Thursday, February 17, 2011
The Cup that Counts
With just 2 days to go before the World Cup begins, one thing that we can all be assured is that we are going to witness an event with the world’s best players unlike the Soccer World Cup where many ‘stars’ have either retired early and play for their clubs only or are part of mediocre teams that couldn’t qualify.
I can’t help but miss the buzz that surrounds an event like this; especially when it is being staged in a country like ours. But I also can’t help but notice a different kind of buzz in our hostel where by the end of this month, almost everybody would have played at least one ‘mundu’ match after the Sports Meet. Class-wise, Room-wise, Department-wise tournaments and warm-up to these tournaments. Anyone complaining about fatigue?
For a change, I am also really glad that nobody is whining about security issues in the sub-continent. (Is it because the IPL is being played immediately after?). Of course, the Indian Board has made sure that there is some controversy with the Eden fiasco but I guess we are not just used to it but also come to expect it now. How can the board of the home country blame the ICC for not getting a ground ready in time for such a show-piece event?
Coming to the Cup, normally an India-Bangladesh match would not mean much to us in India but this one has assumed significance for obvious reasons but I don’t still think the Indians rate the Bangladeshis as serious opposition. Do we? Why else should Sehwag, Dhoni and others keep reiterating that we won’t take them lightly? “This is just another (warm-up) game.”
I am looking forward to this Cup coz this is Sachin’s sixth and last Cup and I recognized the true significance of Dan Vettori’s comment last year that “He has been in form longer than most of us have been alive”.
The Cup brims with possibilities. Here are a few that crossed my mind:
Sachin’s 100th international century (he needs 3 more) and 50th ODI century (4 more). With India looking as good as they are, the chances of Sachin playing 9 games in this tournament are great and I think it’s reasonable to expect him to score three hundreds. And yeah, as Indian cricket fans I think we have the right to demand this much from him.
Another individual score of 200+. The likes of Sehwag, Gayle and Watson are definite contenders but frankly, most people who can last 50 overs should be able to get close in this age of T20s. Perhaps Sehwag had this in mind when he said that he would look to bat 50 overs. How about moving Yusuf Pathan to No.3 in the game against Netherlands at Delhi?
Is this going to be the last Cup with the ‘minnows’? The ICC has already announced that the next event will only have the top 10 teams so that’s a step forward. But as Harsha Bhogle put it, we would know if this is the right move by the number of upsets created in this edition.
And of course, I am hoping that India lifts the cup, not (just) because Sachin deserves it but because it’s been an awful amount of time since we won our last trophy on the World Stage in this format. But I am having more hope than ever coz this team seems very very different. For starters, we should know by now that they don’t give up easily. The warm-up game against Australia showed us this much.
Our batting looks good even with an off-color Yuvraj, a struggling Raina and a ‘seemingly-out-of-form-but-never-out-of-form-in-ODIs’ Dhoni. This is mainly because Yusuf has come to establish himself as more than just a slogger, something that ‘just-turned 23’ year old Afridi has failed to do.
Our bowling, at best steady and containing will not cause much problems for teams but if even if two of the bowlers deliver on a particular day, the batting should make up for the rest three.
Above all, the fearless attitude shown by this team is pleasing. And I am not just referring to on-field displays. I like their ‘who-gives-a-damn’ attitude towards the media, both when they win and when they lose. Signs of a team that knows its goals.
Coming to the bowlers at this Cup. As one of my friends keeps saying, it is the bowling that matters when the batsmen are expected to do well. I don’t think we will see anyone in particular troubling the batsmen consistently throughout the Cup, so I would say that the team with the best back-up bowlers/part-timers will do well. The pressure is always on them whether they come to bowl at 140/1 in the 20th or at 60/4 in the 20th. I expect matches to be won or lost here.
And here is a final thought: the last five Cups had an Asian team competing in the final and if we go by the pattern, India wins this one. (Ah! Don’t we love these?) Semi-finals in ’96, Super-six in ’99, Final in ’03, First Round in ’07, Winners in ’11.
Simple! See a pattern? ;-)
Here’s to a wonderful event that will hopefully end with Dhoni getting his hands around the Cup on April 2nd.