Posts Tagged ‘ Cricket World Cup ’

India’s World Cup Cricket Victory: The Measure of a Nation

By Gethin Chamberlain for The Guardian

It is 3pm in a small British bar in the tourist state of Goa about 550km south of Bombay – where the country’s cricketers are harrying Sri Lanka’s batsmen in the early overs of the World Cup final.

It is 28 years since India last won this most cherished of titles in a nation so crazy about the game. There are fewer than nine hours to go until it does so again. But we don’t know that yet.

Mohinder Amarnath, the man of the match in the 1983 World Cup, is certain, however, that the moment has arrived to repeat his team’s success. Every Indian can realise their dreams through the 11 men on the field today, he says.

He need not have worried. Corrin, the eponymous owner of the Goan bar, is reaching for a brush, and dipping it into the pot of orange acrylic paint on the table in front of her. She holds the arm of the little Indian girl in front of her, draws the first rectangle of the national flag, hands the brush to Sonny, the barman, and watches him draw the white and green stripes. The girl, the daughter of the beautician who runs the shop upstairs, beams, delighted, and skips away to show off her affirmation of support for the home team.

In the street outside, a truck thunders by, horn blaring, Indian flags fluttering in from the cab. The picture is repeated across the country; millions are glued to their televisions or radios, donning their replica shirts, daubing themselves in the national colours. India is partying; each successful delivery from its bowlers greeted by a round of beating drums. The country that has made cricket its national game is certain that this year, finally, it will capture the ultimate prize, the World Cup.

India is certain that this is no more than it is due. It has already celebrated what many in the country regard as the real final, victory over its most reviled opponent, the notoriously unpredictable – unless you happen to be a friendly bookmaker – Pakistan team, which on Wednesday managed to throw away a magnificent bowling performance to lose ignominiously.

And India was desperate for this victory; the humiliation of the Commonwealth Games corruption scandal was still fresh; the country’s recent diplomatic successes – not least towards a permanent seat on the UN Security Council – has been overshadowed by fresh concerns about its aspiration to be regarded as a first world nation.

This is a nation demanding international approval: buoyed by the news that projections now show it will overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2030, there is a sense that its time has come.

As Saturday dawned, prayers were said, puja [offerings to the gods] were made, anything to give the Indian team an edge. Across the country, people painted themselves in the blue of the national team strip or in the orange, white and green of the flag, and prepared to party.

Bars and hotels hiked prices and charged admission to the more rarefied environments. In many places, TV screens were set up and even when the big screen was not an option, the nation gathered anywhere that a television was on, peering over each other’s shoulders to catch a glimpse of the match.

In Corrins’, even Sonny was applauding as Sri Lanka upped the ante in their final overs, smashing the ball hither and thither. Then a nation of – according to the new census figures – 1.2 billion fell silent as top batsman Sehwag fell to the second ball of the Indian innings.

Yet important as the game was, some felt that there was a sense of anticlimax after the Pakistan game. “The excitement among people is lacking,” Manoj Kumar, a hotel manager, told the Times of India.

Not so among the Sri Lankans, who had sidled into the final without the fireworks of the Indian progress. Captain Kumar Sangakkara pulled no punches when he explained what it meant to a country even more desperate for international approval after the end of three decades of bloody civil war: “It means everything. We have come through a very tough period. A lot of people have laid down lives for our country. In this new future, hopefully we can take home the World Cup, and that will be even more occasion for celebration.”

Gautam Gambhir, the Indian batsman who stabilised the nation’s innings after the loss of influential opener Sehwag, was no less compelling when he told a news channel that India had to win to honour the dead of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai: “For me it will be dedicated to the people who lost their lives in the 26/11 massacre.”

For India, the desire to be taken seriously by other nations in sport is perhaps more important than diplomatic point-scoring. Like its neighbour China, it has been unable to translate a mass of bodies into international sporting success. In terms of international trade, it has come on in leaps and bounds, yet still it is unable to project that power into other fields.

Such desperation for success was reflected in the way many in the country fell back on superstition in their desire to ensure success. One fan, Ritangshu Bhattacharya, from Delhi, assured journalists that he would be attempting to tip the odds in India’s favour by defying nature: “I won’t pee in the entire match… I feel whenever I go to the loo, a wicket falls or India drops a catch.”

Even his stoicism was outdone by one politician from the state of Madhya Pradesh, who stood from 10am to 10pm during the India-Pakistan match.

In Corrins’, there is no doubt about who should have won: “You have to support the team, don’t you?,” she said. “We live here, we have to support the local team, however it goes.”

It is 10.45pm, and MS Dhoni, the Indian captain, is hammering the ball to the boundary again. Six to win, two overs. There are fireworks going off everywhere, drowning out the commentary. India knows it has won. It is the Pakistan game all over again: victory from defeat, India defiant.

Six runs, and he smacks it over the boundary. The fireworks explode. In the cities, there is madness; in the villages, too, people are hugging and screaming. The firecrackers are exploding, the night a blur of colour. India wins.

Time For World, ICC To Realise Significance of Pak-India Cricket

By Ramiz Raja for Dawn

The stakes are massive, the pressure unbearable and Mohali is burning with Pak-India fever. As if the contest needed more spice, we now have the small matter of two prime ministers catching up with each other at the ground, looking to de freeze the bilateral dialogue over cricket diplomacy.

The world is seeing the power of India-Pakistan cricket. All those people in positions, who were cold and indifferent towards it, are now queueing up to use the occasion to cash in. The governments, the media and the ICC have been given enough evidence in the past also of the unfathomable strength of Indo-Pak match-up, to know that uncoupling the two can mean a turbulent world and a colorless cricket calendar. Yet, all of them allowed the most passionate cricket duel to get stuck by petty politics.

The game at Mohali can have significant repercussions for the players. A loss will be remembered like a tsunami aftermath. On the other hand, a win can, like a wedding video, linger on the minds for eternity. A performance against India is never forgotten and that’s such a strong point to motivate the players and deflect pressure. This game is all about nerves and who jangles them first. The greater the wait the higher the anxiety and it’s been a long break for both teams.

Listening to cricket pundits on channels, calling home to impress the folks that all is under control and filling the fans with high hopes must be taking a toll on the system. The players would be desperate to go out in the middle to settle the racket in the mind and settle the issue on the field.

People fear the Indian crowd and how their pressure will play up on the players. From playing in India I know that the one sided pro India crowd can in fact give you a high because you are fighting them against the odds, and draw from experience the moments when you have beaten them.

It’s such a great feeling when you box them into dead silence, stroke after stroke! I am sure most of our players have sampled that experience and will be motivated to repeat it for their fans.

Captains, at times, worry in normal situations about lack of effort and skill from the team. Afridi will not have any such issues at Mohali. The game gets raised by the players who tend to play above themselves against India. The captain has to remain cool and, in any eventuality, remain dignified. At the end of the day it’s only a game of cricket.

We may or may not win this but our team has certainly won the hearts of the people. Whether they go to Mumbai or Karachi, we need to give them a heroes welcome for they have bonded us together as one!

— The writer is a former Pakistan captain.

How Can India Beat Pakistan?

By Will Davies for The Wall Street Journal

It’s the million dollar question that a billion people are asking: How can India beat Pakistan? Setting aside the obvious answers such as score more runs and get more wickets, there are some key areas where India can gain an advantage over its fiercest rival.

Indian and Pakistani cricket fans with a replica of the Cricket World Cup trophy. Unsettle Shahid Afridi – Pakistan’s captain has been an inspirational presence at this World Cup. He is the tournament’s leading wicket taker, with 21 scalps already to his name, comfortably ahead of the second-top bowler, India’s Zaheer Khan on 17. Afridi oozes charisma but he is prone to tantrums – it’s not uncommon seeing him shouting at teammates when things go wrong in the field, as is all too often the case with Pakistan – so India should try to frustrate him. Afridi is the nerve center of the Pakistan team, and if he is exasperated then negativity will spread to the other players.

Nullify Umar Gul – Afridi may have taken the most wickets, but Gul has been Pakistan’s most lethal pace bowler and looks on top of his game with 14 wickets (joint fifth with South Africa’s Imran Tahir in the tournament rankings). Gul has been so important to Pakistan’s campaign, particularly bearing in mind the team was stripped of two key bowling assets – Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir – ahead of the World Cup. The track at Mohali should favor pace bowlers over spin (will this mean we’ll see the Rawalpindi Express Shoaib Akhtar?), so the Pakistanis will be heavily reliant on another good showing from Gul, who has been effective with both the new and the old ball. If India’s excellent batsmen can nullify the ever aggressive Gul, Pakistan’s armory will be significantly weakened.

Silence Younis Khan – The big-hitting middle-order batsman has had a relatively quiet World Cup by his standards, scoring 172 runs in six innings, though that includes a 72 against a very fine Sri Lanka. He often saves his best for India so the co-hosts should be on guard if or when he comes to the crease. Out of his six career centuries, three have been made against India, including one at Mohali, the venue for Wednesday’s semifinal. India will do well to keep him contained.

Bat to Potential – India has a wonderful batting lineup but there’s a nagging feeling we haven’t seen the best of it at this World Cup. Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh are among the tournament’s top 10 run scorers, but India’s other batsmen haven’t consistently backed up the trio’s good work. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni hasn’t done much at all with the bat – his top score so far is 34 – though he has often come to the crease when his only option was to have a bit of a slog. All the batsmen in this star-studded lineup will need to play at least one great innings if India is to beat Pakistan and go on to win the World Cup final in Mumbai on April 2.

Support Zaheer Khan – India’s bowling was seen as a weakness at the start of this World Cup and it remains a concern. Zaheer Khan has been a revelation but the other pace bowlers need to give him better support. Munaf Patel was targeted by the Australians, particularly Brad Haddin, and it will be interesting to see if India’s coach Gary Kirsten selects him for the semifinal. Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and Ashish Nehra could get a call-up, but both have had their problems this tournament. Left-armer Nehra was hurt in the match against South Africa when he failed to defend 13 runs in the final over, while Sreesanth hasn’t featured since the opening match against Bangladesh when he returned disappointing figures of 0 for 53 from just five overs.

Kamran Akmal – It’s harsh to single out the Pakistani wicket-keeper, but he is prone to lapses that make him look like he has smeared his gloves in butter. Akmal put in a much improved performance in the quarterfinal against the West Indies, but India will be hoping he has another bad day at the office and gives the hosts a few reprieves.

Ignore the hype – Ok, that’s like telling a skydiver to relax and enjoy the view after his parachute has failed, but India must try to focus on the task at hand and not get carried away by the enormity of this match and the weight of expectation from a billion or so fans.

And how can Pakistan beat India?

Hide Sachin Tendulkar’s bat.

Also, Pakistan needs to silence the home crowd. The stadium in Mohali is small, with capacity for only 27,500 spectators, but they’ll be so loud it’ll seem like there are 10 times that many people. If Pakistan gets some early wickets or an early batting partnership, the home crowd will become restless and that will put India under pressure. Pakistan has the quality and talent to beat the best in the world, but it’s the kind of side that needs momentum and confidence. That will come if the team unsettles India early in the match.

Still, hiding Tendulkar’s bat wouldn’t be a bad tactic. And while they’re at it, they should probably take Sehwag’s and Yuvraj’s too.

India vs Pakistan – much more than just a game

By Anand Philar for Sify

With one stroke, India banished the ghosts of the 2003 final and the fantastic win at Motera virtually ended an era of Aussie dominance. Earlier this year, Ponting’s men lost the Ashes and now the World Cup, but like all great players, Punter left an indelible mark on the tournament with a century in what probably was his last CWC game.

While we rejoice the Indian win, let us show some grace and salute the Aussies for their achievements on the field that, sadly, has been sullied by the behaviour of some of the players. The sheer outpouring of emotions by Yuvraj and Raina after the winning boundary hit was indicative of the value the Indian team attaches to any win against the Aussies. Yes, it is always special to beat a top side even if it is on its way down.

India vs Australia: Turning point and Top performers

If anybody thought Australia are the favourites to win the Cup, then such presumption was based on the team’s track record of three consecutive triumphs, two of them under Ponting’s captaincy. As it turned out, pace, hitherto Australia’s biggest weapon, was unable to deliver and the absence of a quality spinner, much less a pair of them, eventually hurt them far more than their opponents.

On a Motera pitch that was on the slower side and assisting spin, the Aussies went at the Indians with a bevy of fast bowlers hoping to exploit the well-known weakness against the rising delivery. It was a ploy that boomeranged on the Aussies whose lone specialist spinner Krejza was just about club standard.

The fact that the three Aussie slow bowlers Krejza, Clarke and Hussey, sent down only 17 overs as against 33 by their Indian counterparts accurately reflects the difference in approach of the two teams. I feel that proved to be the decisive factor.

I am sure, Ponting would have given his arm to have a Shane Warne bowling during the Yuvraj-Raina partnership that eventually turned the game around for India or for that matter a Hayden or Gilchrist to light up their fragile batting.

India end Australia`s 12-year reign to reach semis

So, having lost to the two top sub-continental sides, Pakistan (in the league phase) and India, the Aussies return home well and truly beaten, leaving the two neighbours in a face-off at Mohali next week.

Although the Pakistanis also have beaten the Aussies, the Indian win came under far greater pressure and in a knock-out situation that offered no safety net. As such, I would rate the Motera win much higher than the one in Colombo where the Aussies fell for 176 to Pakistani spinners.

Of course, all that is history now that India and Pakistan clash at Mohali in a game that can be equated to a Brazil vs Argentina football game in terms of interest, rivalry and of course, the immense pressure on the teams to deliver.

For all that, I will still back India who I feel are better equipped than Pakistan, be it in batting or bowling with the teams being on par at fielding. The spin quotient virtually gets negated since it is a staple diet for the rival batsmen while it is not as if the two teams have a Lee or a Tait or a Johnson in their ranks to trouble anyone with searing pace. It is India’s superior batting line-up that could well tilt the scales.

Further, it will also boil down to the collective character and resilience to withstand the pressure of expectations. I have covered more than my share of Indo-Pak sporting encounters in some of the major sports to say that the levels of passion and emotions among the rival players defy words. You have to be in it to know it.

Since the rivalry between the two neighbours transcends sports and given the historical political enmity (never mind the diplomatic mumbo-jumbo to the contrary), even a sporting victory or defeat that is a mere pinhead in the big picture of life, triggers mass euphoria as if it were a Kargil.

The players themselves might not admit it in public, but the irrefutable fact is the adrenaline rush is greater and the emotions are on the boil among the contestants. It will never be ”just another game” regardless of at what stage the two teams meet and it being a World Cup semi-final, one can imagine the pressure on the players.

World Cup 2011

Under the circumstances, the saying that cricket is played more in the mind than on the field cannot be any truer in an Indo-Pak contest. We have said this before, but needs to be reiterated that ultimately, the team that blinks first will lose. The cricketing aspects such as team combination, technique, strategy and what have you, are secondary.

In effect, the stakes, like it or not, admit it or not, are much more than cricketing gains or losses. So, tighten your seatbelts and on to Mohali!

Pakistan must put their act together before it’s too late

Phew! What a close shave that was for Pakistan. The batsmen were self destructing at will and had done enough to lose the game and open a fresh can of worms. An unexpected loss against the minnows and against heavy odds could have been interpreted as intentional by the rumour mongers and portrayed Pakistan in bad light.

And it wouldn’t have been difficult to convince the cricket world to believe it as true gospel, as unfortunately it has developed a jaundiced view to everything regarding Pakistan cricket.

Canada, who were not only raw with their skills but in an unfamiliar territory to create history, got tensed up and could not close out the game.

Pakistan batting was technically poor. Most of the batsmen were caught on the crease, playing across the line and falling prey to their own mistakes rather than opponents’ craft. In fact the team technicians read the pitch poorly and blindly made the decision to bat first on a moist track. Good teams are not only about bat and ball but about good support staff who can prepare a brief for the captain consisting of healthy options and intelligent analysis. Remember, big thinkers of the game and not big names make for a winning formula in the dressing room.

In seaming conditions, the openers were quickly thrown out of rhythm. Ahmed Shehzad’s brazen aggression at times borders on cockiness.

His pattern of attack on the day was ill suited for the conditions. He takes uncalculated risks and gives the impression of a spoilt millionaire at a roulette table! Nobody wants him to sacrifice his aggression but lot of people want him to curb his urge to be a kamikaze pilot on a suicide mission.

Hafeez is a utility article. Bit like a sofa cum bed he adjusts and adapts to the demands of the game. He has not yet set the world on fire in this World Cup but Pakistan must not panic and think to uncouple the two openers. In the 1992 Cup, in our losses to India, South Africa and West Indies, we made the mistake of trying three different opening combinations which unsettled the entire team.

Afridi as a leader had a mixed outing. While his sleight of hand once again amazed the batsmen, his captaincy spell was rather flat. In a low scoring game with choices curtailed, a constant dose of pressure and aggression could have earned Pakistan an early win. But Afridi, in the middle overs, unwisely chose to sit in and attacked with just four fielders in the circle.

Most captains in ODIs seem to operate with a rigid mind and a set routine to clog up runs and through it suffocate batsmen. They don’t seem to have a plan for unconventional situations that demand for out of box thinking.

Andrew Strauss, the other day against Ireland was caught out because of lack of intent to pick wickets. Afridi needs to be more innovative as a leader, bit like his batting and bowling, and open up to all kinds of plans rather than following a basic dated one. Trying to super impose a particular game plan on all situations cannot work.

Good thing about the win was how Pakistan fought tooth and nail till the end. They were feisty on the field and did not surrender to the pressure of the situation. Umar Gul looked to be at home with the new ball and Saeed Ajmal did not look rusty in his first outing.

Daryl Harper, the umpire, though was completely out of tune and had four reviews turned against him. His time is up as it’s not a one off instance of poor umpiring but a trial of shocking 18 months out in the center.

Umpires are like players and can have good and bad days on the field, but when a lean patch in the late years of a career start to stretch to longer cycles, then it is time to hang up the boots and exit gracefully.

—The writer is a former Pakistan captain.

Cricket: World Cup power rankings

Cricket correspondent Andrew Alderson is working for nzherald.co.nz at the World Cup.

He is ranking the teams for us on a week-to-week basis, judging from what he hears and observes at the tournament.

Group A

1. Australia
The power of their middle order and spin attack is yet to be truly tested but eased through their first two matches against Zimbabwe and New Zealand despite two warm-up losses. The pace attack of Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson has been menacing, contrary to what some predicted. The best in pool A when compared to mercurial Pakistan and vulnerable Sri Lanka.

2. Pakistan
Are they tournament sleepers under skipper Shahid Afridi? He exudes charisma and already has nine wickets for 50 runs from 18 overs, despite a poor past World Cup record. The 11-run win over Sri Lanka could be crucial long term.

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He is backed by the unpredictable Akmal brothers and the reliable Misbah ul-Haq and Umar Gul. After Pakistan’s tumultuous year it is remarkable they’re in this shape.

3. Sri Lanka
A favourite on paper. They have the batting, the spin attack and arguably the world’s best keeper/batsman in skipper Kumar Sangakkara. In practice they aren’t as assured, despite playing for Muttiah Muralitharan in his last hurrah in national colours. Winners last time the tournament was on the subcontinent in 1996, they need wins against New Zealand and Australia to boost confidence.

4. New Zealand
Living up to expectations. At this stage a quarter-final exit seems inevitable, barring a spectacular turnaround. Relying on the lower order batting and skipper Daniel Vettori with the ball isn’t a foolproof method to threaten their other key group opponents Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Need to build on batting and bowling partnerships. Could be saved by the forgiving last eight format.

5. Zimbabwe
Not to be underestimated, especially on Friday in Ahmedabad against the Black Caps. Their best weapon is making opposition batsmen force the pace off spinners Ray Price, Prosper Utseya and Graeme Cremer. Proven class is back looking after Zimbabwe these days. Past players Heath Streak, Alistair Campbell and Grant Flower have returned to the fold in various capacities which bodes well.

6. Canada
Making up the numbers… it could be their last World Cup for a while. Most notable feature is probably a trivia quirk in John Davison who at 40 years and 294 days [as of Sunday] is the oldest player in the tournament. His century off 67 balls against the West Indies in 2003 was then the fastest at a World Cup.

7. Kenya
Look wayward after a pounding from New Zealand in their first match… expect more where that came from after claims of disharmony in camp. Were gifted a semi-final spot in 2003 through terrorism-fear boycotts. Like Canada they’re unlikely to return for a while if the format reduces to 10 in four years.

Group B

1. India
India should lead this group but the tie against England has come as a shock to the nation… and the All Blacks think they face pressure. Cheering outside this hotel window piped down considerably as England recovered; crowds had also milled around television sets everywhere on the journey from Nagpur to Ahmedabad. The batting seems sussed but how their bowlers could give away 338 runs needs addressing, sharpish. The injury to preferred left-armer Ashish Nehra hasn’t helped.

2. South Africa
Look a fine, balanced unit but have failed to deliver the trophy every time since returning from isolation in 1992. With such a strong core including Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn they should fancy their chances but bowling could let them down. There is hope Imran Tahir with four wickets against the West Indies might deliver on the spin front.

3. England
Produced a thrilling tie against India but narrowly defeated the Netherlands. Odd. All the matches saw plenty of runs but where is the consistency? The batting, led by skipper Andrew Strauss and with plans to keep opening with Kevin Pietersen, looks solid. Plenty of Ashes winners stack the bowling. The question is: can they keep firing – as in Bangalore – after months on the road for many.

4. Bangladesh
Remain an outside hope for a semi-final given they play all matches at home. New Zealand mightn’t be the only top tier nation to get tangled in their spinning web after the 4-0 whitewash last year. Shown up by the Indian batting juggernaut but held nerve to dispatch Ireland who chased close. So much rests on Shakib al Hasan as an all-rounder and Tamim Iqbal as an opening bat.

5. West Indies
The loss of injured all-rounder Dwayne Bravo means prospects are grim. The 73 from his brother Darren – a Trinidadian who is a fine replica of countryman Brian Lara – against South Africa offers hope. A couple of others, notably Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard, also need to produce if the West Indies are to progress. Seem the most likely test-playing team to flounder.

6. Ireland
Won’t replicate their 2007 giant-killing feats but at least present stern opposition when compared to group A.

7. The Netherlands (aka Ryan ten Doeschate)
If ten Doeschate fails you suspect the Netherlands will too, although to be fair they provided stiff opposition against England – ten Doeschate’s century was backed by valuable support in the middle order. Surely it’s impossible for him to contribute like that every match?

– Herald on Sunday

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