a good test for both Pakistan and West Indies.

West Indies - Ireland

This was the first upset of the WC. If you could foresee, this was always on the cards. I would prefer to blame the board. The board failed to pick the best possible squad for a global event simply because it could not sort out the difference of opinion (remember mid series pull out by WI players from India Tour). On top of it, the board named a kid as the Captain to be their ‘yes sir’. After all, the board must have thought that their best side is not going to win the WC. If they mix and match, the side could still make it to the playoffs. And one good day for any of their batsman/bowlers, WI could be playing the SF. And then everybody is proud of their little team’s achievement for making it this far. Obviously, things not going according to the plan.

The match up against Pakistan makes it very interesting. Two vulnerable teams playing against each other. This should be fun to watch.  

Zimbabwe Vs South Africa

Everybody expected a meek surrender of Zimbabwe against South Africa. Interestingly, Zimbabwe pulled a rabbit out and was ready to upset the giant when South Africa scorecard read 83/4. Thanks to brilliant centuries from Miller and Duminy that saved the day for South Africa with a total of 339. One would assume Zimbabwe would put a pity display chasing 339. Interestingly, Zimbabwe surprised with a batting performance 190/2 at the end of 30 overs. At this point the match was evenly poised. After Masakadza was dismissed at 80, the rest of the unit failed to take the challenge and finished at 277. Nevertheless it was a good fight by Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe Vs UAE

The performance against the fellow African nation must have given the confidence to chase the target of 287 successfully against UAE. Probably the best match of the tournament so far. This rises Zimbabwe’s hopes of making it to the playoffs.

Games ahead…

After India beat Pakistan the confidence of the team and also the faith of the followers must have sky rocketed. To me, the match against South Africa is the real litmus test. This match will reveal as to how steep India can run into the tournament. If India can upset South Africa convincingly, then India can certainly fancy their chances of going past QF or even SF stages of the tournament. May be win finals??? That’s far fetch at the moment!!!

The failure of WI to overcome Ireland has certainly opened up Pool B. Zimbabwe’s fight against South Africa and Zimbabwe’s successful chase of UAE total bring Zimbabwe into contention. Of course, Ireland has already upset WI and is ahead of the race. Vulnerable Pakistan and West Indies in Pool B spice up the story. Between Zimbabwe, Ireland, Pakistan, West Indies, two of them should seal the bottom half of Pool B. Pakistan Vs West Indies match up should throw some light on the standings. If Pakistan can beat West Indies (which I expect to happen) then the fight for the last spot would be between Ireland and Zimbabwe alongside Pakistan as the third team. However, If West Indies can overcome Pakistan, Pool B gets exciting.

Scotland made a mockery of New Zealand when New Zealand lost as many 4 wickets inside 30 runs chasing a total of 142. In the end New Zealand chased the target losing 7 wickets. This should spice the game against England.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cricket World Cup 2015 Preview - Part 2

South Africa

There is never a debate about South Africa making it to the playoffs. The question is where/when they will choke? Can they get past the demon and emerge winner in this edition is the surprise left.

As far as the combination goes, they are simply terrific. Amla, DeKock, DuPlessis, DeVilliers, Duminy, Miller, Philander, Steyn, Morkel, Tahir makes them a wonderful side. Tahir can be touch expensive, but then the big grounds of Australia should do its bit to help him among wickets. Surely a Jacques Kallis in the lineup, could have delivered that final punch. But then the World is probably gearing up for next generation of cricketers and this WC could be the start of a new fairy tale stories.

SA is positioned in Pool B alongside India, West Indies, Pakistan, UAE, Ireland and Zimbabwe. South Africa is expected to top the group and most likely face England/Sri Lanka in the QF. Another day, England or Sri Lanka is walk over for SA, but then in WC with the strong chokers tag, it is anybody’s guess when SA takes on any team in play off stage. South Africa would prefer to play Sri Lanka in QF for a spot in SF. I punt South Africa to make it to SF. 

New Zealand

New Zealand has not disappointed (if you set your expectations correct) in WC outings. 75, 79, 92, 99, 2007, 2011 they made it to the SF. 96 and 2003 they exited in QF. Probably the 92 version is the only version they looked real threat to win the trophy after England. However, Pakistan ended up winning the edition was the ultimate climax. 

This Kiwi squad is looking good on paper for a spot in SF. McCullum and Williamson has hit a purple patch. Taylor at 4 and finishers like Anderson and Ronchi should make a decent combination. It would have been good if New Zealand retained Jimmy Neesham in the squad. Southee, Boult, Mclenghan, Milne are looking fantastic pace quartet. I’m sure 3 will certainly feature in the XI at any time.

New Zealand is positioned alongside Australia, England, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Scotland in Pool A. New Zealand is expected to finish second in the Pool. So they will most likely take on Pakistan/West Indies in the QF. WI without Pollard and Bravo is certainly a weak unit. If it is Pakistan, New Zealand would like to settle scores for the 92 debacle. All in all New Zealand should roll into SF comfortably.

West Indies

With Bravo and Pollard out of the World Cup, I certainly have no hopes in this side. The board should have realized the importance of participating in a global event. What fun if you don’t send your best side to an event of this magnitude?

West Indies should make it to QF. Gayle storm and some good outings from Samuels is all I’m looking forward to.


They have been a dark horse in any cricket tournament. It is difficult to predict who performs when and at what time. From nowhere, Pakistan keeps producing match winners. Again there is no doubt they will make it to QF stage. Beyond QF, I doubt this team making any inroads.

Ahmad Shezad, Nasir Jamshed, Umar Akmal, Afridi are the players I’m personally looking forward to. It would have been terrific if Pakistan featured Junaid Khan and Saeed Ajmal. It is Shame to see both these players missing out. We know the reasons as why they miss out. Wasim Akram yesterday on commentary against England (warm up) felt that Pakistan missed out Sohail Tanvir, Safraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik. I’m sure he knows better about their resources. But Pakistan Vs New Zealand QF should be very exciting. But kiwis will settle score in that case. 

Sri Lanka

There is a nice balance of youth and experience. Sangakara, Jayarwardane, Dilshan, Malinga, Herath. And then there is Mendis, Chandimal, Thirumanne, Kulasekara, Senanayake. This is a classic unit to play cricket in sub-continent. Outside the sub-continent, no hope.

Generally, they have been a good side since 1996 WC. Not this time.


England is my dark horse of this tournament. Their bowling unit looks settled with Anderson, Broad, Finn, Tredwell, Jordon. It is the question of the batting talents coming to party. Morgan, Moeen Ali, Root, Bell, Hales, Ballance, Bopara are all good talents for sure. Surely inclusion of Kevin Pieterson, Cook and Greame Swann could have made England a side to beat. Well, there is no point discussing what is not there.

We just have to hope that players like Gary Ballance, Alex Hales, Bopara rise to the occasion. Looking forward to Root show this WC.

If India finish 2 and England finish 3, England has better odds of making it to the SF. But then, it will hit ICC's revenue bucket big time if India miss out in QF. 


 “Save your best for the last”. Australia is undoubtedly the best side of this WC. One would truly envy the composition of this side. Warner, Finch, Watson, Smith, Clarke/Bailey, Maxwell, Haddin, Johnson, Faulkner, Hasselwood,  Cummins, Marsh, Doherty, Starc.

This is the best that money can buy you. During the previous edition of WC, India broke the jinx by winning the WC, despite being a host. So the jinx is already broken.

I personally don’t see or a need for Australia to play Smith, Clarke and Bailey in the same side. Smith is easily better than the other two in the list. The management is left to choose between Clarke and Bailey in the XI. Personally, I've never felt Clarke as a great one day cricketer. I would like to go Bailey way. But then, I've no idea how Australia think tank look at this problem. Their spin department is probably little weak. I think it should not be huge deal as the World Cup is not played in sub-continent.

Anyways, this appears to be Australia’s World Cup. An Australia – South Africa finals should be a fitting World Cup finale. If there is one side that is well equipped to challenge Australia in all departments, it is South Africa. Also history says, Australia – South Africa produce great cricket contests. If that happens, I will be rooting for South Africa to break the jinx.

PS: About minnows, oh yeah, there will be an odd upset here and there. But no way any minnow is making it to the play offs. ICC learnt their lessons from 2007 WC. 2011 was only a prelude to the current format.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cricket World Cup 2015 Preview - Part 1

Hardly 3 days left to the beginning of another edition of Cricket World Cup (CWC). Almost after 23 years, the WC is returning to Australia/New Zealand soils. I fondly remember the 1992 edition of WC, the first time a CWC was played in colored clothes. As a matter of fact, I still feel the jerseys designed during the 1992 edition are the best so far. It would have been fantastic, if the current WC is also played in the same format as the 1992 edition with the same jersey template except for different colors adopted by teams currently. Back then, 9 teams played against each other one time. The top 4 qualified for Semi Finals. And, India did not make it. India had a horrid WC’92 except for beating Pakistan. Javed Mianded mocking Kiran More was a funny incident.

Other memories include, Ajay Jadeja running forward, bending down to snap a low one near ankles was a visual treat. Indians were not great fielders those days and India largely fielded a very young side then. Mark Greatbatch as pinch hitting opener for New Zealand was a huge success. For the first time I witnessed a spinner (Dipak Patel) bowling with the new ball. India tried pinch hitter by sending Kapil Dev to open the batting with Srikanth. That move backfired though. Also Jonty Rhodes running out of Inzamam was classic. And of course nobody can forget the infamous England win over South Africa on D/L method. It was a pity South Africa lost the match when rain intervened and D/L target read 22 runs of 1 ball as final equation. That South Africa exit felt very painful at that time. And then they went onto become chokers is a different story.

So, CWC in Australia/New Zealand certainly brings back fond memories of the earlier edition. Memories are always fond, for now we will move on. 

Most of the teams are currently working out combinations both in the warm up matches and also in recently played ODIs prior to WC.

From my perspective let’s see what are everyone chances.


India is probably the most advantageous side after the hosts Australia and New Zealand. They have been playing here for the past 2 months or so, certainly well acclimatized to conditions. Also there is not too much of face change between the Test and ODI side, which means they are much settled squad. In terms of India’s chances, I will be elated if India could even make it to the Semi Finals. I’ve no idea why selectors are backing Dhawan this far. It would have made more sense to have in-form Vijay over Dhawan in the side and Yuvraj over Jadeja (considering Yuvi has been doing reasonably well in the ongoing Ranji season). But then, it is difficult to pick selectors brains. At the outset, it looks like Rohit and Rahane will open and Dhawan deserves axe. Kohli should/will go back to his No.3 slot. In the warm up match over Afghanistan, India played Raina at 4. It looked good ploy with a left hander coming at 4 especially, if Dhawan not playing. Rayudu could fit at No.5, while Dhoni, Jadeja/Axar, Ashwin, Binny/Bhuvi, Yadav, Shami/Mohit to follow. The World is looking forward to Kohli, but I strongly punt on Rohit Sharma to rock and roll this WC.

India is positioned in Pool B alongside South Africa, West Indies, Pakistan, UAE, Ireland and Zimbabwe. India is expected to come second or third in the group. They would prefer to come second as they could avoid facing Australia/New Zealand in the QF. In that event of India coming second in the pool means India is likely to take on Sri Lanka or England depending on who finishes 3 in the other pool. If India plays Sri Lanka in QF, then it is advantage India. If India faces England, then the recent outings against England in the tri-series don’t augur well.

By any means, I don’t see this Indian team having enough ammo to get past SF. Thanks to the resources of the bowling department, certainly not very convincing for a cup winning side. Also prefer to see a strong match winning candidate like Yuvraj/Sehwag at No.4. Dhoni can step in at No.4 and take that role, but then India will lack a finisher. Guys like Jadeja and Binny dont have that caliber to be a finisher in these Australian conditions.

Personally I would rejoice if India gets past QF. If India fails to make it to QF, Dhoni retires from all forms of cricket.

PS: This blog was started during 2011 WC. We survived 4 years now. 

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