Monday, May 2, 2011

Cricket World Cup 2011: 5 Villains of Competitive Cricket

Earlier publihsed on my blog

Recent thrashing of Australia and New Zealand in world cup warm up games is some indication of the kind of pitches and playing conditions in the upcoming matches of world cup. Cricket is considered to be a by-chance game by cricket analysts and pundits, but it needs techniques, quality, execution and more importantly luck to create a chance of winning. In Subcontinent where cricket has more followers than any other continent, people worship the heroes and seldom tolerate them loosing. Both India and Pakistan are good examples of this cricket craze, which often turns into hate. Apart from player’s commitment, application and hard work there are number of factors which decide the winner. These factors can not be ignored as they will be crucial in deciding the possible world cup winners, some of them are dew, bad pitches, injuries, rains and possibly early exits of big names.

Cold Evenings and Dew Factor

Imran Khan has recently pointed out that dew will play a decisive role during WC 2011. Dew is one of the greatest problems of day night games in cricket especially in subcontinent. Historically looking, dew has played significant role in spoiling thrilling contests and producing one sided contests. For example Sri Lanka was far less favorites for the 1996 cricket world cup winner but she went on to win it. First they were aided by West Indies and Australia, as they refused to play in Sri Lanka sighting the security threats. Taking heart from Indian’s collapse at Calcutta, they beat Australia in a one sided game in Final. Great bowlers like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Fleming were made to look like club cricketers as dew spoilt the possibility of any contest and Sri Lanka easily won by Seven Wickets with four overs to go. So one should think a lot before putting money on any of favorites as Bangladesh may also be a great threat if conditions helped them. But at the other hand we should not expect that each D/N game would be affected by dew as there are many venues where weather is expected to be quite hot killing any possibility of dew. Subcontinent pitches usually produce high scoring encounters, so if dew stayed away the teams with better batting would have the better chance of winning otherwise captains winning toss in D/N games would love to bowl first.

Brothers Duckworth and Lewis

When they designed the notorious D/L system for rain effected matches they might never have imagined how much hate it would bring to them. No team can understand the contribution of D/L system in WC’s better than South Africa as they have been victims of it more than once in the world cup history. They can be asked to chase 22 in 1 ball again or their miscalculation can again haunt them to hand them an early exit in the upcoming WC but let’s not speculate. Recently Sri Lanka-West Indies series had been washed out in December 2010 due to heavy rains, rescheduled series was not completed either sighting the same reason. Thus Pakistanis team should pray for not being a possible victim of Brothers Duckworth and Lewis as they were nearly exited in 1992 by this non-sense system. ICC should find an alternative for this useless and horrible calculator immediately before it spoils more matches.

Newly prepared and spinning tracks

Australian thrashing in two warm up games in India has forced Rickey Ponting to complain about the under-prepared pitches in warm up games. England survived the humiliation at the hands of Canada by a slim margin. South African Captain Graeme Smith has also complained about the quality of pitch used for SA-Zimbabwe warm-up match. Quality of pitches refers to two different aspects; first there are many newly prepared pitches un-tested and unchecked. Secondly, two best spin bowling line ups India and Sri Lanka are the hosts of WC this year; this is why we should believe that India will look to use the home advantage to cash the best possible chance of winning a world cup. This fact is evident from Ind-NZ warm up game, the quality of pitch suggested as it was a spin paradise; India went for the match with three specialist spinners what does it mean? Simple, given the quality of pace bowler they have and the inability of their batsmen to coup with fast bowling they will definitely trap Australia, South Africa and England with spinning wickets.
Some people argue that ICC has officially prepared the pitches for the event but it is not hundred percent right as some of the stadiums are still under construction. Which clearly indicates how hastily this all has been done? in these circumstance we can not expect everything to be official and up to standards. Moreover ICC has totally been hijacked by Indian money market so we should not expect them to be independent in this regard. Some examples of low-quality pitches and their impact in past world cups are West Indies thrashing at the hands of Kenya in 1996, Pakistan loosing to Ireland and Indian humiliation at the hands of Bangladesh in 2007 WC. This year pitches are expected to be either metallic roads or extra-spinning nightmares for teams like West Indies and Australia. Under-prepared grounds and pitches may also be expected as many stadiums are still under construction while Kolkatta losing the hosting rights for incompleteness.

Injuries to Potential Stars

The biggest problem facing world cup is a series of injuries to few potential stars of world cup. English cricket team had been playing like a champion till their win in ashes but they were beaten 6-1 by Australian team in Australia. The main reason was the injuries to their main players like, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Eoin Morgan and Tim Bresnan. Exit of Michael Hussey (their best batsman) and Michael Hauritz (only spin hope) has greatly damaged already weakened Australian Squad. West Indies is facing injuries to their new batting sensation Adrian Barath and the only wicket keeper in squad Carlton Baugh. South Africa is also facing some tough decisions on Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Jacques Kallis both in an injury scare. This list may get longer and longer as the world cup progresses as conditions in subcontinent may not suit most of the foreign players.

Boring mis-matches and early exits:

Cricket world cup 2007 was probably the worst ever cricket world, as some of the big teams were forced to early exits, others in later stage. Final game looked like a street game children playing in the dark for the sake of giving big brother mandatory batting practice. It was a tournament filled with many one sided and boring games, rubbish scheduling and off the field distractions. Another example of boredom in world cups is Kenya playing semi-final of 2003 World cup. This time ICC has taken a wise decision by giving each team an easy opportunity to at-least reach quarter finals in a bid to avoid boring matches and fed up spectators but who can guarantee that big eight will easily get through to quarter finals?

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