Archive for the ‘world cup’ Category

Can a team win a big event like the World Cup in cricket, without having genuine heroes or characters?

Was the Indian team that won the World Cup in 1983 a team like that? Well, Kapil Dev was a character for sure. So, I would not call it a team without any heroes. But yes, other than Kapil, the rest of the team was pretty much, average chaps.

Pakistan as a World Cup winner, had of course, Imran Khan and Javed Miandad, two amazing characters. Sri Lanka, in their win, had a Jayasuriya and an Aravinda D’Silva, not to speak of their most amazing captain ever, Ranatunga.

Which brings me to the current World Cup and the teams in the reckoning. Leaving Ireland and Bangladesh aside, lets examine the rest of the teams, and see if there are heroes or larger than life characters present, in these teams.

Australia of course, has Ponting. But they also have awesome heroes like Gilchrist and McGrath, and budding ones like Hussey and Clarke. And then there is Symonds.

So yes, Australia may only have an excess of them!

South African characters would include guys like Smith at the top, followed by Kallis, Gibbs, Pollock and Boucher. People with fan followings, people who are capable to turning things around on their own, guys who have done it few times, people with a certain style about them.

Which is why, in the above two teams, if one had to pick a single name each, it would have to be Ponting and Smith respectively. The style and aplomb with which they bat and lead their sides from the front qualifies them, for these unique positions.

Then coming to Sri Lanka. Certainly its got to be Murali. What a character.. he is an enigma of sorts, almost a magician like figure. A big wide smile each time he gets a wicket, or even when he takes a catch or fields well or throws his bat around to score some runs. Other names to be picked could include Sangakara, Malinga and Vaas. But Murali is streets ahead.

England has Flintoff and Peitersen. Both have a certain style and confidence to be the heroes of their teams, and aptly become the characters for England. Panesar is the only other name that comes to mind, but more so, because he is a Sikh, and stands out, and has that oriental spinning magic. But he has a long way to go.

The West Indies have Lara. Again, like in case of Sri Lanka, he is the one man who is streets ahead of all others. Quite like a Viv Richards before him, the absolute confidence justifies the tag for him. He can take on complete teams single handedly, and as long as he is on the crease, no matter if 9 wickets are down, the opposite team cannot heave a sigh of relief! Other characters in West Indies would include Gayle and perhaps, Chanderpaul. Bravo is an emerging one, and if he justifies the potential that he shows, he could be their future character!

That brings us to New Zealand. Where from actually this thought came to my mind, in the first place. I find that New Zealand as a team, does NOT have any such characters! Yes, guys like Oram, Mcmillan, Bond, Vettori, have flirted with the tag, but they still do not really ‘own’ the character tag! None of them. Least of all, their captain, Fleming. And yet, they could be the genuine dark horse of the World Cup, to challenge Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka.

So, to repeat my question from the beginning of this post, “Can a team win a big event like the World Cup in cricket, without having genuine heroes or characters?”.
I am not sure. We will see if New Zealand gets there.. then, we will know the answer to this.

Oh, by the way, I do not want to talk about teams that are already eliminated, as to whether they had any characters or not. Which is why India and Pakistan are not even mentioned here.

That is the one word that I can use for the entire World Cup campaign of India. Various observations on what went wrong for India:
1. It seems that India was the only team at the start of the Cup, which was not clear about the likely 11. Or even the likely 12. Will Pathan play, will Sehwag play, will it be Kumble or Bhajji, will Karthik play, etc. Most teams, had a basic best 11 in place, with likelihood of minor tweaking to be done on a game to game basis.

2. What follows as a consequence of 1, is that we did not have a perfect batting order decided. Who will open, was the first big question. In order to ‘accommodate’ Sehwag, there was likelihood of any kind of jugglery in the batting order. All these kinds of open ends, when you are well into the world cup, was uniquely Indian!

3. What is the sense in saying that Bangladesh bowled well?? Heck, you have 3 chaps with 10000+ runs each, where the opposite team does not have a total of 10000 runs. And yet, you do not have the skills or the experience to play against those bowlers, who may have bowled well on that day??

4. I cannot also understand this statement that media uses often, that ‘cricket is a game of uncertainties’. Tell that to the Aussies. Or the South Africans. Is there any uncertainty about the way they go about their game? Sure, win or loss is a different matter. But you cannot justify your pathetic display under that guise of uncertainty. When you have 5-6 apparently top class batsmen, the uncertainty factor is restricted to 1-2 of them getting out cheaply or getting an unfortunate decision or run out, or something like that. The uncertainty is REMOVED by the rest of them making up for those 1-2 losses, by playing better and ensuring that the team gets runs. We have a case of all of them succumbing to stupid play.

5. Most professional teams today give roles to team members, and they are apt to perform those roles. Against India, after losing a few early wickets, Chamara Silva and Dilshan knew that they had to stay at the wicket, even if it meant just milking singles and making 1s into 2s. No extravagant shots. Nothing in the air. They did that. Put their heads down. Did Indian batting give ANY resemblance of having ANY such plan in their heads? Or even if they had one, were the guys looking like they were attempting to implement that?? Was it panic that said ‘we will not survive if we just hang around here, so might as well make the runs quickly, and get done’?? That can be the only explanation of Uthapa and Ganguly’s mad rush initially, and also for Sehwag to keep going aerially, even after having lost the openers quickly. There is ALWAYS a chance that you will get out that way. Can’t you curb your aerial shots and play a safer game, and hang out, to ensure victory??

6. I, for one, had thought that if India progresses in the World Cup, it will be on account of its bowlers. I had a lot more hope from Zaheer, Munaf, Ajit and whoever else was going to be with them, like Sreesanth or Kumble or even Pathan. They did not do as well as they could have. A lot of extras given. Line and length not kept perfect and thus allowing the batsmen to get out of the pressure, with occasional boundaries. Letting the latter half of the team make a lot of runs, even after having got the earlier wickets. I mean, we should have restricted Bangladesh below 191 and we should have won. It was Bangladesh after all. Similarly, we should have finished off Sri Lanka in lesser than 200, after the decent start. In fact, how could we let a Bermuda batsman take 76 off us? Where is really our great bowling skill? It is in this department that Sri Lanka score over India. With guys like Vaas and Murali leading, and extremely decent options in Malinga, Fernando and Jayasuriya, they are much better placed.

Indian cricket appears to be going the hockey way. Of course, in cricket, unlike hockey, we never ‘ruled’. But like in hockey, where we kept focusing on the brilliant talent that we had, but never on strategy to win, similarly in cricket, we may hold all the individual records and have the highest averages and aggregates, but when it comes to winning games, we will be left behind. We are not focusing on the winning strategies and not executing at the individual levels.

Its been a few days since India unceremoniously bowed out of the World Cup. I have been coming to terms with the situation and hence the delay in posting these views.

I would like to look at three aspects to this debacle, and will cover these in three separate posts:

1. What went wrong – from a pure cricketing perspective

2. Betting, match fixing, too much money, fans’ pressure – could these have played a role?

3. What next? Where does India go from here

Check the three posts on the above points, that follow this one.

1. Sri Lanka must beat Bangladesh
(remember, in EITHER case, India has to beat Sri Lanka, so it does not get any easier for us, if Bangladesh beats Sri Lanka; it is only better for us if Bangladesh beats Sri Lanka – read on to find out why).

Necessarily that will only improve Sri Lanka’s net run rate and put them further ahead. REMEMBER that we talk of NET run rate. So even if both teams fire, the net improvement in NRR is only to the extent of the difference in the two teams. In short, Bangladesh’s NRR will go down a bit, thereafter.

2. India beats Sri Lanka, by JUST ENOUGH to see them through to the top of the NRR, and also ensure that way, that Sri Lanka’s NRR does not drop a lot, in the process. Again, repeat, that we HAVE to beat Sri Lanka, to have any chance. There is no escaping that fact.

3. Now, before Bangladesh take on Bermuda, they will have India and Sri Lanka a fair bit ahead of them, in the NRR, and if they have to come up ahead of the (assuming) second placed Sri Lanka, they will need to win by a huge margin, against Bermuda. That may not be so easy, and hence India and Sri Lanka will go ahead to the Super 8, in number 1 and 2 positions respectively.

Understand now also, what happens when teams get into Super 8.
Off the two teams going from each group, one of them would have beaten the other. For example, if India and Sri Lanka go, as per the above surmise, then India would have beaten Sri Lanka, in the group. In that case, at the start of the Super 8, that winning team (e.g. India) starts with 2 points, and the other team (e.g. Sri Lanka) starts with 0 points.

If India and Bangaldesh go, then it will be Bangladesh who would go with 2, and India with 0. So you see why it is important for India and Sri Lanka to go rather than India and Bangladesh (now you can see why in point number 1 above, I propose that Sri Lanka win today, and not Bangladesh).

One more interesting point. In the Super 8, all teams play all the rest of the super 8 teams, EXCEPT for their own group team (since they have already played each other in the first round). There will already be one ‘minnow’ (if you can still call them thus) team in the Super 8, viz. Ireland. Now if Bangladesh were to also make it into the super 8 instead of Sri Lanka, then think of it this way:
Say, New Zealand and South Africa emerge as their group leaders and hence start with 2 points each. They will be playing both, Ireland and Bangladesh in the Super 8 then, and they should win those games rather easily (with no disrespect to Ireland and Bangladesh). They will zoom in to 6 points without much sweat then. That would put so much more pressure on teams like India to catch up and get to the semi-finals, then.

On the other hand, if Sri Lanka and India make it, then it will only be an Ireland, who will be like a ‘weaker’ team in the Super 8, and the Super 8 will remain more open, with most teams having a chance to proceed into the last 4 stage.

Now you see, why the above mentioned points 1, 2 and 3, are what should happen now, from an Indian perspective… or even from a Sri Lankan perspective, for that matter.

What I wrote about the possible losses to advertisers and broadcasters in the event that India does not go ahead in the World Cup, has been confirmed by the morning headlines in the newspapers.

Check this story in Times of India.

There are going to be a LOT more prayers that are going to be said to take India ahead!

So the first night of full match watching that I could afford, as it was the weekend, turned out to be a nightmare, to say the least 😦

Here are my stray thoughts on the day of debacle, for India and Pakistan:

1. What can I say about India’s loss against Bangladesh?

Yes, ‘nothing’. I am dumb founded.

2. Pakistan is out of the world cup. So much for the convenient 2 big, 2 minnow groups, to supposedly serve as more practise games for the big guys. The quickest big team exit. Quite unbelievable.

3. Refer my earlier posts about the bigger teams who should be asserting themselves stronger against the smaller ones. Now after the Saturday night, I wonder if there is really that much of a difference between the so called minnows and the big guys. Its like the tennis tournaments now. Yes, the top seeds are potentially far better, but if they take anything casually, they could well be upset. Happens all the time in tennis and now we see the same in cricket too.

4. India has it all uphill from now. They need to win both the games, against Bermude and Sri Lanka. And YET, they may not be sure to make it to the next round. Bangladesh will have their second win against Bermuda, and Sri Lanka should manage to beat Bangladesh, to add to their Bermuda victory. If India wins both, that will still leave 3 teams with 2 wins each, and a tie breaker of sorts will decide the top two teams, to go to the next round. Never easy for anyone to predict the final two from the group.

Of course, winning against Sri Lanka itself will be a huge effort, coming as it will against the backdrop of this loss against Bangladesh, with the huge expectations of the billion people from India, and the psychological impact of all these put together. I wouldn’t want to be in Dravid’s shoes at this time.

5. So lets imagine the scenario should India also get hustled out in the first round itself.
How will the sponsors survive? They who depend solely on the Indian viewership, will have a huge loss on their hands.
I am sure the viewership in India will drop by at least 50%.
The big bucks that Hutch and Hero Honda and Pepsi, not to speak of Sony Entertainment, have put behind the event – how will they get their ROI??
Will some of them renege their contracts and pay the penalty, but get out quickly, cutting their losses? 🙂
I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of these sponsors as well.

6. Will there be some or the ‘other’ kind of lobbying going on, at this time, from the sponsors end, to see how they can ‘ensure’ that India makes it to the next round?

Ohh.. the scenario is tough to imagine. All the hype surrounding the event, all the media packages waiting to be unleashed as the rounds progress (I believe that the media and advertising hype has been a little subdued so far, just to ensure against consumer fatigue, since its a long tournament; now will it be long at all, for Indian fans??), will they remain in the cans and not see the light of the day?

Tough calls. We will see the picture emerge in the next few days now..!

When I wrote few days back that I thought Australia and Sri Lanka appeared a little cautious while playing minnows, what I was trying to say is that they should have been playing far more aggressively and crushing the opposition.

Like how South Africa did with the Netherlands…

In 40 overs, they topped 350+ for the loss of only 3 wickets, Gibbs smashed six 6s in an over (the first EVER in one day internationals), Boucher scored the fastest half century in World Cup cricket, Kallis scored a predictable hundred, and Smith scored a half century too.

THAT is an assertion that we are a mainstream team, with a chance to life the World Cup, and the team opposite us is a poor second cousin.

We don’t need to practise our batting like we are at the nets before a test match, we don’t need to give the other team a respect that the other team does NOT deserve, we don’t have to be insecure about getting upset.

We are good, we are FAR better than the opponents, and we will show them in no uncertain way. And in the process, we will also give a message to the rest of the teams that we are good, we are in form, and we are keen to win the world cup.

Australia should and could have done the same, Sri Lanka too. But they did not.

For this reason alone, I give the first early lead to South Africa, in terms of being a potential ultimate winner. More than the win or the extent of it, its the attitude that I am sensing.

And now lets see how assertive India is against Bangladesh!