Category Archives: World Cup Cricket

One-sided cricket matches are here to stay. Why would you attend?

World cricket is in a parlous state, not in terms of the money it makes, but in terms of the contests it provides. The games are one-sided to the extent that patrons at the grounds are few and far-between.

There is no better illustration of this than in the ongoing Australian games, where the home team is playing New Zealand and the West Indies in three Tests apiece. The first Test against New Zealand was won convincingly, and the second looks like going the same route. As to the West Indies, they are not expected to last beyond four days in each of the three Tests.

The man who is responsible for this farcical outcome, where Tests are mostly one-sided, died recently. Jagmohan Dalmiya was the one who set in motion these unending Test matches, where cricket goes on round the year, and the same bunch of players have to play, and play and play.
Continue reading One-sided cricket matches are here to stay. Why would you attend?

Myths about Dhoni shown to be just that

As the Indian cricket team was slowly moving towards defeat against Australia in the World Cup semi-final, many commentators, the normally erudite Allan Border among them, were still convinced that Indian captain M.S. Dhoni would explode at some point and carry India to victory.

It looks like Border and all the others of his ilk were dreaming earlier in the summer when Dhoni called time on his Test career, indicating that he was unable to handle that job any more. He did not step down from the captaincy, he quit Tests altogether.

Quite simply, Dhoni has lost it. He is past it and his sticking on for the World Cup was a typical reaction from a cricketer in a country where the selectors do not pick people on form alone. The same applies to Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan, and Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi. All are past it, yet were allowed to play on by their respective countries’ selectors, for so-called sentimental reasons.
Continue reading Myths about Dhoni shown to be just that

When will India’s luck run out?

India has continued its incredible run in the World Cup cricket tournament, bowling another team out as it recorded a 109-run win over Bangladesh to enter the semi-finals.

But this could not have been achieved had one umpiring error not gone India’s way.

At three for 196, India looked like it would go on to make a big total at the MCG, having chosen to bat after winning the toss.
Continue reading When will India’s luck run out?

In the battle of captains, Dhoni comes out ahead

ON SATURDAY, India won the World Cup cricket tournament, defeating Sri Lanka and becoming the first team to win the competition at home. But the more remarkable aspect of the win was the way it showed how a captain can lead and accept responsibility, even in this day and age when people are loath to do just that.

India was set a target that wasn’t overly intimidating but not easy to get either; batting second and scoring 275 at Bombay’s Wankhede Stadium isn’t a walk in the park. One needs someone to play a long innings, or two or three people to play knocks of about 60 or 70 to get to this kind of target.

India’s captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had batted at number 6 right through this tournament. He hadn’t made any decent scores, his best effort being in the low 30s. But he had led the team with his usual calm approach and the final saw him display his leadership qualities.

When India faced Pakistan in the semi-finals, Yuvraj Singh, a batsman who had been a model of consistency, fell for a first-ball duck. Perhaps the intensity of the occasion overcame him – there is no bigger game for either country, and this was a World Cup semi-final to boot.

Had Yuvraj been sent in during the final – India was 114 for three at the stage when he would normally have come in – and not performed, India would have been under immense pressure. The load on Dhoni would have been that much greater. There was also the matter of retaining a left-right hand combination to make it difficult for the Sri Lankan spinners to control the flow of runs.

But Dhoni was in woeful form. He had made some team changes – pulling in the non-performing Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, and leaving out the capable off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin – and if he had failed, then it is unlikely that anyone would have allowed him to forget his decisions in a hurry.

Dhoni could have sent in Suresh Raina, a capable if young player, to retain the right hand-left hand combination. Raina showed immense maturity in partnering Yuvraj during the quarter-final against Australia, taking the team from 187 for five, a position when things could have come unstuck if a wicket had fallen, to the 261 needed for victory.

But no, Dhoni came out himself. He looked in terrible nick, but kept making ungainly strokes and taking singles and twos here and there. Gradually, he grew in confidence and his form returned. He is never a pretty batsman to watch, but can hit the ball with great power.

One must bear in mind that the two men who were expected to do great things in the final, veterans Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendular, had both fallen by the time the total reached 31. Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli added 83 before the latter fell.

Then Dhoni took over. He and Gambhir took the total to 221 and then Dhoni and Yuvraj took India to victory, with Dhoni hitting a majestic six to seal the win.

One can contrast his actions with those of the Sri Lankan skipper, Kumar Sangakkara, who failed to implement the team’s strategy which has been uniform throughout the tournament – throttle the opposition, and then take wickets when they are trying to increase the scoring rate. Sangakkara left out one of the premier spinners, Ajanta Mendis, based on the logic that India plays spin well. Yet another spinner, Suraj Randiv, was included.

Sangakkara normally bowls his best speedster, Lasith Malinga, in spells of three, three and then four overs. This time, when Malinga was brought back midway through, to obviously try and take a wicket, he was given just the one over. Sangakkara’s other trump card, veteran Muthiah Muralitharan, did not even complete his quota of overs.

And long before the end appeared to be nigh, Sangakkara’s body language told the wrong tale – he looked beaten, his shoulders were hunched, he looked really agitated and in a panic.

I have commented some years ago on the way Dhoni goes about his captaincy; leadership comes naturally to this man who hails from one of the most under-developed regions of the country.

He hasn’t completed a college degree. He doesn’t know the latest buzzwords. He is verbose during TV interviews. He isn’t terribly good-looking. But he shows, time and again, that leadership is a natural trait. You can’t create leaders – they are born, not made.

Hosts to fight for honours

INDIA went into the World Cup semi-final against Pakistan depending on its batting. Pakistan, on the other hand, was banking on its bowling. On the day, things came out in reverse.

For the first time since 1983, the final of the World Cup cricket tournament will be contested by non-white teams. In 1983, India met the West Indies and registered a famous victory; on April 2, India will take on Sri Lanka, both teams bidding for a second win in the tournament, Sri Lanka having won in 1996.

After getting off to a flying start – Indian opener Virender Sehwag took 21 off the third over of the match, bowled by Umar Gul, a medium-pacer who has been one of the Pakistan’s star performers in the tournament – India did not exactly sparkle. Despite reaching 114 for one off the first 18 overs, India finished with 260.

Gul fared poorly on the day, giving away 69 runs off eight overs, the occasion probably getting to him.

The only Pakistani bowler to give away less than four runs per over was off-spinner Mohammed Hafeez who went for 34 in his 10 overs. Wahab Riaz took the wickets, five of them, but gave away 46 runs in his quota of overs. But India made life difficult for themselves; scoring ws not unduly difficult but no batsman could dominate apart from Sehwag.

India had an anchorman in veteran Sachin Tendulkar who made 85 after being dropped four times. Many of the other batsmen got starts but did not go on. Young Suresh Raina made an unbeaten 36 as the innings fell away, ending with 260.

After a start when the run-rate was around 9 during the first five overs, with Sehwag in a ferocious mood, it was a middling effort at best. Had Pakistan held their catches, India would probably have struggled to reach 200.

When Pakistan began the chase, things seemed to be on track until Asad Shafiq fell for 30 at 103. He was the third man to go and the scoring rate was, at that stage, on par. But after that there was nobody to keep Misbah-ul-Haq company.

Pakistan had no decent anchorman – Misbah made a painful 56 but did not hang around long enough and, more importantly, could not lift his scoring rate. Pakistan’s best batsman, Younis Khan, made only 13. And the two who could have scored faster when the asking rate increased – captain Shahid Afridi and youngest Umar Akmal – fell for 19 and 29 respectively. On the day, a quick 50 or 60 was called for from either of them.

Surprisingly, India’s bowling and fielding was disciplined. Ashish Nehra, coming back into the team to replace young offie Ravichandran Ashwin, was the pick with two for 33 off his quota of 10 overs.
And though Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh went for nearly six an over, each took two wickets.

If India wins the tournament, it will be the first time that a host has won at home. If Sri Lanka triumphs, it will be the country’s second win as host, but neither would have come at home. Sri Lanka defeated Australia in the 1996 final which was held in Lahore; India’s win in 1983 over the West Indies was at Lord’s.

Surprising loss but no hint of foul play

WHEN Australia played Zimbabwe in the World Cup cricket tournament preliminary rounds, the openers, Shane Watson and Brad Haddin, took an awful amount of time to score their runs.

Haddin, one of the more adventurous openers in one-day cricket, took 66 balls to make 29 while Watson made 79 off 92 balls. Their opening stand of 61 took 18.5 overs.

As a result, soon after the match the International Cricket Conference. world cricket’s governing body, began an investigation to see whether the slow scoring had been done to aid the good work done by bookies in the subcontinent.

Spot betting is big business during tournaments of this kind and the Australian pair is not normally known for anything other than aggression.

The story was broken by an Indian paper, the Indian Express, and made big news all over the cricketing world.

As it turned out, there was smoke, but no fire and everything settled down as well as it can when a cricket tournament is being played in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

As the tournament is still running through its preliminary games, most of which are quite lopsided as they pit established sides against minnows, there was much interest last week when India played South Africa.

The Indian batsmen got off to a good start and at one stage the board read 267 for the loss of one wicket with about 13 overs left. The lower-end estimate by observers was that India would get 350. The more ambitious evaluations were that 400 was within reach.

But 29 runs later, India was all out. Most of the batsmen played really stupid strokes and threw away their wickets. The top three batsmen, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir scored 73, 111 and 69 respectively.

The remaining 43 runs were scored by other eight men in the team. South Africa, which has a reputation for being a side that chokes when confronted by a task such as it faced that day, held its nerve and chased down the 297 it needed for victory.

Surprisingly, nobody has even raised the possibility that there might have been something more in the game than just careless batting. It smacks of double standards.

Both countries involved have a history of being involved in match-fixing; India’s Mohammed Azharuddin, Ajay Sharma, Ajay jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar had to end their careers after being found guilty.

South Africa’s former captain, the late Hansie Cronje, was found guilty and two other South Africans, Herschelle Gibbs and Nicky Boje, have avoided going to India after Cronje was caught.

The ICC has not raised even an eyebrow at the way the Indian innings collapsed. Such are the mysterious ways of the world’s cricket administrators.