Tag Archives: World Cup

Deserving the Asia Cup

It was a deserving day of cricket. But only Bangladesh deserved to win the finals. Even before players could wake up. Everybody in the world was sure that Bangladesh will win the Asia Cup, because, well, they deserved it, making the whole point of playing the game an utter waste of time. But ah well, some ICC Rule number 137897.124.124.124.623.5.32.5.2 section a. said that it deserves to be played.

So, if Holy Fans of The Holy Game were to have it, the Holy Finals would…errr…should have panned out, deserving-ly, like this –

Toss – The match referee flips the coin, Misbah calls “heads”, and the referee catches the coin, puts it in the pocket and shrugs to Misbah, “Hey, Bangladesh deserves to win the toss, mate.”

So, Bangladesh wins the toss and they opt to bowl. They deserve to.

Hafeez and Jamshed walk out to open, and Athar Ali Khan already has uttered “My Word” 47 times. That’s alright. He deserves to do that.

Mashrafe Mortaza will open the bowling for Bangladesh. Wonderful bowler. Destroys India, does nothing more than that. Has more injuries than wickets. And Bangladeshi crowd goes berserk when he gets dropped for non-performance or even injury. That candidate always deserves a spot in the team.

So, here he comes, bustling like a train, and it’s a wide to start the innings. Wide down the leg side, and Mushfiq had to jump like a toad to pouch that one. But don’t worry, the umpire doesn’t signal a wide. Mashrafe has been through a lot. He deserves a good first ball.

A few overs go by, in which the other fast bowler, whose name I don’t remember now, and as I deserve for that, I get flak for forgetting, gets two wickets. One because the umpire gave an lbw when the ball seemed away and comfortably went  to the keeper’s hands. But, well, that ball deserved an LBW to its credit. And the other wicket was because Hafeez thought the bowler should deserve another wicket for being a fast bowler on the Bangladeshi cricket team. So, he shoulders arms and lets the ball come and hit his stumps. Bangladeshi Polka Dots dressed fans are ecstatic. Hafeez tells them that they deserve to be happy, just like Sacramento Kings’ fans must be.

Also, Mr My Word and Mr Safety are replaced by Mr Running The First One Hard (imagine saying hard in #huan tone) and Mr Just 65 Runs To Go For The Century.

Pakistan are 143/3 after 32 overs. They now decide that the Bangladeshi bowlers deserve to have done better. so, Pakistan’s score is revised to 123/4. Shakib is a wonderful bowler. My word. Also, Mahudullah, Suhrawadi Shuvo, Abdur Razzak and the other 17 spinners in the side. So, they all deserve to see a better score on that big screen.

Pakistan will not get their batting powerplay. Come on… Why should they? They don’t deserve to hit more runs.

And Afridi deserves to be out. So, the bowler bowls the ball, keeper collects it, returns it to the bowler and the bowler dismantles the bails. And appeals. All batsmen are inside their respective creases. But, Bangladesh deserve to get rid of Afridi early. So, Afridi is out. Striker standing inside the batting crease is run out at the non-striker end. Bangladesh deserve to make history.

Shakib al Hasan finishes with figures of 10-1-42-2. Wonderful bowling. He deserves some more overs. So, he gets to bowl 4 more overs. Gets 2 more wickets at the expense of just 8 runs. My Word.

Pakistan end their innings at 254/8, after some rocking and rolling smashing hits from Misbah and Umar Gul. Fans did not expect this, so they weren’t sure if they deserved it or not. So, they were granted the permission to score freely.

Oxford dictionary meanwhile announce that they decided to award the word “Myword” to Athar Ali Khan. Their press release said “He deserves to have a word of his own, so he doesn’t abuse other words.”

Tournament organizers decide that Bangladesh deserve another win in the tournament. So, they toggle the result of the tournament opener and award Bangladesh with the win over Pakistan in the opener. The organizer said “Nasir Jamshed did not deserve to play that kind of innings.” So, Bangladesh have topped the league table.

There is no rain, but the D/L method score will be applied on the Pakistani Score. D/L – Deserve to Lose. So, the target for Bangladesh is not a paltry 132 runs in the whole 50 overs.

Umar Gul will open the attack. And sends in a toe crushing yorker at Tamim Iqbal, who totally misses the ball trying to play it across the line, and the middle and leg stump for the same angle that Afridi forms with his arms while celebrating a wicket. The umpire then goes to Gul and says, “Hey, Tamim deserves a second change.” And, Tamim can stay.

But Gul manages to remove Tamim Iqbal three more times in the same over, and Tamim had to leave. Even some Bangladeshi fans were irritated and said that Tamim doesn’t deserve another chance. Pakistan have made a breakthrough. They had to go back and close the flood gates thrice in the same over, but they can finally leave it open.

Afridi comes in to bowl along with Ajmal. Afridi has been removed off the attack because of moral policing. People complained that he is only 18 years of age and has been faking an increase in age for the last 13 years. So, he doesn’t deserve to bowl. And yes, as is the general opinion amongst everybody, Ajmal doesn’t deserve to bowl at all.

So, Pakistan are reduced to bowling out the overs with Gul, Hafeez, Cheema, Younis Khan and Hammad Azam. In spite of Bangladesh losing wickets now and then, they get some runs on the board through Shakib al Hasan’s bat. He deserves to be the number one all-rounder in the whole universe. Martians deserve to immortalize Shakib by planting a statue of his when they visit Saturn next.

It all comes down to the last over. Cheema has to bowl to Shakib and Shahadat Hossain. Bangladesh need 9 off the last over, only 2 wickets remain. How it came this close is anybody’s guess. You deserve to make a guess, you have a beautiful mind. It’s alright if you didn’t make it to IIT and then into IIM and earned $$$$$$$$$$$ in business. But you deserve to make a guess.

Cheema runs in, the 33-year-old coach bustling in with enthusiasm….and suddenly, the umpire stops Cheema on his tracks, asks for the ball, pockets the ball, tips the bail off the stump and declares “Bangladesh, we all know you deserve to win this. you win.”

And Yes. Bangladesh have won the Asia Cup. Congratulations, Bangladesh. Shakib deserved and got the Man Of The Final Over, Man Of  The Match, (and while Shakib goes to collect his man Of The Series Award, LSK exclaims “He is running the first one haaaard”), Man Of The Series, and also in advance, the man Of The World Cup and The Best All Rounder Award for the years 2012 to 2018.

Also, congratulations Sri Lanka on winning last year’s World Cup. You deserved it. We were just trolling you by winning it for ourselves. We are selfish like that – winning World Cups and all.

– Bagrat

An Architect, a Few Builders and a Decade…

On 22 March 2001, India made a compelling statement to the world of cricket. On that day, on a dusty track in Chennai’s M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, a week after that match in Kolkata, Sourav Ganguly’s men stopped Steve Waugh’s Australian juggernaut in its tracks in a Test match.

India had won against the Australians and other major teams before — mostly on Indian soil. So what was it about this victory in Chennai — almost exactly 10 years ago — that inserted a special marker on an important journey? The victory in Chennai in 2001 felt different. It tasted different. The victory somehow meant more than just a victory to me.

That victory came after Indian cricket had plunged to its worst lows — and that was off the field with the betting scandal. There was no place to hide for the proud and yet tragic Team India fan!

The first article I read this morning — the morning after the night before — was by @sidvee! In a piece titled, “The Baton Passes”, he writes about the 28-year wait for the baton to be passed to a new generation. This excellent writer, who is 29 years old, is a part of “young India” that has not suffered through being a Team India cricket fan as much as fans of my generation have. That does not give me bragging rights. It just provides a different perspective.

For many of us who are part of “older India”, the 1983 win was almost a one-off. We supported a team that often flattered to deceive. We supported a team that had few men who had the stomach for a fight. We supported a team that would crumble at the first sign of trouble. We supported a team that in-fought so much that it almost did not need to see an opposition to wave the white flag! We supported a team that was run by corrupt individuals (It still is, but that’s besides the point — a victory like last night’s victory serves as a good sandpaper!) We supported a team that had a Board that suddenly found money in the mid-90s through television money and a sudden realization that they had something that few other nations had — a billion adoring fans! We supported a team that was run by a Board that suddenly had power and did not not know how to use it!

So, we could only talk about the exquisite grace of a GR Vishwanath square cut, the steely resolve of a Mohinder Amarnath forward defense, the athleticism of Kapil Dev (“that catch“), the technique of a Sunil Gavaskar straight drive or the loop of a Bishen Bedi ball.

But all of that changed for me on 22 March 2001. I felt that, as a long-suffering cricket tragic, I could start thinking about that dream house I wanted to live in as a fan of Team India. I had seen my architect in that landmark 2001 series! On 22 March 2001, it was almost like I had reached a final agreement with the architect on the design of my dream home.

I could not wait for that home to be built.

It has taken a decade for that home to be built.

And finally, that home was built last night, when India won the Cricket World Cup, 2011.

If Sourav Ganguly was the architect with John Wright as his chief consultant, then MS Dhoni was the final builder with Gary Kirsten as his chief consultant. Along the way, we have had a senior engineers who have toiled assiduously and bravely. Considerate, careful and composed men like Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid — ‘The Wall’ which is quite appropriate in the context of this building analogy!

For a keen follower of Indian cricket, this has been an exciting decade when brick has been laid carefully upon another brick by the above players. All of them knew that India could build that home for an ardent fan. And build it, they did! And credit to last night’s World Cup win must go to each and every one of them. I wrote about these architects and initial builders a year ago.

It was Sourav Ganguly who changed the relationship between the BCCI and players. He fought for all that Sachin Tendulkar had pleaded for, before him, but could not get: a physio, a professional coaching set up, and more. But more importantly, he built a team in his image. A team that had a stomach for a fight; a team that wanted to win it; a team that was not scared of boarding a plane!

And the core elements of his team are still there — Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan are his proteges and represent the start of that so very non-Indian generation of cricketers that loved a fight; a generation that did not back down; a generation that did not give up at the first sign of danger.

But that initial blueprint, which was first stabilized by Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, is now Dhoni’s team!

Apart from the reassuring constancy of Sachin Tendulkar in Indian cricket, Dhoni’s team contains the key elements of the team that Sourav Ganguly architected so carefully. A team that took the fight to the opposition. A team that had a point to prove.

However, today, it is an India team that is built on Dhoni’s image. He is self-assured. He is completely centered and is not there to prove a point. He knows that the men who traveled the path before him have proved a point or two! He does not have a point to prove. He acknowledges that he stands on impressive shoulders. Witness the manner in which he invites Anil Kumble to the presentation ceremony to lift the Border-Gavaskar trophy in the 2008 series against Australia.

Today, Dhoni stands on broad shoulders and admits it. But it is his firm hand on the wheel of the bus that takes Team India forward. It is his team. He takes decisions. We may not like some of them. But he does what he thinks is best for the team and cops it on the chin when it goes wrong. He is about building a strong team that will keep winning comfortably, compellingly and conveniently. He is about consolidation of a considerable strength. His is a team with young individuals who are cut from his cloth. It has individuals like Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina who will take the baton forward (as @sidvee says so eloquently and compellingly).

In yesterday’s game, Dhoni promoted himself in the batting order. It was a strong statement. If Ganguly had a point to prove in Brisbane on 7 December 2003, Dhoni read a book — not just a statement — last night by coming ahead of Yuvraj Singh in last night’s game. It may have been to keep the left-right combination going. However, I think Dhoni wanted it. I believe he wanted to make that statement. He also knew that the spinners were on at that time. With Yuvraj Singh’s initial shakiness against spin, it needed someone who could nullify the spinners. He walked in purposefully.

Here was a proud leader of a proud team. He did not have a point to prove. He wanted to make a statement. Team India had changed right before our eyes in the last decade from proving a point to making a statement.

It was therefore fitting that Dhoni hit the winning runs yesterday. The steely eyes that stay transfixed on the trajectory of the ball as it crosses the boundary line for the winning runs communicates to all of us the sharpness and ferocity of his intent. Please watch this (thanks again to @sidvee). It tells a story on its own and does not need a commentary. As the ball reached the fence, the bat twirl at the end of it communicated that he was satisfied that the job had been done. He was there at the end as the leader. He had completed the job that had been started by the fabulous architects and the fastidious builders before him. He was leader of a team filled with potential leaders who not only just prove a point — that chapter has been written — but, who will go forth and make a statement.

And how fitting was it that, at the end, when asked what it felt like to hold Sachin Tendulkar aloft on his slender shoulders, Virat Kohli — a future Team India captain perhaps — said, “Sachin carried the burden of the entire nation for 21 years and now it is our turn to carry him on our shoulders.

Sachin carried by Team India

It has taken a decade for me, the average Indian fan to see this house being built brick-by-agonizing-brick. At times, it looked as though the house might get blown away — for most Team India fans, for example, the year 2007 did not happen! There were times when we were ragged. There were times when we were completely pear shaped.

But the last decade has been a thrilling decade of dreams which have now become a compelling reality.

It is now time to enter that dream home. Do enter this beautiful house with me…

– Mohan (@mohank on Twitter)

Random thoughts 23rd March

India – Batting team?

So, everyone keeps saying that India is a batting side. We do have one of the best opening pairs in ODIs – Tendulkar and Sehwag. And they have added over 650 runs and have 3 centuries between them. Following them at No 3 and No 4, we have Gambhir and Kohli. Gambhir has a couple of half centuries and Kohli has a century and a half century to his credit. And then comes Yuvraj Singh – with one century and 3 half centuries in his five outings.

But after that – nothing. Take the minor teams out of the equation (Bangladesh, Ireland and Netherlands), and India have lost all wickets in their allotted 50 overs to all other teams. I am not so sure now that we should call ourselves a batting team – although the batting really is our strength. Apart from Zaheer Khan, our bowling has been weak. And the fielding – well, there is nothing much to write about it.

Pakistan – Bowling team?

Unlike India, I would classify Pakistan as a bowling team – apart from that performance against New Zealand, their bowling has held out quite well. They have Afridi and Umar Gul in the top 5 wicket takers of the tournament, and as I write this blog, they have skittled out West Indies for 112! And their bowlers have had good economy rates too.

And like India, they seriously need to improve in the other areas. The question is – Is being good in just one area enough to win the World cup?

Batting Powerplay

The batting powerplay has really been India’s curse this tournament. IMO, India should take it straight after the bowling powerplay.

Would love to hear any other opinions out there Smile

Last ODI?

Depending on who wins, the India Australia game could potentially be the last ODI game for two people who have really made a difference for their teams. Gary Kirsten for India and Ricky Ponting for Australia. Kirsten has already announced that he is finishing up after the World cup, while Ponting keeps insisting that he won’t retire – maybe not, but something tells me that the selectors will give Ponting the nudge if he doesn’t go himself….unless of course he wins the cup another time for his country.

-Mahesh-

More positives from India’s loss to RSA…

At the risk of getting my nose out of joint, let me state at the outset that I am quite glad India lost to South Africa. South Africa played exceedingly well over 60-overs of the match. However, they were aided commendably by India’s Bollywood-style “glamour” batting. The result was that Group-B becomes quite interesting — if it wasn’t enticingly poised already!

For the first 40 overs of the game, it appeared as though the only question worth considering was the margin of India’s victory. Then the wheels started falling off the India innings. India lost 9 wickets in 29 runs. After being 267 for 1 wicket after 39.3 overs, in the end, India did not even bat out the full quota of 50 overs! Moreover, India captain Dhoni — probably one of the best finishers in the World ODI scene — was left not out on 12 off 21 balls! It was more than mayhem. It was daylight thuggery. India had fallen some 40 runs short of what would have been a competitive total. More importantly, India fell about 70 runs short of what I thought the team would make — at the 30-over mark, India was 197 for 1!

South Africa needed 297 to win. Although India bowled and fielded well, the total was never going to be enough.

Much of the post-match commentary and analysis in India has focussed on whether Yusuf Pathan ought to have been promoted; whether Gautam Gambhir ought to be in the team; whether Harbhajan Singh ought to have bowled the last over instead of Ashish Nehra; why Ashwin is not in the team… yada yada yada.

Some unkind reports have said that South Africa did not win the game — that India lost it. That is not only blind, but rude at the same time! The South African’s played really well. They pulled it back from over-40 and then batted sensibly.

In general though, the papers have got stuck into MS Dhoni.

As for me, I am very happy India lost the game. For me, there are more positives than negatives from India’s loss last night.

Three reasons really:

  • Final Group Standings: If India had won, India would have, in all likelihood, topped Group-B (barring a disaster against West Indies). If India had topped Group-B, the team would have, in all likelihood, faced Pakistan. Australia and Pakistan (despite recent results and despite the baffling and continued presence of Kamran Akmal in the team) are the only two teams that I believe Team India fears in Group-A. My sense and prediction is that Australia will top Group-A and Pakistan will come in at #4 in Group-A. So, as long as India finish either 2 or 3 in Group-B India will be fine. India will do well against New Zealand or Sri Lanka, in my view.
  • Team Balance: I think India team management — what is a “think tank” anyway? I just abhor that phrase and refuse to use it — needed a kick up its stubborn backside. The team balance is wrong and the current “imbalance” compromises and exposes her bowling terribly.
  • Batting approach: The team’s approach to batting — especially in the batting Power Play — is totally wrong and that exposes the rest of the batting. India does not play the power overs well — not because India cannot. The approach needs a re-think that is not really too hard. Especially from a team that wants to “win it for Sachin”, a more considered approach was required in a game in which the Master had scored 111! This was no way to “win it” for anyone! So, I was happy with this kick being delivered in a match that India could afford to lose.

Each of the above factors deserve a bit more of an analysis and that is precisely what I shall attempt below…

Final Group Standings:

At the time of writing this, New Zealand has beaten Canada. In Group-A, the remaining games (along with my prediction of the winner of the game in parenthesis) are:

  • Australia v Kenya (Australia)
  • Pakistan v Zimbabwe (Pakistan)
  • Australia v Canada (Australia)
  • New Zealand v Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka)
  • Australia v Pakistan (Australia)
  • Kenya v Zimbabwe (care factor?)

So I expect the final Group-A standings to be: Australia (11), Sri Lanka (9), New Zealand (8), Pakistan (8) since I expect New Zealand to have a better NRR than Pakistan. The two “tricky” games to predict are Australia Vs Pakistan and NZ Vs SL. But I have gone with Australia and Sri Lanka winning these games, respectively.

In Group-B, the “Group of Death“, the remaining games and my predicted results for these are:

  • Bangladesh v Netherlands (Bangladesh)
  • Ireland v South Africa (South Africa)
  • England v West Indies (England)
  • Ireland v Netherlands (Ireland)
  • Bangladesh v South Africa (South Africa)
  • India v West Indies (India)

The results for this group are a bit harder to predict. For example, the England Vs Windies and the India Vs Windies results are hard to call. But I expect the results to be as above.

Either way, I do not expect Bangladesh to beat South Africa. So, I do not see a danger of India not qualifying even if she loses the game against West Indies next weekend. If India loses to West Indies (and Bangladesh loses to South Africa, as expected), it is likely that India might end 4th in the points table and meet Australia. Oh well. Them’s the breaks.

However, I expect the final Group-A standings to be: South Africa (10), India (9), England (7), West Indies (6) and Bangladesh (6), with West Indies qualifying because of superior run rate. Of course, any number of apple carts will be turned if West Indies beat England and if Bangladesh beat South Africa.

Let us assume that the final standings are as per my simulation above. In that case, India will play New Zealand. I reckon that this is an easier game than either Australia, Pakistan or Sri Lanka. So, in a strange way, I am glad India lost to South Africa last night!

I am not saying that India cannot beat Pakistan or that India needs to “fear” Pakistan. The problem is that one can never be sure which Pakistan team turns up on the day! I would, therefore, much rather prefer India meeting Pakistan in the Finals, if both teams get that far!

Team Balance:

I am even happier India lost because the team’s balance and batting approach are horrible, in my view.

I just do not accept that a powerful batting line-up should (or can) mask poor bowling resources. This is an utter fallacy. If we take that proposition to its logical conclusion, why then would we not stack the team up with 11 batsmen or with 5 batsmen, a wicket-keeper and 5 “bits and pieces” players?

Any team has to be balanced and at the moment it is just not balaced. The closest the team got to achieving that bowling balance was in yesterdays’ game against South Africa! If only the Indians had scored 20-50 runs more (easily possible, in my view) the bowlers would have defended it. Of course, that is a speculative assertion and in this space, any assertion that you make to the contrary is as good as the assertion above! But the fact is that, with a more considered batting approach, India could have scored 330 runs. The fact is that a lopsided bowling attack was not able to defend 330 in Bangalore (and the Bangalore and Nagpur conditions/pitches were similar). Hence my hypothesis that with the additional bowler that India had in yesterdays’ game, with an additional cushion of 30 runs, the bowlers may/would have been able to defend such a total. The South Africa batsmen would have had to take far more risks and may have folded!

But really. All of these are speculative still. I would like to be a bit more considered and firm in my analysis and conclusion.

The team just cannot afford to go in with 2 pace bowlers, 2 spinners and leave that 5th bowling resource to Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli (or Suresh Raina) and Yusuf Pathan. The Indian spin bowlers do not bowl well in the bowling powerplay — although they did do the job in yesterdays’ game. If Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel get taken to the cleaners by Chris Gayle or Brendon McCullum, you have to have another pace bowler to fall back on. Moreover, I have generally observed that Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh bowl a more attacking line — even when they are attacked — if they know that the team has additional bowlers to depend on.

So I would like India to go in boldly with 3 pace bowlers and 2 spinners.

This inevitably means that one of Yusuf Pathan or Virat Kohli or Gautam Gambhir have to make way for a bowler.

I would rest Yusuf Pathan for the next game and bring in a spinner for the game against West Indies.

So in my view, the team for next Sunday’s game against West Indies (and for all other games after that) should be: Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir, Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni, Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel

That certainly weakens the batting. But with all the top batsmen in good form — everyone in that top 6 has scored well recently — if we cannot do it with those 6, the 7th bat will be useless too, in my view.

So India has to bite the bullet and go with the above, more well-balanced team. I have only been saying this for the last 2 months or so! And I will continue to say it till someone listens to me!

And for my money Ashwin is a better bowler than Chawla because, apart from being very good at his craft, he is apparently mentally stronger too!

Batting approach:

There is no point in blaming Ashish Nehra for the last over debacle. There is no evidence to suggest that Harbhajan Singh would have done a better job. One has to trust the instincts of the leader in the middle. However, with just 14 runs to get in the last over, that becomes a 50-50 situation whoever the bowler is. So discussion on who ought to have bowled the last over is simply quite futile. The captain made a decision based on his knowledge of the game, the opposition players out in the middle, his knowledge of his bowlers’ strengths and the game situation. He made a decision. It did not work. If it had worked, we would have hailed him as a genius! Chances are that it might have worked!

Nehra might learn from this that the yorker has not yet been banned from the game, yet! Generally, it is a good ball to bowl in the last over. Bowling it “just slightly back of a length” is not a smart idea when there are only 14 runs to get; when the batsmen are looking to smash it to mid-wicket! If his confusion persists all he needs to do is see that ball Dale Steyn bowled to Harbhajan Singh!

Ditto, Dhoni’s decision to promote Yusuf Pathan. He made a call. It did not work. What Pathan might learn from his sad outing is that he does not have to go for “glamour shots” off each ball. As far as I know, the “defensive stroke for a single” has not been banned from the game, yet!

But (I feel a Sidhu moment descending on me) one cannot drive forward by looking continually at the rear-view mirror! We do need to move on, really…

The main learning for the Indian batsmen is that they continued to go for “glamour shots” (in the words of Sunil Gavaskar). After being 267-1 in the 40th over, it was nothing short of professional negligence to fold from that point on for a mere 29 runs! In Dhoni’s words, the batsmen “don’t need to play for the spectators – they love sixes and fours in India but at the end of the day….,”.

In my book, a spot-on assessment by a smart captain. Was he right to call it that way? I think so. Tendulkar, Gambhir, Pathan, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan all went for “Bollywood” shots to please the crowd and the assembled Bollywood stars! Sometimes, it is useful to be boring. Dhoni was being boring. The game had changed in front of his eyes. He had to set aside his ego and machismo to pull things back. Sadly, several other Indian batsmen could not see past the end of their noses to realize that there was a world out there (Oh dear! Have I been listening to Sidhu far too much?).

Conclusion:

So in conclusion, I think there are silver linings all around. India will not top Group-B, and that is good. The team management will look hard at team balance and the inclusion of an extra bowler, and that is good. The batsmen will have learned from the game and will, I believe, try less to be “winners on their own”, and that can only be good.

– Mohan (@mohank on Twitter)

Who is India going to face in the quarters?

At the end of the group stage, India will either finish #1  (based on my predictions) or #2, if SA beat India. This means that India will play either the #3 or #4 team from Group A.

So, Indian fans will be eagerly looking to see who will end up in these two spots. Here are the remaining matches in Group A:

  • Australia face 2 weak teams and Pakistan.
  • Pakistan face 1 weak team and Australia
  • NZ face 1 weak team and SL
  • SL face 1 weak team and NZ

…and their current points stand as follows

NZ 6
Pakistan 6
SL 5
Australia 5

Effectively, it is down to two games deciding what the final standings are going to be: NZ vs SL and Pakistan vs Australia.

My prediction is that SL will beat NZ, and Australia will beat Pakistan. Which could mean that India either face NZ or Pakistan…

What are your predictions?

-Mahesh-

Random Thoughts – 8th March

Get Ashwin in

For the game against Netherlands, India needs to bring Ashwin into the team. Ashwin can open the bowling with Zaheer allowing us to get Munaf to bowl one drop. And this has the added bonus of dropping Chawla from the team. Talk about hitting 2 pigs with one bird.

The only thing is that Dhoni needs to be convinced that it is OK to play three off spinners in one team. I think finger spinners are better than conventional wrist spinners while playing in the sub-continent anyway (For the record, I don’t consider Kumble or Afridi to be conventional wrist spinners)

Ladder standings – Group B

Who is going to finish at the top of the table in Group B? I’ve downgraded my outlook for South Africa after their game against England. If they win against India, then they could end being at the top of the table with just one loss (I think they can beat both Ireland and Bangladesh). India on the other hand will beat Netherlands and West Indies, but the South Africa match will be a tough one.  So, my predictions for the remaining games in Group B are:

Wed Mar 9 25th Match, Group B – India v Netherlands
Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi
India
Fri Mar 11 27th Match, Group B – Ireland v West Indies
Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali, Chandigarh
WI
Fri Mar 11          28th Match, Group B – Bangladesh v England
Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chittagong
Eng
Sat Mar 12         
 
29th Match, Group B – India v South Africa
Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Jamtha, Nagpur
India
Mon Mar 14
 
32nd Match, Group B – Bangladesh v Netherlands
Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chittagong
Bang
Tue Mar 15          34th Match, Group B – Ireland v South Africa
Eden Gardens, Kolkata
SA
Thu Mar 17          36th Match, Group B – England v West Indies
MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, Chennai
Eng
Fri Mar 18 37th Match, Group B – Ireland v Netherlands
Eden Gardens, Kolkata
Ireland
Sat Mar 19 39th Match, Group B – Bangladesh v South Africa
Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
SA
Sun Mar 20          42nd Match, Group B – India v West Indies
MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, Chennai
India

Based on these results, the standings would be as follows:

  • India (11 points)
  • England (9 points)
  • South Africa (8 points)
  • West Indies (6 points)

What about Group A, you ask? Care factor….

-Mahesh-

Can we complete a 14-team World Cup in 4 weeks?

The current Cricket World Cup 2011 goes on for 42 days. The previous edition of the World Cup (in 2007) went on for 42 days. It was so long that I asked my friends in 2008 if the cricket World Cup 2007 had concluded! The CEO of the ICC at that time was Malcolm Speed. I can say that certainty that I would not associate his name (Speed) with the time it took for the World Cup he organised under his watch to conclude! The World Cup takes way too much time in its current format.

In direct contrast, the Soccer/Football World Cup lasted exactly 25 match-days! And the Soccer World Cup features 32 teams, as against 14 teams in the Cricket World Cup! Notwithstanding the fact that ODIs take longer to complete than soccer games, in my view, the cricket World Cup just goes on and on needlessly!

The ICC’s reaction to criticism of the duration has been to suggest a trimming of the competition down to 10 teams. I am not sure that that is the way to go. We then get a situation where we deprive growth in the game.

We also get deprived of romantic situations like last night when the Irish underdog beat the mighty English! Agreed, such thrashings do not come often and that more often than not, we see the “minnows” (Oh boy, I hate that word so much!) get thrashed by the big teams. However, there is a certain romance surrounding Burton Albion drawing with Manchester United in the FA Cup in 2005-06! The FA Cup provides opportunities for the underdog to have its day in the lights.

Similarly, the World Cup should also provide space for the smaller teams to try and flex their muscles against the bigger teams.

During the rest of the intervening period between World Cups, my proposal (one that was initiated by Dileep Premachandran, I believe) is that smaller team are featured in domestic competitions. For example, there is no reason why Afghanistan (a fast improving team) and UAE should not play in the Ranji Trophy. Similarly, Ireland, Scotland and Netherlands should be allowed to field teams in the England County Championships. The USA team should play in the Carrib Beer Cup in West Indies.

The question then is whether the World Cup duration can be shortened while not sacrificing participation. At 42 days, as I said in my opener, the Cricket World Cup is way too long.

It can be trimmed. With 14 teams split in two “divisions”, it is possible to complete the World Cup in precisely 28 days! I have named the teams a1-a7 and b1-b7. According to the schedule below, the entire competition can be concluded from day-1 (d1) to day-28 (d28) with four rest days (d20, d23, d24 and d26).

a1 a2 a3 a4 a5 a6 a7     b1 b2 b3 b4 b5 b6 b7
a1 d1 d7 d14 d17 d12 d4   b1   d1 d8 d14 d17 d12 d4
a2 d1 d5 d8 d15 d19 d13   b2 d1   d5 d8 d15 d19 d13
a3 d7 d5 d2 d11 d14 d18   b3 d8 d5   d2 d11 d15 d18
a4 d14 d8 d2 d6 d10 d16   b4 d14 d8 d2   d6 d10 d16
a5 d17 d15 d11 d6 d3 d9   b5 d17 d15 d11 d6   d3 d9
a6 d12 d19 d14 d10 d3 d7   b6 d12 d19 d15 d10 d3   d7
a7 d4 d13 d18 d16 d9 d7   b7 d4 d13 d18 d16 d9 d7  
QF1 d21   SF1 d25   L1VsL2 d27   FIN d28
QF2 d21   SF2 d25            
QF3 d22                  
QF4 d22                  

In other words, the entire competition can start on a Sunday and will be completed precisely 4 weeks later on a Saturday! I have assumed that each weekday will feature 2 games and weekends will feature 3 games. This is very possible! Each team will have (on average) 2 days between successive games in the league stage.

Mind you, the above tables represent merely one permutation of many plausible solutions. I worked it out merely to illustrate the point rather than providing a direct implementable solution.

Now why is it not possible for the ICC to adopt such a schema or template for the World Cup. If I can come with a schedule like this in half an hour of mucking around, surely the boffins that get paid loads of dosh to run cricket can do better than that!

-Mohan (@mohank on Twitter)