More than anything, the second week of competition at the Cricket World Cup 2011 underlined the gap between the elite and minnow nations that play the game of cricket. When that happens, you more or less get three conclusions: which teams are way ahead of others, which have failed to make good on their existing status and those who punch above their weight.
Of course then, the two extremes are formed by the likes of Sri Lanka, Pakistan and West Indies on one end, making quick work of their respective opposition. While Ireland make up the other extreme, England and Bangladesh border somewhere in the middle.
The aura of the tournament shone brighter with spectacular match-ups early on the weekend, Sri Lanka taking on Pakistan and then India-England ending in a thrilling tie at Bangalore. While the jury is still out on whether the tied teams were both equally strong, equally weak or their abilities made hollow by the flatness of the pitch, the freshness of the other contest was in Pakistan coming out on top. To turn it on against a top team when questions are asked of them is something expected of this mercurial side and then predictably they would mess it all up against a lowly side. And they nearly did, getting bowled out for 180-odd against Canada. Any other time, the chase would have been completed and an upset of this proportion would have set the match-fixing tongues wagging.
Not this time though and Pakistan’s get-out-of-jail win could be a key moment. Usually they don’t get a wake-up call this early in the tournament and even if they do, it costs them crucial points. By having that one poor game and still getting two points from it, they have pretty much assured themselves of a top-two finish in Group B. Combine that with their win over Sri Lanka and we are possibly looking at one of the four semi-finalists already. It is a scary thought for both Lanka and Australia, especially the latter for their batting is pretty much expected to get stuck against spin sooner or later.
Canada’s inability to win has completely eased this group, which is something that cannot be said of Group A. Ireland did what they couldn’t, that is keep a calm head despite losing wickets and see out the chase in a manner that asks of higher status be accorded to them. No, one isn’t talking about Tests just yet. But the ICC should give serious thought to giving full ODI status to the Irish based on their display against England.
At 111 for five, not many prominent teams are able to stage a comeback and what happened then could have been a flash in the pan yes, except the maturity shown in the last ten overs of the chase spoke volumes of the distance Ireland have traversed since the last World Cup.
Their recent performances against New Zealand had pulled the average fan into thinking that Bangladesh have come a long way too. But that doesn’t seem to be the case when compared with their showing only two months on. They made a poor decision in bowling first against India and then hashed up with their batting against Ireland. But egged on by the crowd, they came roaring back into that game and seemed to have turned a true corner, for things like batting collapses happen.
No one can fathom however their inane display against the West Indies and it made their batting against the Irish look good. The saddest part about that match was its relative importance to the group standings – it was to be the decider between the two sides as to who would progress. As things stand now, the Tigers need to beat England if they have to have any hopes of reaching the next round.
The gates that seemed to have nearly closed for them have instead opened up for the brave Irish. Yes, they need two wins more to make any sort of impact and beyond Netherlands it is impossible to see where those points will come from. Yet they didn’t win against England by cowering out of the challenge and that is a warning shot off towards India, South Africa and West Indies.
In essence these three teams should make be in the next round by this time next week, unless of course we have a few more shocking twists coming our way. And truly speaking, despite the one upset and another near one, the first round could still do with more of such bends in an otherwise seemingly-flat path towards the knock-outs.
The one other, and quite significant, aspect of this past week has been the debate over the UDRS and the 2.5m rule has been its biggest bone of contention. There is need of some perspective herein. First up, India and its captain are not right in whining about the flaws of the system. If they had had their way, the system wouldn’t be in place and they wouldn’t have known that Ian Bell was so close to being out.
That the ICC put its foot down and brought in technology for such an important event is the right move, for you cannot have howlers and then think about backing up your decisions. However, and secondly, the onus is on the governing body not to have laws which go beyond comprehension. The part of Hawk Eye that predicts the trajectory of the ball after impact wasn’t first used when the system was implemented in 2008. So what induced them to use it now?
Surely the absence of Hot Spot was one factor, but that doesn’t correct the wrong committed herein. The computerized prediction can never be an accurate measure of the ball’s trajectory and not showing it to the on-field umpire allows the element of his interpretation to stay independent. When that happens, umpires will be able to decide for themselves whether the ball is hitting the stumps or not, never mind the batsmen being 2.5 meters away from the stumps!
© Cricket World 2011