Archive for the ‘world cup’ Category

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!

Cautious against the minnows?

Posted: March 15, 2007 in cricket, world cup

The World Cup in under way.
The first game was the only one so far, between two majors, viz. West Indies and Pakistan.

But its the other couple of games that intrigued me.
First was the Australia vs Scotland one.

For most of the time that Australia batted, they seemed to give a lot of respect to the Scotland bowlers. Almost like they were playing England or New Zealand! I would have thought that the aggressive Australians would have gone hammer and tongs against the Scots, and posted a really massive total. To totally assert themselves and also give a warning to the rest of the teams. But they appeared to be over cautious. Only Ponting asserted himself. But then he is special. The rest of the chaps, be it Gilchrist, Hayden, or the young stars, Clarke, Hussey, Hodge – they all looked like they were up against Shane Bond or Muralitharan! If not for the cameo by Hogg, the total might well have fallen short of 300.

Now as I am seeing Sri Lanka bat against another minor team, Bermuda, I am seeing almost similar cautious stuff. Sure, they have also topped 300, but they lost a few wickets, and some guys missed out on making a large score for themselves, and also for the team.

WHY is this happening?
Are the senior teams having first game blues? Want to just put a win behind them, than take any chances?

Are they concerned about a possible upset by the junior team?

Is it the world cup factor? Is there too much tension?!

It sure feels that way!

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)…

In the world cup.

The aces in the sleeves as per me, are not the batting, but the seamers. In Zaheer, Agarkar and Munaf, we have a very decent ODI attack.

Zaheer’s stint in England has done him a lot of good. Learning to bowl well, day after day, in that county atmosphere obviously taught him a thing or two. Imagine learning all that, and then coming to bowl for your country makes him a genuine leader of our bowling attack.

Ajit Agarkar, to my mind, has always been a good ODI bowler. Someone who bowls extremely well, within his known limitations. Works up a good pace, varies the pace too, works out a batsman’s wicket by strategy, is reasonably accurate early in the innings, almost always generates early wicket taking opportunities. And at this time, he seems to be in excellent nick. Perhaps spurred by the ‘competition’ for pace bowling slots in the team.

Munaf, the fastest of the trio, has figured that he needs to be very accurate. Somewhere he has got it ingrained in his head, that he has to be like a McGrath, and not like a Shoaib Akhtar. He does an excellent job of keeping the score under control, and then forcing a mistake from the batsmen.

And to think that a Sreesanth with all his energy and enthusiasm, and never say die spirit, with an eagerness to keep learning, is the fourth bowler. And then there is the very promising, at one time our pace hope for the next decade, currently, slightly out of form, Irfan Pathan, waiting in the wings. And it makes me say with confidence that indeed, our aces are this pace attack.

If Greg Chappell, Dravid, Sachin and others can find a way to train the 5 boys to NOT panic against a serious counter attack (think Gilchrist or Jayasuriya or Afridi) and keep bowling intelligently, then we have one area completely covered.

Now coming to the batting. Yes, it has the biggest names and one would feel that its the batting that should be our strong point. While I believe that its good, is it good enough for the world cup? Lets examine details.

Up in the opening slot, what options do we have?
Ideally, Ganguly and Uthappa.
Ganguly is of course, in the best of form. And his resolve and determination to prove himself should see him continue doing well, right through the world cup.
Uthappa has a lot of promise. He does not seem to have many nerves. But its the technique that I would wonder about. Is it good enough to face up to really class bowling – a Shaun Pollock or a McGrath, or even a Chaminda Vaas? Lets hope so..
In case either of these guys are injured, what options do we have for the opening slot? Sehwag, Sachin or even Dravid. All of them have played the parts in the past.

Sachin can be a good bet, but I think the team will be better served if he comes in at 4. More about that later. Sehwag would be the one who would be first choice for opening slot, if there is any problem with Uthapa or Saurav. And of course, like everyone else in India, I can also only hope that he strikes some sort of form, soon. Yes, he can be destructive and take the game away. Just when will be start delivering now, I am not sure. He is under huge pressure, and will remain so, inspite of the best of confidence that his captain has in him.
Dravid would be the last option to go to the opening slot. If it comes to that, I would believe that we would be in serious trouble. Nothing else worked out, or 2-3 people on the injury list, is what may warrant such a step. But if it comes to it, he is fine. One with such good technique can certainly manage the opening slot too, if required.

Then on to the middle order. We have names like Dravid (number 3), Sachin (4), Yuvraj (5) and Sehwag or Karthick (6). Dhoni at 7 and then 4 specialist bowlers is the way I see it going, in most cases. Unless we have tremendous respect for our 5 batsmen, I think we will continue to play with 4 bowlers and 6 batsmen, plus Dhoni. In case we play 5+5+1, then of course, the 6th batsman (Sehwag / Karthick) will be out.

In batting then, there is no doubt about Dravid and Sachin. They are strong middle order batters. Yuvraj’s form looks good if the last game against Sri Lanka is any indication. And if that is true, then we have a good 3,4,5 combination there. It is the 6th batsman or the bench strength beyond these main working team that is worrying. Karthick has played some good knocks, but I just can’t see him as a reliable batsman against quality bowling. And Sehwag.. well, we all know. He is out of form. If the first 1-2 games don’t redeem him, I would believe that he will have to sit out through the competition. There will just be no point in carrying on someone in the world cup team, who has lost all confidence and where, we just continue to ‘hope’ that he fires! And then when you see the reserves, there is really no one else left, as far as batsmen go. Will we consider using Pathan in that case, as a batsman who may also bowl? I suppose. There is no choice left. We may yet miss a Raina..

So in batting, I would believe that there is a genuine weakness of one slot, and there is no adequate cover against a possible injury to our top batsmen.

The wicketkeeper-cum-batsman position is in good hands with Dhoni. He has great temperament as a batsman, and is quite good (though not flawless) as a wicketkeeper. He can certainly slam the bowling around, and is quite mature too. However again, I have a question on genuine technique and ability to face quality bowlers. Here we just need to hope for the best. Karthick is a good cover in case the wicketkeeper’s position needs to be filled, but then, if he is anyway a part of the team, as a 6th batsman, then who do we get as a replacement? This is in the event that Sehwag does not get into form at all…

So in short, that one batsman’s position may still hurt us. We may be forced to go with a 5+5+1 combination and hope that the bowlers compensate for the one lesser batsman, then.

Coming to spinners, I think we are just so-so. Harbhajan and Kumble may keep the scores down, against lesser teams or against batsmen who are not adept at playing spin. Better batsmen who have faced these guys for many years, may actually get a lot of runs against them. We will probably play only one of these two guys, and it may be a case of regular swapping between these two. Unless one of them makes the most of his opportunities and succeeds in the early games, and seals his seat in the team. Or if there is a known weakness against one of them, from the opposite side. Kumble can be successful against lesser teams, and also against lower order batsmen, and he can potentially run through the tail. But against that, he is a huge liability in the field and nowadays, also with the bat. Even if he can hang around on the crease as a batsman, he cannot run fast between the wickets, he will not be able to rotate strike (say he has a batsman at the opposite end) and he will not be able to seriously wallop the bowling for some big hits and big runs.

So I would again see the spinner’s slot as a kind of weakness. Depending on the pitches then, we may actually like to play 4 seamers and no specialist spinner. The spin part, if necessary, can then be handled by Sachin, Yuvraj, and Sehwag, if he is in the team. Its good to also have Saurav who can back up as a slow medium pacer and take care of few overs. In such a case, if Pathan is the fourth seamer, then our batting would look even better and deeper.

So indeed, the team composition gives some flexibility in that sense. To an extent, Chappell’s efforts towards this endeavour, from the time that he has taken over, may have delivered us these options.

But one thing that he worked for, and which has clearly not converted into results, perhaps on account of the final composition of the team, is the fielding. The young and fast guys, like Raina and Kaif, are not in the team at all. Off the current lot, only Yuvraj qualifies as a great fielder. Who is going to cover the inner circle and stop the singles? There is no one that I can think of. Maybe Uthapa. Perhaps a Karthick. But that is it.

Guys like Sachin, Sehwag, Pathan, Agarkar, Ganguly and Dravid are decent, but not very sharp. Unless they raise their levels, inspired by the occasion! All of these guys can cover the boundary ropes too, decently. Zaheer and Harbhajan are also okay, on the field. But out there in the deep field, there are some people whom we would have to hide on the ground. Guys like Munaf Patel and Kumble. There is an extra run written all over it, when the ball goes to either of them. Forget about a sharp, fast return, with possibilities of run-outs!

So sure, we are not the perfectly equipped team. I am not sure if any other team is, anyway. But there is a lot going for our team, there are many strengths there, which makes me feel that we stand a decent chance, this time around.

Lets see how it goes..