Here we are! Cricket’s biggest carnival has finally arrived. It was fitting that the greatest cricketer of all time, Sir Garfield Sobers, declared the world cup open. The organizers departed from the usual formality of the head of state of the host nation declaring the world cup open, and instead asked one of its erstwhile greats to do the honors. Probably this was influenced by the fact that the West Indies is an entity which consists of many nations, and maybe to avoid any dispute which may arise subsequently they selected their greatest ever cricketer to start off their greatest ever sporting event.
This is one of the most open of all world cups in recent memory and also the least hyped one. One can vividly remember the hype that surrounded the world cup last time in 2003. Compared to that this year the hype has relatively low key. It is not until 2 days before the world cup that it has started showing signs of picking up momentum. This could be attributed to the fact that almost 50% of the competing teams in this world do not stand a chance of winning a single match other than among themselves. This has inundated the group stage with a lot of meaningless matches and with the results being a foregone conclusion in almost half its matches. Hopefully the tournament would really start off when the super-eight stage begins on the 27th March.
There have already been some fireworks on and off the field for this world cup. If the opening ceremony showcased some spectacular fireworks display, off the field it has been the showdown between Ponting and Gavaskar that has been in the news lately. Ponting’s harsh reply to Gavaskar’s equally harsh criticism of their behavior on the field and his subsequent return to Ponting’s taunts have all added spice to an already simmering rivalry between India and Australia. The Indians are still haunted by the massacre they received at the hands of the Australians during last world cup’s final. Indian captain has already stated that he would love to play Australia in the final, above even traditional rivals Pakistan!!! If that doesn’t tell you how much intensity Indians have to a clash with the Aussies nothing else will.
Another confrontation that has just been heated up is that of Bob Woolmer, the Pakistani coach, taking on former greats Imran Khan and Javed Miandad. Woolmer has been subject to their criticism for quite some time now. He has finally hit back taking on both these legends and claiming that he will prove them. Boy!!! As if the pressure of the world cup was not enough, he has gone on and added some more pressure upon himself and his team. Nevertheless there is no denying the fact that this has added much needed excitement to the initial stages of the tournament.
Image Courtsey: cricket-worldcup.net
The opinion that this world cup is the most open in recent time has almost become passé now. Australia’s dominance has been severely dented by their recent losses to England and New Zealand. Their bowling does not seem to posses the same potency it used to posses. With the exit of Shane Warne and the ageing on Glenn Magrath they seem to have lost some of their lethality which had made them such a dominant force for such a long time. Their decline is welcomed by the whole cricketing fraternity as this opens up the door to glory for every other major team in the competition. But still, only a fool would take the Aussies lightly and to their own detriment.
The pitches would be the most crucial factor in this world cup. If it behaves as it has in the past few years then we would not be seeing the run feasts that we have grown accustomed to, and according to me that’s a good thing. The pitches could make it an equal contest between the bowlers and the batsmen, with only the ones with the necessary skills and with the ability to adapt prevailing in the end. Low scores could be the order of the day and this would force the captains to think on their feet and change their strategies as per the demands of the situation.
Image Courtsey: cricket-online.com
I believe that if the wicket plays out as it is expected to, the teams from the subcontinent could come to the party in a big way. These guys are champions anytime the ball doesn’t bounce above their hips. Every Indian must therefore be hoping that their team goes one better in this edition than what they achieved last time around. Nothing would give them more pleasure than dishing it out to the Aussies. If history is anything to go by, then the last time a team was poised to win a hat-trick of world cups they were thwarted by a team of no-hopers from this great country. I genuinely wish that history would repeat itself.
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