Monday, March 23, 2015

The Big Semis...

Here we are at the Semi Finals of Cricket World Cup 2015. As expected New Zealand, India, Australia and South Africa made it deservingly. I’ve no apprehension using the word deservingly. After all, all the 4 Quarter Finals were pretty much one sided, except losing teams in each of these games, created few moments of glory, that failed to last long. The performance of Wahab Riyaz was the best of all.
Anyways, these were the top 4 teams right from the word go, hence the reason they are all here for the Semi-Final battle. Don’t know who will go all the way at the moment.
I was casually reviewing the previews (Preview 1, Preview 2) that I wrote last month before the start of the WC. This is just to see how much things changed from then and now. Interestingly there is not much of change. And at the moment, it does look like South Africa Vs Australia finals could hold waters. They both are certainly the two strong teams on paper (keyword is PAPER). They already have a loss or two under their belt (just to say that the monkey is out of the hat). And, they are facing India and New Zealand with whom they have very good records in ODI’s and also in WC’s (previous editions) as well.
Do I want an Australia Vs South Africa Finals?
Nope. Certainly not!!! My heart truly beats for India Vs New Zealand finals. India, because my home country. New Zealand because they have been a popular underdog side (I didn’t mean they are an underdog in this WC) and would be very happy if they lift it. Oh yeah, will be happy for South Africans too, for breaking the chokers jinx. But South Africa stands last in the line.
Let us get into serious analysis.
South Africa Vs New Zealand
Of all the odds, who expected Martin Guptill to score a double century in the Quarter Finals against West Indies? Not me for sure. Now, he has become a new star of the side. The point is - you see a new star emerging every day to face the battle when it is not McCullum / Williamson or the bowlers. So, it could be Anderson, Elliot or even Ronchi against South Africa in the Semis.  Despite New Zealand batting being brittle, their bowling have been fantastic (Oh yeah, I’ve no qualms using the word brittle. We witnessed what happened against Scotland and Australia). Except for Bangladesh in the group match, New Zealand managed to all out all the oppositions they played so far.  Success of the team is largely defined by the bowlers with Boult, Southee and Vettori top notch. New Zealand definitely stands tall in this department.
On paper, I’ve no hesitation calling South Africa because they are a better side (again on paper). They also broke the jinx of losing out in the playoffs by winning the Quarter Finals. Amla at the top is sheer genius. De Kock is finding his feet. Du Plessis is their next anchor. And then De Villiers, Miller and Duminy are there to wreak havoc when they get a good start. Except India in the group match, they have bowled out all the opposition. This is without the World’s best bowler (Steyn) firing so far. You can imagine what happens when he starts doing his little show with the ball. Already Morkel and Tahir are in good form. So, I’ve no trouble putting my money on South Africa and I’ve no problem ignoring the big CHOKERS tag they have. But, heart beats for New Zealand.
India Vs Australia
Traditionally Australians have been very good side. I don’t want to analyze too much about them except I wish to point out that – their shortness was exposed by New Zealand and Wahab Riaz of Pakistan. So, they are a crack-able side. The question is when or who will crack them up?
Now, who would have been so optimistic of India’s chances prior to the start of the WC? They are not doing great in the ODI’s in the past year or so (especially in the bilateral series). Let’s start from the ODI series in SA in Dec’13. India lost the series 2-0, lost to New Zealand (4-0) in Jan’14 (played at NZ). Failed to qualify for the Asia Cup finals that held in Feb – Mar’ 14. But they beat Bangladesh 2-0 in May’14. Then they went on to beat England 3-1 in Aug – Sep 14 (played at England). And then, they failed to qualify the finals of the Tri Series in Jan 2015 (played at Australia between India, England and Australia). That pretty much summarizes that India is not having any dream run in ODI’s. But then, are they this bad?
Certainly not!!! If you’ve followed India teams closely, you pretty much know that they are big tournament team. Prior to the start of the WC they looked ordinary. Once the tournament began, you could see them rock and roll. They are probably the only team in the entire tournament to bowl out all the opposition they have played thus far. Yet Indian bowlers remain under the radar. One of the pre-tournament star (Virat Kohli), is yet to fire (Oh yeah he had a century). I've no trouble calling for a “KOHLI TIME baby”.
It is my personal institution that Kohli will repeat a Sachin. I’m sure many of you may have watched Sachin’s Sharjah Storm in the 90s. Two back to back matches against mighty Australia – one to qualify India for the finals and the next to win it.
Just to spice it up let me share few stats that I had observed.
In the 2011 WC played in subcontinent, only one team outside subcontinent made it to SF (that is New Zealand). 2015 WC played outside subcontinent, only one team from subcontinent made it to the SF (that is India).

If you try to make a prediction - building on this logic, you will find India exiting in the SF of 2015 WC (NZ failed to go past SF in the 2011 WC). I know this is very disheartening to read for Indian fans. Never mind, when there is an odd against us, there is another odd in our favor too.
Let us date back few more years to the 1992 WC played in Australia/New Zealand. In the 1992 WC, you will find only one sub-continent team (Pakistan) made it to the SF. Guess who won that edition???
Bottom line: Bleeding Blueeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

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