The World Cup Comes Alive - And How!
A thriller all the way
The cynics will complain about everything and the bigger the stage the more the complaints, most of them unreasonable. They moaned that the ongoing World Cup was boring, that rain and the washed out matches had deluded the entertainment value and that a ten team competition was anything but an international tournament. They even found fault with the zing bails not falling on a few occasions. Some hastily called it the worst ever edition a title I thought will always be associated with the bloated 2007 edition in the Caribbean with as many as 16 countries taking part which meant that numerous matches were no-contests.
But wait. This is the World Cup and the World Cup will not be dormant for an extended period. Indeed it has just come alive and how! In just two days there have been three matches marked by a major upset, another near upset and a thriller all the way.
First there was England vs Sri Lanka and the game produced the kind of result that the World Cup wanted. Admittedly things were moving along too predictably, the fancied teams were lording it over the underdogs and the semifinalists had virtually been spotted halfway through the competition. Just one upset victory with Sri Lanka pulling the rug from under England’s feet has changed everything. Now one is not sure anymore of the semifinalists for the door has been open ajar for a couple of teams thought to be out of the reckoning.
The following day minnows Afghanistan come close to getting the better of the unbeaten Indian side and this was followed by West Indies coming within a stroke of prevailing over the other unbeaten side in the tournament New Zealand. Oh yes, the thrills associated with the mega event are back and suddenly people are talking more excitedly about the World Cup.
England considered favourites before the tournament and flying high during the competition so that they became prohibitive favourites went down to an uninspiring Sri Lanka who suddenly played inspiring cricket. Now Sri Lanka have an outside chance of making the semifinals, as also Bangladesh and Pakistan courtesy their win over South Africa while England are suddenly under tremendous pressure.
The point to note is that they have three matches in hand and all of them are against heavyweights India, Australia and New Zealand. With eight points from six games they would probably have to win two of these games to qualify for the semifinals.
It was reasonably reckoned when the tournament started that no team was going to win all their nine matches and in such a competitive field even an 8-1 win loss record would be almost impossible. A 7-2 win loss record was more likely and the team with such an impressive scoreline would certainly make the semifinals while those with a 6-3 record stood a chance depending upon NRR and other permutations and combinations. Four no-results have become an additional factor which is why the World Cup has suddenly become more open. A couple of more unexpected results and it could be thrown really wide open.
Hitherto there had been only one real upset with Pakistan ranked No 6 getting the better of top ranked England. But Sri Lanka ranked ninth prevailing over England was a much bigger shock given the fact that they looked out of sorts during the campaign winning just one match out of five and that against Afghanistan. Certainly England who were riding high would roll over them was the almost unanimous opinion.
But raising their game to a level hardly anyone would have expected them to saw Sri Lanka pulling off the stunner of the competition making the World Cup that much more potentially pulsating.
Saturday’s events virtually ensured that for India were stretched by Afghanistan which means Virat Kohli and his men will have to shake off their complacency with four tricky matches yet to be played against West Indies, England, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
New Zealand and West Indies were involved in the match of the tournament so far and the video of a distraught Carlos Brathwaite slumped on the pitch being comforted by the New Zealand players could very well turn out to be the definitive image of this World Cup.