Sunday, March 20, 2011
As the League Phase Clears, nothing is clear
It's been the fastest month in the past 4 years, and I've loved almost every moment of it! 42 intriguing games, some of which inconsequential, most of which, pulsating, just got over. And, surely, this has been the best world cup I've witnessed.
After the league phase, there is no clear favourite to win the World Cup. Every team has had atleast one of their problem disclosed public. This makes the tournament even more interesting moving into the last 7 games.
A special mention to Ireland for bringing life into the tournament. They won only twice, but they gave their opponents a run for their money, and also created havoc in the points table. Bangladesh were so close, yet so far. But, a team that couldn't score more than 100 twice in the tournament doesn't deserve a spot in the QF, howsoever I would want to emotionally sympathize with them.
Australia, who were looking "clear favourites" during the course of the tournament were made to look ordinary against Pakistan. Australian bowling revolves around the 60 balls released from the palm of Brett Lee. Tait wasn't imposing, and Johnson was good in patches. Batting looks fine, but if Australia can replace Ponting and White with better batsmen things would look better. Oh, Ponting is the captain, sorry.
South Africa have looked the best amongst the teams to have qualified for the semifinals. Their batting has been very good, except for Smith, who managed some good runs vs Bangladesh in their last league match. After one lone trouble vs England, the middle order survived to carry the team past India. Bowling, led by the pace battery of Steyn and Morkel have been pretty hard to do away with. So too, with their new found spin-duo, Imran Tahir and Botha (if at all he spins), SA have a good variety.
India have just about managed to keep their heads up with a sound victory over WI. India's inability to accelerate in the final overs against SA and WI is a clear cause of concern, as is bowling in he slog overs (vs Eng, vs SA). Batting looks good, bowling has started to look better, in isolation.
Sri Lanka have been good against lesser opponents, were over-shadowed by Pakistan and couldn't play a complete game against Aus. Their bowling is revolving around Murali and Malinga, while Perera and Kulasekara have been consistently causing the batsmen a problem of scoring off them. Sri Lanka have had a taste of the Whakede and have come out good. Whatever happens, I am not ready to eat another India- Sri Lanka game. Let the tournament follow any other path possible. IND-SL... damn, the.most.boring.thing.in.cricket.
England have been the clear entertainers in this world cup. Somehow, by losing to Bangladesh and Ireland, and dodging the axe against Nederlands, England managed to tie with India, strangle SA and sneak a pulsating victory to cancel their flight back home and stayed in the competition. They have lacked discipline in bowling, as almost all their good bowlers have gotten injured or lost form...COMPLETELY. Their batting has looked fine at times, and fragile at other times. Inconsistency will be the best way to describe them.
Pakistan have carried a good momentum into the QF stage, after seemingly losing it in the middle of the tournament. They started the campaign on a high after owning Kenya and getting the better of SL, but then were made to do some soul searching in the game vs Canada and were shocked in the last 10 overs by Ross Taylor... Well, credits to some filthy slog bowling by Pakistan and cleverly taken PowerPlay by NZ. Pakistani bowling looks very strong with Umar Gul leading the pace department, and specialist spinners, Afridi-Hafeez-Rehman taking good care of the run flow on turning pitches. Batting is fragile, of course.
West Indies is now a side with a good top order batting, vapourising middle-order and a good bowling line-up. Roach, Benn, Russell have looked good. And now, Bishoo and Rampaul have added themselves to the list. Devon Smith and Devon Thomas, both came in as emergency replacement for Barath and Baugh and have been excellent with the opening and 'keeping respectively. Gayle has looked good with the bat, playing in two gears. Brian Charles Lara-II has looked solid in the middle like a diamond.
New Zealand have suddenly lost their wheels after Vettori got injured and missed their encounter vs SL, where they completely failed with the bat. NZ have depended on their looooooooooooooong batting line up to "click" against opponents. It did vs Pakistan, but failed horribly vs Australia and SL. Atleast they were able to recover vs Australia. Their bowling has been dependent on Vettori, who would want to make his return to the line up soon, and Southee, who has looked exceptionally good in recent times. Oram, Styris, Mills, Bennett have all made good contributions, when they collectively perform well. Other times, they've looked ignorable. Nathan McCullum has been their best player, multi-dimensionally.
Breathtaking one month, a nail-biting Group-B music, and a few good games in group A. This World Cup has been what I expected it to be - full of fun! Almost all days have been very pleasing. Some excellent games coming up in the next week as the knock-out fixtures start!
23rd - PAKvsWI, Mirpur
24th - INDvsAUS, Ahmedabad
25th - SAvsNZ, Mirpur
26th - ENGvsSL, Colombo.
A dream QF for me as WI and Pakistan lock horns in the most beautiful match of the world cup. If things go the way I want, it will be an IND-PAK semi-final. And that will satisfy my quench for the world cup. Anything happening in the semi-finals and the finals is controlled only by the Cricket God.
Let the best team win!
De Ghuma Ke