This has been one heck of a start to the cricket world cup. No one would have predicted the kind of results that have been coming out of the qualifying rounds.
Firstly, there was the 'Thrilla in Jamaica' between Ireland and Zimbabwe. It was riveting to watch and I didn't realise that cricket played between two minnows could be that interesting. The match resulted in a tie and no team deserved to lose. The Irish were put into bat on a seaming wicket and though they did initially wobble, their opening batsman Bray came to the party and scored a century on debut, which is quite a feat. They put on a decent score of 221. When Zimbabwe batted, it looked as if they might win comfortably but their lack of experience showed through and a couple of wickets towards the end changed the complexion of the game. With one over remaining, they had to get 9 runs with 1 wicket in hand. They narrowed it down to 1 run in 1 ball but their batsman were unable to score of the last ball resulting in a tie.
Then came the next shocker of the tournament. India losing to Bangladesh. This is not to underestimate the Bangladeshis. They have improved a lot under Dav Whatmore and they showed that yesterday against the Indians. Dravid made a shocker of a decision to bat first after winning the toss. It was pretty clear that the pitch offered some help to the seamers in the first hour and I was expecting Dravid to make complete use of it especially with Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel in good form. Deciding to bat, none of the batsman got going with only Ganguly and Yuvraj scrapping together a partnership and providing a moderately decent score to defend. One thing that has baffled me is Dravid's support for Sehwag. Other one being the decision to bat Tendulkar down the order. They have tried this a few times in the past especially in the 99 world cup. While not a failure, he was no way the prolific scorer that he was when batting at the top. Tendulkar may not be the same attacking batsman as he used to be but he still is the BEST opening batsman for India. If Sehwag, infact, needs to play and be a part of this team, he should be batting in the middle order where he wont be facing the seamers and swinging deliveries and will probably have more success against the spinners. It's becoming apparent that Dravid is making fundamental mistakes and hope some sense prevails and he reverts to what used to work rather than make changes just for the heck of it. Bangladesh team gave an extremely good account of themselves and their young batsman showed no fear in chasing the total and attacked the Indian bowlers with relish. While India is still not out of the tournament, it is a long and hard path ahead.
The same cannot be said for the other Asian team that is already out of the world cup. Pakistan, were never contenders in my opinion, given their shambolic handling of team selection just prior to the world cup and doping scandal, but I really expected them to qualify for the super eights. While their loss to West Indies wasn't that bad, their performance against the Irish was appalling. They were put into bat on a green top and as usual capitulated. They showed no spine and even Mohammad Yousuf was made to look like a novice. Having put only 133 on board, it was always going to be hard task for the bowlers to defend. They tried their best but the Irish prevailed thus causing the first biggest upset of the tournament. While, the tournament will miss the excitement of watching a Pakistan team grace the cricket field, the Irish deserved to qualify and a few more upsets may not be out of question.
India have made it extremely hard for themselves to qualify and it may not be totally unthinkable to see a list for the super eights that doesn't include India as well. Hope that doesn't happen though.
But what a fantatstic start to the world cup....