Cricket World Cup got off to a great start in London, albeit with an insipid opening ceremony. I guess at least, the opening ceremony could have been conducted in Mumbai, to get the enthusiasm level up. The fact that Michael Vaughan had to put out a twitter poll asking ‘How many know that the cricket World Cup is going on?’ shows the great expectations that the English have had on the Cup.
One of the great things about having a World tournament is the number of tourists that visit the country and the buzz they create about the event. ICC by acting snooty and restricting the number of teams to 10, have clearly missed the point. How does it matter if the games are one-sided or whatever? I really hope that ICC invite not 10 but 20 teams to the next World Cup and make this a truly World event.
Coming to the Cricket, Ben Stokes lit up The Oval on the opening match day and showcased his enormous all round ability at the World stage. The catch that he took to dismiss Andile Phehlukwayo will go down as one of the very best in World cups. However, I think Ben Stokes will find pronouncing Andile’s surname more difficult than repeating a catch of that kind!
Key highlights of the first week
The run up to the World Cup has been filled with predictions of how teams will consistently score 400+ in their matches. The expectations were fair considering the scores that teams have been notching up in England. Even the recently completed series between England and Pakistan was full of scores around 350. However, the predictions have been belied by the Asian teams so far.
Pakistan found the West Indian bowling a bit too spiteful as they collapsed to a shambolic 103 all out at Trent Bridge. The match led to many commentators going back to the 1992 World Cup to talk about a similar washout of Pakistan by WI in their opening match. I am fine with nostalgia, but to expect history to repeat exactly like it did in 1992, is not in scientific spirit.
Oshane Thomas was the pick of the bowlers for me in the first week. The young speedster bowled with pace and bounce, troubled the hapless Pakistanis to their demise. Andre Russell’s bowling effort at the top was another superlative effort. Andre along with Ben Stokes will be the all-rounders to watch out for this World Cup.
Sri Lanka gave the next ugly batting performance against the Kiwis to add more misery to the Asian supporters. If Trent Boult had been on song, the Lankans would have folded up for 50 or less!! The Kiwi bowling line up looks fabulous and will be another unit to watch out for in this tournament. In fact, most of the top teams have fantastic bowling line ups this time. Matt Henry and Fergusson walked away with the bowling honors.
Afghanistan gave a better account of themselves in their match against Australia, putting up a 200+ score. Even though it is a very underwhelming score, at least they tried to bat out their 50 overs. May be the afternoon start might have helped them as well with better batting conditions at the start!
England firm favorites
England showcased their all-round brilliance with a fantastic performance against South Africa. This match showed to everyone, why the pre-tournament hype about this team is quite real. It wasn’t the typical bash n bash batting performance from the English. They had multiple periods in their innings when they had to consolidate against good quality bowling. Their batsmen did this job brilliantly without losing scoring momentum. They eschewed risks yet scored at more than run a ball.
The high quality batting performance was soon followed by equally top class bowling and fielding effort by the English team. Archer, having recently qualified to play for England, showed to everyone why he is so highly rated. That short ball with which he hit a batsman of Amla’s quality, shows that he is deceptively quick, very quick. The spinners, Moen and Rashid, bowled quite effectively to keep the South Africans under control.
All in all, England have come on the big stage with their big game. Unlike the English team of 1992, this team is not a plain professional team susceptible to magical performances from the opponents. This team has magicians like Ben Stokes on their side who can conjure up performances similar to the Akrams and Inzamams.
As an Indian supporter, I am eagerly waiting to see how the ‘Men in Blue’ would perform in the early summer games in this World cup.
As far as the first week is concerned, the key take away from it is that England are firm favorites to win the Cup. Many of us old timers, took great pleasure in watching the Windies get off to a brilliant start.
I will cap off this week’s entry with my prediction for the semi-finals. England, Australia, India and West Indies are my top four!! What about you? Put in your predicted top four in the comments. May the best teams reach the knock out stage!!
For details of the matches, please visit Cricinfo World Cup Section