Monday, July 8, 2019

World Cup 2019: The Slog Overs

Finally, the long winding league phase comes to an end. And surprise, surprise we have our 4 semi-finalists revealed to us – India, Australia, England and New Zealand! A list which had been predicted within the first fortnight itself! But that is not to say that the dead rubbers were meaningless. The very last game changed the order of the semi-finals leading to change in many travel plans!

Sporting outcomes depend on very fine margins. If that shot from Carlos Brathwaite had reached its intended destination, New Zealand would have been out of the World Cup and Pakistan would have qualified! In the end New Zealand’s campaign faltered badly but they had enough initial momentum to nudge ahead of Pakistan. 

Pakistan’s campaign showcased their one quality – unpredictability. Or, in simple terms basically being Pakistan throughout! Everyday their supporters found new similarities with the 1992 campaign. They even supported other teams including India and New Zealand, while their own kept stumbling through. Finally ran into an impossible task with the Net Run Rates where their heavy defeats and narrow wins came back to haunt them. And then, finally the 1992 comparisons stopped!

But this is cricket fandom. So we move on to the next set of analogies. In the 2008 U19 World Cup, India beat New Zealand by 3 wickets in the semi-finals. The captains on the day – Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson. The same duo who will step on the field for the toss on July 9th.

South Africa, for the first time ended a World Cup campaign on a winning note, beating Australia and changing the semi-final lineups also. They have had two ties as well, and some rain involved. Maybe this is the luck they needed to turn around their future campaigns.

England’s stumble against Sri Lanka was the result which made the league phase interesting. But Sri Lanka couldn’t use that platform while England returned to their merry ways. Meanwhile, England reached semi-finals in 1992!

West Indies started with a win, ended with a win and had nothing else to show in between! Except that the signs of revival are very much there. Sheldon Cottrell has developed his own fan following with the Salute though!

Shakib-al Hassan had a sensational tournament. And in my opinion should be the Player of the World Cup. Bangladesh certainly are no pushovers. It has taken them (a lot of) time but they have arrived on the big stage. And it is the inspiration for all other newcomers and Associates.

Afghanistan were the fan favorite. Everyone would have liked to see them win a game or two. However, no one wanted to see them beat their own team though. However, the Afghan fairytale has hit a rough patch. Player indiscipline, administrative problems and fan trouble. Hope these are sorted out soon.

Australia are becoming the imposing machine again, but the ruthlessness is yet to fully come back. Wouldn’t have expected Australians of Waugh-Ponting-Clarke era to lose the last game!

And finally, India. After the weirdo game against England, easily dispatched Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Rohit Sharma has got 5 centuries in this edition with potentially two more innings to go. And yet still generates lot of social media hate, especially from the so-called fans who still do not realize that the red-ball and white-ball are two different ballgames entirely! Well, can’t do much about it.

We bid farewell to Chris Gayle, Shoaib Malik, Imran Tahir, JP Duminy and Ian Gould– in different forms. However, Ian Gould is the only one who has actually done his last game. Others might still be seen in different T20 leagues or even internationals!

So India vs New Zealand & England vs Australia. Let the Endgame commence!

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