PARTAB RAMCHAND | 9 JULY, 2019
Semifinalists Along Expected Lines
Things have largely worked out according to predictions
On the eve of the World Cup the general opinion was that the semifinalists would come from the quintet of Australia, England, India, New Zealand and South Africa with Pakistan having an outside chance and West Indies termed as the dark horses. This judgement was made on recent form and current rankings and now that the semifinalists have been spotted it can be said that things have largely worked out according to predictions.
Australia was always in the forefront and their qualifying was never in doubt with the defending champions showing why they have won the title five times. Their one serious blip was against India and their unexpected loss to South Africa in their last game made little difference except for making sure that they did not top the group which also meant that they now have the tougher semifinal having to take on England.
There was also never any doubt about India qualifying. They got off to a great start and maintained it the loss to England notwithstanding. In Rohit Sharma they have the batsman of the tournament and the vice captain has set a record with his five hundreds in a single edition that could well stand at least for a few more World Cup competitions.
England blew hot and cold and was in some danger of not making the semifinals. But they rose to the occasion when it mattered most and it would have been a travesty if they had not qualified after being the No 1 ranked team and with a run of sterling achievements in recent times. Despite having to play Australia in the semifinal England are looking good and a place in the title clash for the first time since 1992 cannot be ruled out. In realistic terms this game could well be a scorcher.
New Zealand too were almost always up there in the points table and even though their campaign ended on a limp note with three successive losses they were able to ward off Pakistan’s challenge on NRR. They face a tough task taking on in form India in the semifinals and it would be a surprise if they are able to put it across Virat Kohli and his men who at the moment can do little wrong.
Pakistan on reflection probably just missed out because of their one shoddy display against West Indies in the opening match. They had their moments though and played some really good cricket but inconsistency cost them in the end. But the biggest disappointment of the competition has been South Africa. They were never really in the hunt for a semifinal spot and victory over Australia in the last game came in the nature of a booby prize. Their seventh place in the points table shows how much they have fallen off and there must now be serious doubts as to whether South Africa will ever win the World Cup.
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh for a brief while stayed in the hunt. But the former a pale show of a team which has won the trophy once and been runners-up twice never really inspired confidence. Bangladesh however won a lot of hearts by their gallant showing and they proved once again why they were the most improved team in international cricket. And they could well end up having the player of the tournament in Shakib al Hasan for his double of 606 runs and eleven wickets.
After South Africa West Indies was the other major disappointment. Their campaign never really took off, they never lived up to their image of dark horses and the fact that they finished only above Afghanistan tells its own sorry tale. As for Afghanistan on the face of it a team with a record of played nine, lost nine would be treated with scorn. They obviously don’t belong in the elite group would be the immediate reaction. But their World Cup campaign will not receive this disdainful treatment. The manner in which they played and the way they fought gallantly before going down in most of the games marked them out as fighters and a team that is bound to improve with experience.