Cricket - India

25 days into the world cup seems like a good time to compose my opinion and assessment on this mega event. The “not so interesting” matches are now almost over, and as far as the world cup is concerned, things should only look up from now on. Of course the way India has performed, i am having some serious apprehensions; in other words, some of my serious apprehensions have been confirmed.

I am sure almost all of you have some suggestions for our team, and i have been a personal witness to quite a few of those suggestions ranging from – “Dhoni should be chucked out of the team” to “Sachin should never score a century because India always loses when he does” (Gladly proven false here http://www.cricbuzz.com/cricket-news/38170/the-myth-about-sachin-ton-and-india-losing) . It always pleases the hell of me to see the passion that continues to flow through our heads and hearts when our team is down and doing ridiculously bad(ridiculous because i haven’t been able to explain it myself), and although the passion almost certainly comes out the wrong way, we would be the first ones to sit tight in front of the television, ready to waste another 10 hours, whenever the next game is.

Anyway, i’ll probably talk about the amazing Indian cricket fans some other time. I will use this space to express my thoughts on this world cup as it has happened, and a few predictions as well.

One thing i can say for certain is that after these 25 days no one team looks good enough to win the world cup, and i am not saying this just because India is not doing well. In the last 3 world cups, Australia were the firm favorites, right from the start. It used to be a question of who can perform better than Australia on a given day, and it had to be your day to beat Australia in a world cup game. Their unbeaten streak of 34 world cup games is a great testament to a super awesome team. And even though they may be able to achieve the same feat this time around as well, they are neither the favorites, nor do they look like the great team they once were. The hard part to digest has been how poor some of the other good teams have performed. And you only need the best out of bad teams to win the world cup.

1. England – ‘Strange’ is the only word i have for England. Their performance has been very unpredictable, which has partly made the matters for Group B extremely complicated. I dont believe i have seen a team do so well against the Number 1 and number 2 ranked teams and do so below par against the associate teams. Some people have attributed their loss to Ireland and Bangladesh to fatigue from the tough Ashes tour just prior to the world cup, but then their performance against South Africa and India was exceptional, so i refuse to accept that fatigue is the only cause for this erratic performance. It wont surprise me if they get their act together in the later stages of the tournament, provided they reach it first. Their last game against the West Indies will be interesting.

2. Pakistan – They have been good to say the least. Pakistan is not a side whom you will bet your money on, and their inconsistent style of play is almost a norm now. They are the ones who will surprise you any day with a fantastic performance and will similarly surprise you on another day with an equally bogus performance. My sympathies are with the team purely because every time they perform poorly, fingers are raised on their integrity and its not the easiest to continue playing well when half the world is blaming you.This inconsistency though makes them ever so dangerous and hot contenders for the world cup.

3. West Indies – A few good performances here and there, but definitely not the team that can lift the world cup. Their true test will be against the English and the Indians, and both the games should be very competitive given that India and England have put themselves in such terrible situations.

4. South Africa – I have personally never been a fan of the South Africans. The bias has nothing to do with the players themselves, but their commentators. I have written earlier about how bad these guys actually are; all they want is to keep proving how good South African team is, even before a ball is bowled, and their stupid analogies just makes TV viewing a painful experience. As far as the team is concerned, they are not the best in the world. Excuses about flat pitches and unfavorable environment (which practically all away teams are using), just prove that the team is good in only some circumstances and a fail in the others. If it were not for the almost maniacal performance from India last Saturday, it would have been easier to say that South Africans are not as threatening as they used to be earlier, but then that was not to be. Lucky days like that wont come that often, and i do believe that their performance against England was a better sign of their quality.

5. Sri Lanka – They have been good in the games against the associate teams, but their performance against Pakistan was not much to talk about. Their only real test was against the Pakistani team, and they failed miserably in it. Their last game against New Zealand may or may not be much to look forward to, but then the entire group A has been quite predictable, and so there is not much to talk about there.

6. New Zealand – Their performance against Australia was sad, and they almost always look like a one man team. Daniel Vettori unfortunately does everything for the team, and no one man can make you win the world cup. Not much expectations.

7. Australia – Aha, the favorite topic of so many Indians. Australia and India have such a great cricketing relation that many of the so called Australian experts seem to earn half their money by writing good or bad about the Indian cricket team, instead of acknowledging the decline in their own team. Fair enough though, the heart is where the money is. Coming back to cricket, as mentioned by me earlier, Australia are not ‘the’ team anymore, they are definitely a very good team, but not the best. The mere fact that they could not dismiss Kenya in a run chase of 324 says a lot of their bowling attack, and their batting though strong, is nothing to write volumes about. One thing is for sure though, whatever happens to them, they will find an excuse to blame it on something else. Clearly, resting too much has already started creating problems for them, something that the other captains would love to have. Their performances have not been great; they will be tested against Pakistan, if its not one of Kamran Akmal’s bad days, but the way all the other teams have been playing, Australia still looks a good contender.

8. India – Keeping the best [or worst 😦 ] for the last. India has been, if i have to summarize in one word “disappointing”. Their performances against the associate nations were not outright dominant, and against England and South Africa it was mindless batting that cost them both the games. I love the cool attitude of our captain, but there are times when it gets to me. I am sure they are planning for every game, but the execution, at least till now has been very bad. The game against South Africa was a sad sad display of how to lose a game after dominating it for 40 overs. Even for the most optimistic of guys like me, it was frustrating. I can deal with loses, no issues there,  i have a hard time dealing with self inflicted idiocies, and thats exactly what the team went through last Saturday. Only if Sachin Tendulkar could bowl, he would have almost single handedly done everything in that game, given that he batted out of his skin and fielded superbly. 20 long years of watching cricket, and there are times when the team takes you back to the era when only one man performed and the rest prayed they dont get to bat. I know its not true, but thats how one would feel given the way everyone batted in the game against South Africa. Now that they have put themselves in the precarious position of getting eliminated before the quarters, i hope India will get their act together, give a solid performance against the West Indies, and look like a team that can win the cup. They dont as yet, not at all. And please, someone has to tell Munaf and Nehra that getting hit for fours and sixes is no laughing matter, please introspect.

A word about the associate teams. They have been a revelation, an absolute pleasure to see Ireland compete so fiercely. Their game against England was one of the best i have ever seen. Goes onto prove that nothing is over until the last over. There is a strong case for minimizing the number of games in the world cup by not playing the associate nations, but some of them deserve due respect, and this world cup will be remembered for some of these instances.

Your take on the situation??