Sunday, 20 March 2011

An unprecedented success

As I write, the league stage of the 2011 World Cup is over and the top eight teams have qualified for the quarter finals. Out of the eight, 7 teams were expected to make it to the quarter-finals anyway. The only question we had in our minds was whether the eighth team would be West Indies or Bangladesh. That team is West Indies and as expected they have not beat a single side ranked above them.

And so the world cup stands exactly where everyone knew it would stand long, long ago when the groups were drawn out. Nothing else has gone as expected. This world cup has produced more humdingers than the last two world cups combined. England have had everyone on the edge of their seats with 5 cliff-hangers in 6 games, Pakistan have thrilled- as they always have, India and South Africa produced an unforgettable game that had fans from both sides chewing their nails till the very last over.

At the end of the group phase, we can say that this world cup is an unqualified success. Having followed every world cup since 1996 closely, this makes it my fifth world cup and assuredly, this is by far the best world cup I've ever seen. Anyone who has followed the game as long as I have would recollect how boring the last two world cups were. The 1999 world cup was only marginally better. Although the quality of the cricket in that world cup was marginally better, there were few truly exciting games if you take out the two matches between Australia and South Africa.

Another fact that has taken everyone off guard has been the scores. Pretty much everyone was expecting lifeless pitches, ridiculously uneven contests between bat and ball and a scores of frustrated, heart-broken bowlers. Instead there have been several sub-250 (a few sub-200) scores, many of which have been successfully defended or chased with considerable difficulty, not least the game between Pakistan and Australia where a score of 176 proved a challenging chase. For that matter South Africa managed to lose a game chasing just 174 to win. Hopefully at least now the administrators will realise that its not an endless procession of boundaries but a contest between bat and ball that makes for riveting cricket.

Most importantly perhaps, this world cup has shown that there still is life in the 50-over format of the game. The drama and excitement in this world cup has answered all doubting Thomases who were calling for an end to 50-over cricket (including this writer incidentally). There's no doubt that given the right conditions and the right mindset, 50 over matches can still produce edge-of-the-seat stuff.

Perhaps what has contributed to it all is the fact that there has not been a single dominant side. Most teams have looked good and even brilliant at times and yet none of them are looking unstoppable. All the sides look vulnerable and beatable on any given day, which means that there is no saying which way the world cup is going from here- quite unlike the last two world cups when Australia were the best side by a country mile. There is no side that can honestly claim to be the best of the lot. Ultimately what will seperate the eventual champions will be their big match temperament and/ or the fact that one side is going to have a better day than its opponent in the finals.

Whatever happens from here on and irrespective of how the remaining games turn out to be, there's no doubt that the 2011 World Cup is going to be the best world cup since the '87 world cup, when West Indies still ruled the game, when Gorbachev was still presiding in the Kremlin,the license raj presided in India and Sachin Tendulkar was not yet in the team.

Accidentally or by design, cricket's showpiece event has finally produced a sparkling contest which will be remembered for an age. God willing, there will be many more to come.

1 comment:

MS said...

I cannot agree with your observations any less. Well written.