Controversies And Upsets
The ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 has already set a precedent of sorts
The India Pakistan affair might have seemed a foregone conclusion. But if the early days of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 are any indication, as was seen in the ‘shock wins’ for Afghanistan and the Netherlands, the World Cup is far from being dubbed as having a runaway winner yet.
Bad weather delayed the play between South Africa and the Netherlands for over two hours at the 15th match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023, and provided the perfect opportunity to reflect on the sometimes exhilarating, sometimes bizarre and overall thrilling moments in the first ten days of the World Cup.
The ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 has already set a precedent of sorts, some in a rather bizarre manner where the tournament got underway on a Thursday and without fanfare or an opening ceremony. Yet arguably the most anticipated match outside of the semifinals and final, the India Vs Pakistan match, saw dances and noise break out at the Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad ahead of the match. It seemed more like an entertainment spectacle than a mega sporting event.
The Pakistan contingent has certainly not shied away from bringing the point to light. However, they did state that though that was not an excuse for the fact that Pakistan provided less than par on the night, their batting collapsed to give India a fairly facile chase that was made more scintillating by Rohit Sharma hitting sixes and fours.
Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur said, “It didn’t seem like an ICC event to be brutally honest. It seemed like a bilateral series; it seemed like a BCCI event. I didn’t hear “Dil dil Pakistan’ coming through the microphones too often tonight.
“So, yes that does play a role, but I am not going to use that as an excuse because for us, it was about living the moment, it was about the next ball and it was how we were going to combat the Indian, the Indian players tonight.”
The ICC claimed it was learning as it went, and will take all feedback, even criticism, on board. It hardly seems the response expected of a strong governing body who surely would have known in advance how things were to play out.
And for a governing body that had overseen many a World Cup to claim that they were learning and would apply the significant feedback going forward, does not suggest that the body is entirely in charge or aware of how the World Cup is being hosted or played out.
If that was not sobering enough, it was some controversies and some results that made most teams sit up and realise the gravity of what lay ahead of them in the 48 match tournament.
The Pakistan team was the centre of controversy after the more than cordial welcome accorded when they played their first two matches. However, the match in Ahmedabad left people with divided opinions about Indian fan reactions.
Indian fans seemed to heckle the Pakistan captain at the toss and then bombarded their wicketkeeper-batsman, Mohammad Rizwan, with “Jai Shri Ram” chants as he walked back to the pavilion after being dismissed by India.
This, after it emerged that Rizwan had offered namaz on the field during Pakistan’s match against the Netherlands, and that he had dedicated his previous match winning performance to his “brothers and sisters in Gaza”.
While it is up to the ICC to lay down the protocol when it comes to players highlighting political issues at the World Cup, it seemed the behaviour of some of the Indian fans seemed contrarian to the secular identity of the country.
It drew all kinds of reactions off the field as the World Cup soldiered on, unmindful of the shenanigans. Perhaps now that a fiery contest is out of the way so the focus can return to the overall picture. As far as upsets in the tournament itself were concerned, there were already shock starts for some teams, and jolts to others in the first week.
England, who had the better of New Zealand in the bilateral series prior to the World Cup, were given a rude lesson in clinical precision by the team from the South Hemisphere. New Zealand’s dominance as making a case for avenging what many felt was being unfairly denied the World Cup or sharing the trophy with England in 2019 over a controversial boundary count rule, has been done away with this World Cup.
New Zealand are having an unenviable adventure around their team, as Tom Lathan is expected to captain again after having begun the campaign in similar manner. Kane Williamson’s return from injury inflicted during the IPL was first celebrated with a captain’s knock against Bangladesh and then with another freak injury that saw New Zealand suffer a broken thumb.
If New Zealand have had to weave and duck through their injury issues to keep themselves above board, their Trans Tasmanian rivals have not had an easy time, not until they came up against a somewhat sluggish, Sri Lanka in their third match of the tournament.
South Africa, before the Netherlands match, seemed like a team on resurgence. Having doused Australia with humility prior to the World Cup, it seemed their strong all round showing would come to bear at the World Cup. A perfect timing as their fans would say, given that South Africa have often visited heartbreak land at big events.
To their credit, they handed Australia their heaviest defeat at World Cups by over a 100 runs and also, painted the five time World Cup champions in a rather poor light by their fielding efforts and their consistent inability to consolidate partnerships in their middle order.
That the result against Australia came after another commanding showing with the bat against Sri Lanka in their first match suggested South Africa had their hand on the pulse of the goal. Quinton de Kock, the wicketkeeper-batsman and former captain, who announced his decision to retire after the World Cup seemed to want to correct history himself, scoring two centuries from the first two matches of South Africa’s World Cup.
But upsets were only around the corner. The two-hour delay at Dharamsala curtailed the match to a 43 overs a side match but not the spirits of the Dutch players or their fans. Dutch fans easily outnumbered the smattering of South African fans, which has been another matter of concern when it comes to spectator turnouts at near empty stadiums.
The Netherlands’ comprehensive win by 38 runs seemed also to have a South African hand in it, with their coach, Ryan Cook, son of former player, Jimmy Cook, picking out more than leaves out of Gary Kirsten’s coaching manual, Roelof van der Merwe who came good with the ball for the Netherlands having previously represented South Africa.
Nothing could take away from the Netherlands who seemed to play to a tight bowling plan, even when their batting earlier in the day seemed to go through a rollercoaster. Their charismatic captain, Scott Edwards, pulled off a captain’s knock with a 78 run innings that bolstered Netherlands’ total on the back end of their innings.
The Netherlands though were upstaged by Afghanistan in terms of handing shock upsets when Afghanistan pulled off their biggest win of World Cups, humbling England with a batting and bowling performance by one of their enigmatic players, Mujeeb Ur Rehman.
However, while Rehman’s batting was as revelatory as his bowling, combining forces with Rashid Khan, Afghanistan showed a lot of gumption in how they came back after seeming to lose their way of a healthy first wicket partnership that involved Gurbaz as it did Ikram in the end.
England's bowlers did not have the wherewithal to stop Afghanistan from finding second wind in their innings and England ended up facing a chase in excess of 280, always a dangerous proposition when looking for a win.
England’s innings never looked like they were clicking. Their partnerships lacked conviction as Afghanistan and in particular their spinners kept up the pressure by knocking back the wickets.
It was a story not unlike another glorious night for the so called minnows as the Netherlands almost identically humbled a stunned South Africa team, showing this World Cup will continue to shake up the points system, even if it might not provide a clear path yet for the less hailed to conquer.