Let the games begin

Posted: March 13, 2007 in cricket, world cup

Enough talk, enough speculation.. now, what matters is performance on the field.

The World Cup of cricket kicks off today, in the West Indies.
The warm up matches did not throw up any serious surprises. Even if some teams won and others lost, it was clearly not as serious as an official game. Even those who lost (like New Zealand and West Indies) are not reading a lot in their losses. Which is how it should be. On the other hand, teams that played well and won, rather than feeling good about the victories, should be happier about the form that some of their players are getting into.

Do we have any indicators about relative form, who’s in with a chance, who’s not??

Not really.
Except that there are many teams which look hungry and want to win, for different reasons.

Australia wants to reassert their supremacy, after the recent hiccups against England and New Zealand. They want everyone to know that they are the best, second to none.

South Africa has always been in the reckoning, have performed well, have a good team, but have not won the big one. They would believe that they have a good chance this time too, and with a young and aggressive captain, they will like to take it, this time. Also one of their biggest heroes, Shaun Pollock, could well be on his way out, and this will be a fitting gift for him.

Sri Lanka and Pakistan are both big time fighters. They want to win each time, and they have tenacious players like Sangakara, Vaas, Murali, Jayasuriya for SL, and Inzy, Yousuf, Younis, Razak for Pakistan, who do not give up, till the last ball. They will surely give it their best.

New Zealand have looked good often, from the times of Glenn Turner and Martin Crowe and Richard Hadlee and Chris Cairns. But they have almost never looked good enough to take it all. But with a tighter ship now, with Fleming at the helm (one of the best ODI captains in the world), and guys like McMillan (what amazing innings against Australia recently), Oram (the man in form, one with a huge heart), Vettori (smart young man, tipped to be their next captain) and Bond (perhaps the best fast bowler on view in the World Cup), they may fancy their chances this time around. Any team taking New Zealand for granted will do so at their own peril.

England – they are a mystery. They have reached such lows recently, but then they came back and won in Australia. So on their day, they do deliver. I am just not sure about Vaughan’s injury, and his infrequent presence in the team in recent days, and then being captain here. I am not sure if he can lead well, under the circumstances. I would have preferred to go with Flintoff as captain. Anyway, if Bell, Flintoff, Collingwood and Peitersen fire, they do have potential. Except I do not somehow see them doing well, consistently, for the whole month, and which is where they seem least likely, to be able to take it all (amongst the major countries, I mean).

West Indies, the hosts, have a chance. In Lara, they have an aggressive captain, who has seen things from the very top. That is such an important factor – to have the ‘head space’ to be at the top (for example, Fleming has never been there, individually or as a captain, and which itself could be Fleming’s biggest challenge to surmount). And with extremely motivated players like Chanderpaul, Gayle, Sarawan and Bravo, the host team will give it their best. And they could well be the dark horses for the tournament, as far as I can see.

Which leaves India. The country that drives the cricket money. The team with the largest number of fans and sponsors. The team, that for once, seem to have a decent combination which has run into some kind of form, and which hence, promises a lot. With guys like Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly and Kumble, perhaps playing their last World Cups, there is a lot of pride that is at stake. Motivation will not be low, for these guys want the one world cup in their trophy cases, before they hang up their pads. Sure, there is the Sehwag bother, but if they can put it out of their heads, and focus on the rest of the team, India can clinch the title. They have it in their means.

So let the games begin. And we prepare for some long nights (watching the games in India)…

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