100 overs. 676 runs. 18 wickets. 2 brilliant centuries. 1 five-wicket haul. 4th tie in World Cup history and the 3rd involving India. These are all statistics which will go down in the record books, but they will never be able to convey the intense drama which began with the first ball edge from Sehwag’s blade and ended with a frantical single by Swann and Shahzad off the last ball of the match. In between these two balls, an epic tussle between two top teams took place – both teams trading punches throughout the game, Tendulkar’s masterclass overshadowed by Strauss’ captain’s knock, Bresnan’s brilliant death over bowling matched by Zaheer’s devastating powerplay spell, England’s lower order hitting sixes on demand while the Indian fielding was uncharacteristically sharp in the dying stages of the game. Already, many are calling it as one of the finest ODIs in history, let alone World Cup history. Enough match reports and analysis will be written about in the next couple of days. So I will just stick to images from the classic, which was the perfect advertisement for One Day International cricket. Enjoy!
'The last World Cup match held in Bangalore was a classic between India and Pakistan. Wonder how today is gonna be'
'Hey Stumpy, should I choose to bat or to bowl?'
'Alright..Lets get the party started!'
'47th century. 2nd against England in 9 years...wait..what??'
'This is Jimmy's first wicket in India since 2006; Looks like he is done for the rest of the World Cup, then'
'Sorry Raina..you have to wait a bit longer to break into the team, now'
'I hope you picked me in your fantasy XI, Swanny!'
'You gotta be kidding me, KP...you couldn't even wait for Yuvi to come on, could you?''
'Haha...they said that I shouldn't figure in the World Cup..2 matches in, I'm the leading run scorer..who's the muppet now?'
'This is T for terrible...and you wonder why we aren't big fans of the UDRS'
'Alright, lets take the powerplay..whats the worst that could happen, right?'
'Ah..drat..I should have trusted my patented nudges instead'
'This ain't over till I say it is'
'Watch his hands, Aj...He might just slap you!'
'Don't look now...Sehwag doesn't look pleased!'
Ireland will be the next opponent for both teams; England play them on the 2nd, while India take them on in a week’s time. Still, questions remain over both team’s bowling departments. How soon they can remedy that, will determine how far they will progress in the tournament.
The World Cup is not even a week old, but the grumblings about bloated schedules and minnows devaluing the tournament are in full force. To an extent, they are fair given the performance of Kenya, Canada and Zimbabwe. So far, only the Dutch have done a terrific job of providing a contest; but I will reserve my judgment till Ireland get their campaign going.
If there is one ‘minnow’ team capable of putting up a contest in every game, it is Ireland. They made their World Cup debut in 2007 and had a dream run, starting off with a tie against Zimbabwe and in the biggest upset in World Cup history – knocked out Pakistan through a thrilling 3 wicket win.
While the subcontinent heavyweights returned home in shame, a bunch of amateur cricketers (who had the least experience in the tournament but made up for it with sheer joy and love of the game), entered the Super 8s, to face the big boys. Inevitably, they faced tougher games and bowed out before the knock-out stage; but not before defeating another Test playing nation in the form of Bangladesh. They returned home, much later than they would have imagined, but with a story to tell their grandkids in the future.
Four years on, lots has changed. The profile of cricket has changed in Ireland. All except two are professional cricketers, in the squad. Now, they come with expectations to not just compete, but to claim at least one big scalp. Considering that they have West Indies and Bangladesh in their group, it is not an unrealistic proposition.
Their recent form may have been patchy, but there is no doubt that in the likes of Botha, Dockrell, Johnston, Joyce, the O’Brien brothers, Porterfield and Rankin – they have the players to rise up to the occasion, and join the Dutch in giving the ICC something to think about.
Hello World…So, I have been away from cricket for a few days attending to non-cricket matters; and when I return, I see that apart from a Sehwag thumping, a Lankan mauling and a couple of other Associates-bashing matches, I didn’t miss much.
Anyway, I was checking my blog stats when I was stunned to see that my World Cup preview post had got a total of 3,844 hits since it was published on Feb 2, and that the highest number (765) was on the day before the World Cup opener. Still, only about 196 people voted in the opinion poll as to who will lift the trophy on April 2, and this is what I learnt.
India lead the way, with 44 percent believing that they will win; I suspect this is more out of optimism than anything else.
There is a broad consensus that a subcontinent team will lift the trophy, as the 2nd, 3rd and 4th placed are Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Shockingly, South Africa only got 8 votes, which is a vast underestimation of their ability and overestimation of their choking skills.
Australia and West Indies got three votes each, with England getting just two. When West Indies are given more of a chance to lift the trophy than England, there is something wrong somewhere.
What?? You can't be serious!!
New Zealand got no takers, while there is at least one person who believes that any one of the associate nations can walk away with the trophy.
Anyway, the World Cup is just getting warmed up, and predictably it is the minnows who are facing most of the heat; but a week of interesting clashes is coming up – South Africa vs West Indies, Australia vs New Zealand, Sri Lanka vs Pakistan and India vs England. It will provide the earliest indicator of which teams are serious contenders for the title.
Funny, how the fate of two players rests on a third one. Dhoni gave the first clear hints that Kohli will play instead of Raina in the first few matches, and that he would occupy the number 4 slot. Dhoni gave some sound reasons for this – Kohli is not your typical ODI slogger like Raina (despite showcasing the destructive side of his batting in the IPL and CLT20). He has been more successful at the top of the order, where he takes time to build his innings and almost always ensures a certain respectability to the team total. Now, with the likes of Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gambhir, Kohli forms the most impressive top order in the World Cup. This will allow the likes of Yuvraj, Dhoni and Pathan to explode towards the latter half of the innings. Raina is unlucky to miss out after hitting some sort of form in the NZ game, but as of now, it is risky to expect an out-of-sorts Yuvraj to shore up the middle order in case of a top order collapse.
Logically, Yuvraj should be the one missing out; but his experience in ICC tournaments and improved bowling pushes him just slightly ahead of Raina. So he will occupy the number 5 slot, where India hope that he will eventually find his groove and put up consistent performances.
Interestingly, that is not the end of the story. Apparently, if Yuvraj regains his form, then he will reclaim the number 4 slot, and Kohli will lose his spot to Raina who will come at number 6 to provide late fireworks. I’m not too sure about this plan, as it would mean that the fate of Raina and Kohli depends on the form of Yuvraj. What if Kohli has had a good World Cup till then, or if by bringing Raina in midway, the dynamics of the team composition is disrupted at a critical time. If Dhoni and Kirsten decide on a certain team composition, they should stick with it unless injury or poor form strikes. It doesn’t make sense, for one man’s good form to cause another in-form player to lose his spot in the playing XI.
One should not read too much into warm-up matches. Teams take these games as opportunities to try their reserve players, try different strategies and try to come out the game injury-free! It is not an accurate indicator of how the teams are going to perform in the main matches, but it does give an idea of which players might fare better individually.
In that context, Piyush Chawla might have silenced a few of his critics in the process of grabbing a match-winning haul against the Aussies at Bangalore. Personally, I’m a little ambivalent towards his performance. The conditions were loaded in his favor, and the Aussies didn’t really seem to have a concrete plan towards playing spin. Still, to give Chawla his due, he made the most of his opportunity and bowled really well, particularly in the second spell. On the way, he took one step ahead of Ashwin, who himself had a decent game with both bat and ball. Given the unreliability of the 3rd seamer, Dhoni might eventually go with two specialist spinners and Chawla made a good case for himself. Still, I will be convinced only after I see how he fares against better players of spin and in unfavorable conditions.
The World Cup is unofficially underway, with a few practice matches already having taken place, and the first league game less than a week away. The experts can argue about the relevance of ODI matches today, but there is nothing like a World Cup to get cricket fever going. Anyway, here are some final points before the tournament opener begins:
For those interested in playing the Cricinfo World Cup Fantasy game, do log in, create a team and join my league ‘Cricophiles United’ and enter the pin 1020.
For those inclined towards predicting the outcomes of the games, you can play Cricket Pick’em, where you can join my league at ‘Cricophiles United’.
With less than 10 days to go, dreams have already been crushed for a few players, while for others who were initially passed over, the chance to shine on the biggest stage of all, beckons.
Out go Michael Hussey, Nathan Hauritz, Praveen Kumar and Eoin Morgan – all ruled out due to different injuries; by no means, this list is complete. Expect few others (mostly from England) to join this list in the coming days.
In come Callum Ferguson, Jason Krejza, Sreesanth and Ravi Bopara – who all (with the exception of Krejza) had reasons to be aggrieved due to their exclusions from the original squads.
Hussey’s absence is a huge blow for a struggling Australian batting line-up. They might have won the recent ODI series at home comfortably, but in the subcontinent, against fresher sides they will need someone of Hussey’s experience and caliber to pull them through the inevitable collapses that are bound to happen. Callum Ferguson has an impressive record in ODIs, but he has huge shoes to fill.
The loss of Hauritz is another blow. While he was fit during the Ashes, the selectors were blind to him; but when they pick him for the World Cup, he comes down with an injury. He is possibly the only threatening spinner in Australia and Krejza will not have the same impact as Hauritz, despite his heroics in India on Test debut.
I am not too sure about how much Praveen Kumar’s absence will be felt. Despite being an important part of the bowling attack for a while, of late he has dropped off in form (possibly related to his fitness issues). So, it might be a blessing in disguise for India to get a fitter, more fiery Sreesanth instead.
On the other hand, England’s chances just took a hit after Morgan’s exclusion. He was the major reason for England’s improved ODI performances and his ice cool temperament with innovative strokes will be missed. Bopara is in good form, and it remains to be seen whether he can replicate that in the World Cup. To make matters worse, there are still a few others in the squad, over whom injury concerns still remain. Even if one or two of them can’t make it, England can kiss their chances good-bye.
The World Cup is finally upon us! The premier ODI competition which comes around every four years and confers bragging rights as the World Champion in that format is being held this time in the subcontinent, which should heavily favor teams such as India, Sri Lanka and dare I say, Bangladesh. Despite the arrivals of the World T20 championships, IPL, Champions League and doubts over the future of ODIs, the World Cup continues to stay relevant as it has for the last four decades; for the simple reason that it has history behind it, and that present day cricketers grew up watching their heroes battling it out in the biggest stage of their days. So, the competition will be intense, and the players have the chance to make/break their careers based on their performances. Without much further ado, here are the chances of the 9 Test playing nations based on their team composition:
One of the best placed teams to win the tournament. They have the ingredients needed to go all the way through: an attacking opening combination, two world class middle order batsmen, power packed allrounders who can win a game with either bat or ball, a spin legend in home conditions, tricky combination of sling, seam and pace and the best Asian fielding, to boot. Anything less than an entry to the Final should be considered a failure.
MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Piyush Chawla, R Ashwin
The last time India played in a World Cup at home, the campaign ended in tears at Kolkata in the semi-finals. This time, nothing short of winning the tournament will do for thousands of cheering, crazy fans. They have one of the most balanced teams in the fray with a power-packed batting order and a canny bowling attack. In home conditions, expect the likes of Yuvraj, Dhoni and Pathan to play some big innings, and for Harbhajan and Zaheer to be among the wickets. The team as a whole, will be under a lot of pressure; but in Dhoni, they have one of the calmest skippers in the game; and they would love to win the Cup for Tendulkar in what could be his last outing in a tournament which he has owned since 1992.
Graeme Smith (capt), Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, AB de Villiers (wk), JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Colin Ingram, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Morne van Wyk (wk)
With the team they have, they can go as far as the semifinals. After that, it is all a matter of coping with the pressure of doing what no other SA cricket team has done before – not screw it up! They have a fearsome pace attack and a couple of batsmen in good nick, but the likes of Smith, de Villiers, and the spinners will have to do their part if they want to make Smith’s last ODI assignment as skipper, memorable. This is one of their best opportunities to shake off the ‘C’ tag once and for all.
Shane Watson, Brad Haddin (wk), Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, David Hussey, Cameron White, Tim Paine (wk), Steven Smith, John Hastings, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Hauritz, Brett Lee, Shaun Tait, Doug Bollinger.
(Edit: Michael Hussey and Nathan Hauritz replaced with Callum Ferguson and Jason Krejza)
It is typical of the Australian team, that when you start to write off their chances, they come back with a fighting performance, as they did recently against England. They are ranked number 1 in the world, but I don’t give them much chance of reaching the semis, as their selections are flawed and they have injury concerns regarding their main players. Their only spinner who was good, is injured and the remaining one in the squad is not fit to be in the squad either for his batting or bowling. Their batting is prone to collapse, and the bowling attack is comprised of players who are too injury prone. They will make it to the quarters, but hard to see them progressing beyond that. Still, it is the World Cup, and the last time Australia was beaten in a WC encounter was more than a decade ago! They have a proud record to maintain, and it might yet see Ponting and his men cock a snook at their detractors. Unlikely, but possible. Also, this will be the last hurrah for the likes of Ponting and Lee in World Cups and they will be keen to cap off their ODI careers in style.
Andrew Strauss (capt), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Eoin Morgan, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Ajmal Shahzad, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Jonathan Trott, Luke Wright, Michael Yardy
It is hard to justify my predictions for England reaching the semis, given their performance down under. Still, they have got a supremely talented ODI side, and this is the best placed English team to win their first ever ODI World Cup (injuries aside). They have a lot of talented batters, who if they get going, can set up a big total or chase one down. In the bowling stakes, they have the world’s best spinner and two talented pacers who can win a game on their own. They are also a very good fielding unit, to boot. Now, if they can only elicit some sort of consistency and stability from their batting – they will go a long way towards lifting the trophy at the Wankhede stadium on April 2nd.
Daniel Vettori, Hamish Bennett, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Jamie How, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Luke Woodcock.
When you take a look at the players in this squad, it is a wonder that they don’t win more often. The Kiwis have always been good at the World Cup and make it a habit of making it to the semifinals before getting knocked out. This time, on the back of two consecutive heavy series defeats in the subcontinent, it is hard to see them making it past the quarterfinal stage. Still, they are one of the most multi-faceted teams in the fray, packed with batsmen who can bowl and bowlers who can bat (allrounder, in other words!) and they are traditionally a brilliant fielding side as well. So, if Vettori can inspire his men in his last outing as captain, they have all the talented players needed to win their first ever World Cup.
Darren Sammy (capt), Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Devon Smith, Sulieman Benn, Nikita Miller, Carlton Baugh (wk), Andre Rusell, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Adrian Barath.
Another multi-faceted team, which has been playing below its potential for a long time. When a team has the likes of Gayle, Bravo and Pollard to explode, complementing the stability of Sarwan and Chanderpaul and the youthful exuberance of Darren Bravo and Barath – they should not be in the bottom rung of the rankings. Of course, it is much harder when a number of your first choice bowers are injured for the most part of their careers. Their bowling, despite the likes of Sammy, Dwayne Bravo, Roach and Benn, is their weakness and it will take the best of their abilities and discipline to get to the knockout stage ahead of Bangladesh. If they do make it to the quarters, they stand as good a chance as anyone else to make it all the way to the final.
Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal (wk), Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanvir, Ahmed Shehzad
It is safe to say that despite all the turmoil and uncertainties surrounding Pakistan cricket, they will make it to the quarterfinals and give a serious challenge for the title. Afridi, Razzaq and Younis Khan are veterans who have seen it all and they are complemented by a bunch of players who will be itching for World Cup glory. They have a talented batting lineup, which is rather prone to implosions and a disciplined bowling attack which might not run through any line-up but will definitely keep the opposition batsmen honest (Thank you, Mr Shastri). Still, there will be a tremendous load of pressure on a team whose board did not even bother announcing the skipper till the 11th hour and who will be the only subcontinent team not to play their matches at home. Anything better than getting knocked out in the quarterfinals can be considered a major success.
Personally, the dark horse of the tournament. They have had two back to back successful home series against New Zealand and Zimbabwe, and are riding on a crest of confidence right now. They will be playing their games in familiar conditions backed by a raucous home crowd. They have one of the finest openers in Tamim Iqbal and the best allrounder in Shakib al Hasan – who will be reinforced by players who have learnt to punch above their weight in the shorter formats of the game. I favor them to get to the quarters ahead of West Indies and with a bit of luck can go even further.Also, be prepared to see an endless loop of left-arm spin bowling, when Bangladesh is on the field.
As you can see, at least six teams will back themselves to win this tournament and as a consequence the World Cup will be the most open contest since 1999. Will Murali end his ODI career the same way he ended his Test career? Will Tendulkar get to taste World Cup glory at home, in his 6th and possibly final attempt? Or will Smith or Vettori sign off as ODI skippers in style? All these answers and more will be finally answered in Mumbai on April 2nd, at the end of what promises to be a fascinating and well fought tournament. May the best team (hopefully, mine!) win…
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