Sunday, March 15, 2015

World Cup 2015: Short Notes - March 15th

The Group Stages of the World Cup 2015 have finally drawn to a close. It was a long-winded affair (but we already knew that). The 8 Quarter-finalists have been identified (with 7 of them being the usual suspects). There were upsets but not as many as we would have liked. There were mismatches, many more than we wanted with the team batting first generally knocking the stuffing out of the bowling. India won all their games (a pleasant surprise) as did New Zealand, Pakistan stumbled along as did the West Indies but in the end both made it, England were punched out by Bangladesh, Australia, Sri Lanka and South Africa duly made it into the knock-outs, while the Associates won the hearts but not many games except for the Irish who also won a few games. And now we are at the business end of the tournament. 7 matches, 7 teams knocked out, 1 winner remains. But before that its time for a look back at the performances of the teams which won't be making any further progress into the tournament.

UAE - a team made up of people who hold regular jobs (like you and me) but have the passion to play the game (unlike most of you and me). Their approach to the games was simple. Try to bat out as many overs as possible getting the runs which came along regardless of how many the other team has got. Only against fellow Associate Ireland did they provide some serious challenge. May not play at the World Cup ever again and probably will not be missed at all. Which would be quite ironical given that ICC has a global academy in UAE and they also play home country to Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

Scotland - This was Scotland's 3rd appearance in World Cup cricket and it is the third time they are going home winless. Another team which has been regularly found wanting at the top level. They never even challenged the big teams. Though they did have a very close game with fellow Associate Afghanistan. The team ran out of steam by the end of its run. Worse, it ran out of team spirit with Majid Haq having to be sent home on disciplinary grounds.

Afghanistan - They have been the fairy tale story of the cricketing world. Their rise is well documented. The players are icons in their own right. And they can actually play cricket. They won a game against Scotland and gave Sri Lanka a mighty scare. They might have been well beaten by the others but they also provided the heart-warming story. There might not be a more impressive sight in cricket than Shapoor Zadran running down to bowl. This is a team with the potential to be competitive. And ICC better make sure that they stay so and not let them drift away like Kenya.

Zimbabwe - Zimbabwe had provided the template for growth of a modern cricket nation. Repeatedly qualify for the World Cup. Win the occasional big game. Get Test status. The wins then start coming in more frequently. Reach the knock-outs of the World Cup. And then the story changes. However it wasn't cricket at fault, it was the country itself imploding. Cricket bore the collateral damage and they have been a mere shadow of their former self. And since the last ten years they have been trying to make the best out of limited resources which keep ever depleting. Brendan Taylor joins a long list of cricketers who couldn't carry on any further due to the various constraints. However he might well be back. In the Cup, Zimbabwe weren't outclassed and were far more competitive than expected. Can we expect better days for them? Maybe or Maybe not. They might miss out if ICC does implement its 10 team format in 2019.

Ireland - On the Irish shoulders fall the responsibility of not just carrying the hopes of their own nation but also those of the entire Associate cricketing world. A responsibility which they have carried gamely but would certainly wish would be shared around a bit more. They played well, won three games adding two more full nation scalps into their World Cup collection. And yet were finally knocked out after the last game on the basis of net run rates. This is a team which deserves more chances to improve. Should they be the 11th test playing country? Certainly. Should ICC amend laws to prevent England poaching their players? Definitely. Imagine Morgan and Rankin in their ranks. Well played Ireland, You deserve better.

England - The butt of all jokes. In a format designed to ensure that the big boys are through to the quarter-finals, somehow England have contrived to not do so. Last World Cup, they were the entertainers, losing to Ireland & Bangladesh while beating South Africa, West Indies and tying with India. This time there was no such roller-coaster ride. They beat Scotland and lost to everybody else (heavily). So heavily that Malaysia, Singapore & Japan are trolling them with challenges. Yet England will be there lining up as hosts in 2019. Important question - Are England still the best limited overs team in Europe? Probably yes, though many would disagree, most certainly Ireland. Or if you were Peter Moores, you would first be looking into the data.

Arbit Stat#42
Wins against Test Playing Nations in ODI World Cup
Ireland (since 2007) - 5 wins - 2007 (Pakistan & Bangladesh),  2011 (England), 2015 (West Indies & Zimbabwe)
England (since 2007) -  4 wins - 2007 (Bangladesh & West Indies), 2011 (South Africa & West Indies), 2015 (0)
Head-to-Head - 1-1
Well the "data" says Ireland are better.

Now awaiting the knock-outs where the real action begins.

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