Saturday, March 12, 2011

Will WC2011 be the high noon for India's cricket?- A midterm review of the World Cup Cricket 2011

It's exactly mid way in the ICC World Cup 2011 cricket tournament & the matches have given their due share of photo-finishes , upsets along with some memorable batting & bowling prowess. The second half is kicking off with the group match between India & South Africa. More about that later.

Below is a holistic review of the how the countries have shaped up and what potential they hold.

  1. Australia:  Fit and fighting , Ricky Ponting's men are cracking ready & expected to sail through to the semis.
  2. Bangladesh : An inconsistent side , Bangladesh will have gained in confidence after chasing out England with 2 wickets to spare and has an outside chance of making it to the quarter finals.
  3. Canada    : Registered their first win against Kenya and will carry home good memories.
  4. England   : The only team to feature in all the three close finishes/upsets  (against India,Ireland, Bangladesh), will require more than pride to defeat the resurgent Windies in their last group match. Broad and KP's departures are not auguring well for the team too.
  5. India    : Unfit and struggling, Dhoni  thinks that the team will peak in the "right time" and hopefully he is right. But facing another resurgent team , New Zealand in the quarter finals in Ahmedabad, could challenge Dhoni's captaincy skill against a confident Vettori's. 
  6. Ireland  : Kevin O'Brien , the star of the first half of WC, scored a 50-ball century to blast England out of the match. Ireland has played all matches consistently well & will go back with the hope of gaining the coveted test status in the next few years.
  7. Kenya :  Sandip Patil or otherwise, Kenya should finally decide whether they mean serious business and hire a world class coach with a 3-5 year plan for improving their game.
  8. New Zealand : Playing exceptional cricket against the Pakistanis, Ross Taylor gave his team what neither Greatbatch nor Wright could imbibe as coaches; the belief in themselves. From this point onward, New Zealand looks set to be the second placed in their group.
  9. Netherlands : Ryan Doeschate gave the team a lot of respectability that they will have to sustain through  their performances in the ODIs.
  10. Pakistan :  Shahid Afridi had led the scandal-ridden team to a level from where they can look forward to peaking in the right time but will have a tough fight possibly against the Windies at Dhaka.
  11. South Africa: The side which truly deserves to win at least one world cup title has to tighten up their belts against world class spin bowling of Muralidharan & Mendis in a turning track in Colombo, if it wants to reach the final. Their impeccable pace battery & world class fielding are assets that will see them through in majority of their matches irrespective of their batting display although Kallis is yet to peak.
  12. Sri Lanka :   The top-heavy team still looks shaky in their middle order and that could be the deciding factor in a do or die match. Expected to ride on comfortably to the semis where they might meet India , just like the last edition in 1996 but only this time in Mohali instead of Eden Gardens.
  13. West Indies : The dark horse of the tournament , West Indies is coasting merrily in spite of a poor form of Gayle not only because they have multiple match winners in the side but also because of  an excellent temperament of their new performing captain Sammy. This is the punters' team just like England was the bookies'.
  14. Zimbabwe : Don't cry for Zimbabwe!! They will overcome some day.
But all of the above were subjective reviews with speculative predictions, which anyway has no relevance once a match kicks in with its inherent excitement and shining superstars .

The  South Africa versus India match today at Nagpur is going  to be a contest between the best all round side against the best batting side . No matter what  the bowling combinations that India might think of (Munaf as the third pacer being one) playing today , it will boil down to the skills of the batting heavy weights against the scorching pace of Steyn,Morkel & Tsotsobe ( a likely inclusion considering his exploits against the Indians just about two months back in South Africa) and mind blowing fielding of the rest of the team. Sachin who was tested time and again by Steyn 2 months back , might hold on to make his point but the likes of Gambhir, Yuvaraj & Sehwag will have raise their games by more than a notch  to prevent being bundled out around  150-200 runs .

The toss is immaterial for South Africa as they would like to bowl first and India , for sure, would like to bat first to give its timid bowlers some respectable total to defend . However, since both the teams are expected to be in quarters , this match could just be a warm-up game for both the contestants with some competitive actions thrown in the last ten overs. Overall, South Africa is favourites to win today but the combined Indian top-order along with Zahir & Bhajji could just make it the high noon for India in Nagpur today.

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