In the last couple of weeks of World Cup cricket, we’ve been perplexed by the bizarre, and blown away by the blitzkrieg of some players stamping their dominance on others (and no, none of them was Hitler). However, in this week, things have been a little more, to use the word, normal. All in all, the results of the various matches have been good for the safe better, and tough for the radical. Everything has been fairly predictable, with good teams beating minnows fairly comfortably.
Now I’m not saying that we’ve not seen exciting cricket; quite the contrary. We’ve seen some excellent cricket, with just as much muscle and excitement as ever. In fact, 3 of the top 5 totals in all World Cups were made in the last 10 days, one of which was in the top 10 for all time ODI scores (Australia’s 417-6 vs. Afghanistan). Rather, what I’m saying is that the results of the matches haven’t been anything of a surprise. For example, South Africa scored a match-winning 411-4 vs. Ireland on Tuesday. Of course, most people would have been willing to bet that South Africa would indeed make a mammoth score and beat Ireland, but none of them would sit there and say “this is boring.” Similarly, what I’m trying to say is that there has been an air of predictability to the results here, but they have certainly not been boring.
Another point I wanted to highlight was the rise of Pakistan. Now, Pakistan got off to a horrid start, losing their military-tension clash vs. India, and then dropping like dominoes in the face of a stoic West Indies bowling lineup. They were terrible defeats, both statistically and morally. Even in their clash against Zimbabwe, their batting lineup slugged along, and it took an all-round show from Wahab Riaz to get them over the line. Then, however, against the UAE their showing was much more convincing, with Ahmed Shehzad and Haris Sohail leading from the front with the bat to take Pakistan to 339, followed by a spirited bowling show to keep UAE down to 210. However, they saved their best for the best, as Sarfraz Ahmed backed up his sublime run-a-ball 49 at the top with 6 catches behind the stumps, and coupled with the 3 left arm seamers’ 9 wickets between them to pull off a stunner that left the Protea side (wait for it) stunned.
I think that while Pakistan have shown clear signs of weakness, particularly in their batting lineup, they may be peaking at the right time, and may just pull it off. My personal view is that their biggest concern would be Shahid Afridi’s mediocre form. The all-rounder truly led from the front in the last tournament, and marshalled his troops sublimely to make it to the semifinals. He hasn’t been in top form this year, but I believe that if he can come to the party, Pakistan have a great chance of making it big.
The World Cup has steamed through February, and has now hit March. We’ve seen some exciting cricket, but I’d like to bring up one theme we’ve seen prevalently since my last World Cup Journal just over a week ago: Blitzkrieg.
Before you ask, no, Adolf Hitler did not invade Australia (he’s dead, and will hopefully stay so). Rather, the style of cricket we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks has been like that. For those who aren’t World War 2 Enthusiasts like I am, Blitzkrieg was a tactic used by Nazy Germany during WWII. Basically, what they did was that they would send forward an initial overwhelming thrust of tanks, which would shake up the opposition. Then, the rest of their army would come in, and finish the job. Using this, the Germans conquered nearly all of Europe. Similarly, now teams in the CWC are using it to destroy their opponents.
We’ve seen some belligerent cricket being played in the last week: Chris Gayle’s 215, AB de Villiers’ 66-ball 162, Dilshan’s 161, Mitchell Starc’s steaming 6-28, and Kumar Sangakkara’s twin centuries all showed a sense of dominance that the opposition fell flat before. While the innings themselves were magnificent, it was that air of supremacy, and authoritarianism that they stamped into the pitch that was so wonderful. It was as though they went up to the pitch and said “we’re here to thrash you, and there’s nothing you can do about it”. This is a marvellous quality we see in cricket, and I hope to see it more as the World Cup progresses.
This 2015 World Cup has been chugging along quite merrily. Of course, we’ve all had our fair share of nail biting, shivering, praying, and (for some), TV smashing, but more than that, the general ambience that the Cricket World Cup is here is very pleasant.
What has made this World Cup stand out to me so much ahead of the 4 World Cups (T20 included) that I’ve followed intensely before this is the equality we’ve had in terms of competition. Barring the white flag encounters of England vs. New Zealand and Pakistan vs. West Indies, we’ve always had some degree of a fight in pretty much every game, even those Mammoth vs. Minnow competitions that we usually like to consider as walkovers. We saw this even in the in the warm-ups, as Scotland were all but successful in their chase of 313 against the West Indies, and Zimbabwe pulled the carpet from under Sri Lanka to register a surprising upset. In the league stage, we saw Scotland make the resurgent and roaring New Zealand side sweat in their chase of a paltry 142, a spirited Afghanistan just failing to pull through after putting Sri Lanka in a precarious situation at 178-6 in 41.2 overs chasing 233, and a belligerent Paul Stirling leading Ireland to a massive victory over the West Indies. In essence, this World Cup hasn’t just been about the Giants steaming through a bunch of minnows to face each other in the playoffs; rather, it’s been about everyone playing their best cricket (at least most of the time), and making us cricket fans expect the unexpected.
In 2011, during the World Cup, I was in 7th Grade. I had very little homework, and a lot of fun. Sreesanth was still playing cricket, CSK was hardly a controversial franchise, and guys like Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj, Zaheer and Harbhajan were all still in the Indian side.
It’s been four years. Four long years. Four years since Dhoni thumped Nuwan Kulasekara for the six that won India their first World Cup since 1983. Now, at the dawn of the 2015 World Cup, it feels like a whole age has passed. There’s been so much change in the world that it’s almost hard to believe that the 2011 World Cup wasn’t played during World War II. I’m in 11th grade, and my workload is the cricket equivalent of facing Sunil Narine in Eden Gardens right after a rainstorm: squishy, fatiguing, and all in all agonizing. Sreesanth, along with a whole army of other players involved in spot-fixing, is now out of commision. Even Kevin Pietersen, one of England’s “immortal players” in my opinion, is no longer playing international cricket. Sachin Tendulkar retired. Phil Hughes passed away. Dhoni retired from Test cricket. And of course, this website now celebrates it’s four-year anniversary this coming Friday.
This World Cup features teams that people – if brought from 2011 on a time machine – would be very surprised at. Where’s Sehwag? When did Afghanistan get so good? Who the heck is Glenn Maxwell? It just goes to show that it’s been a dynamic four years. Teams have suckled the sweet nectar of success, and tasted the bitterness medicine of defeat. Some teams have risen resurgent from the ashes, like New Zealand; but for other teams – like India and Sri Lanka – the sun just seems to be setting a little. Regardless, we must remind ourselves that as in history, this is just but a phase in the ever-dynamic world of cricket, and everyone will experience both the roses and their thorns. This World Cup (or any World Cup for that matter) is nothing more than a test to show us who’s enjoying the high tide now, and who isn’t. Nonetheless, it will be a fun contest to watch.