India On Top

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On cloud nine Being the table toppers in Pool B, India can breathe easy
On cloud nine Being the table toppers in Pool B, India can breathe easy, Photo: AFP

With pool matches of the World Cup 2015 about to end soon, it is almost clear as to who will qualify for the next stage in Pool A. However, the situation in Pool B is quite tricky.

In Pool A, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have already ensured a berth each for themselves in the quarterfinals.

In Pool B, however, while India has made it to the quarterfinals, the fate of West Indies, Ireland and Pakistan still hangs in balance.

Equations can still go awry if Ireland beat Pakistan on 15 March, similar to what happened in the 2007 World Cup. Then West Indies will be back in the reckoning for a place in the quarterfinals.

However, considering the form Pakistan is in and taking into account the late fight back launched by them, one can safely dismiss the possibility of a twist in the tale.

As for England, Zimbabwe, UAE, Scotland and Afghanistan they can simply pack their bags and leave.

After a good outing in Australia, India have moved to New Zealand to play their remaining league matches. They have made a good beginning with a convincing victory over Ireland. This would come as a big relief for Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni as he had complained about how little time the team had to acclimatise to the conditions.

India are table toppers in Pool B and in all likelihood will face Bangladesh in the quarterfinals. This might prompt the Indian supporters, who believe that their team can easily get the better off their Asian counterpart, to celebrate in advance.

However, all those expecting a walk in the park for India would do well to retrace their memory back to the 2007 edition, where a less-fancied Bangladesh pulled off an upset to shut the door completely on India. Those were the days when Greg Chappel was calling the shots, causing a lot of discomfort to some of the veterans in the team. The team morale was low, too. But, considering the mercurial nature of the limited over format, it would be foolhardy to write off any opposition however weak they might be.

As for the others in Pool B, South Africa, despite their losses to Pakistan and India, can easily qualify if UAE do not pull off a miracle. On current form, it seems highly unlikely though. This leaves Pakistan, Ireland and West Indies to battle it out for the remaining two spots.

For Ireland, the road ahead would be quite smooth if they simply beat Pakistan. For Pakistan, a win against Ireland will be sufficient to propel them to the next stage; however, a defeat would bring the Net Run Rate (nrr) into the equation for them. Then the men in green will require a healthy nrr to pip West Indies at the post.

For the Caribbeans, the road ahead is quite uncertain. The Windies’ hopes rest not only on the outcome of the Ireland versus Pakistan encounter but also on NRR. West Indies can sneak through only on the basis of a robust NRR. If Pakistan emerge triumphant or Ireland, the Windies prospect lies in improving the NRR. For that to happen they will have to upstage UAE with a huge margin. If Gayle can explode the way he did against Zimbabwe, then who knows. Currently, both Ireland and Pakistan are way ahead of Windies in the Net Run Rate. So, one will have to wait till 15 March to find out who all will make the cut.

In Pool A, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have already ensured a berth for themselves in the quarterfinals. There won’t be any reversal of fortunes as the results of the remaining matches are inconsequential. New Zealand have topped the table followed by Australia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

The Kiwis have been a revelation in the tournament as they were not rated as high as Australia or South Africa but they have surprised many with their spirited performance, especially against the Aussies and the Lankans. The credit for their dominance could be equally shared by Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson.

Australia is yet to display the intensity they are known for. Glenn Maxwell came to the party for them against Sri Lanka, which almost got spoilt by the brilliance of Kumar Sangakkara. However, the Aussies held their nerve to prevent a carnage.

For Sri Lanka, it has been Sangakkara all the way, with sporadic contributions from Lahiru Thirimanne and Tilakaratne Dilshan. A special mention for Dilshan also for the way he clobbered Mitchell Johnson for six boundaries in an over. It is not always one sees Johnson being taken to the cleaners in this manner.

Overall, with all the teams peaking at the right moment, the World Cup is headed for an electrifying finale.

There were not many sympathies for the English cricket team after their early departure from the tournament. Rightly so, as England hardly played the way a Test nation should.

Their solitary win came against Scotland and that explains how poor they were in the tournament. This is not a recent phenomenon as their downfall in the one-day format of the game has been gradual. After routing India last year in the Test series, they came a cropper against the Men in Blue in the one-day encounters.

Fingers were being pointed at the English team’s inability to adapt to the changes in the limited-over format. Even some of the former cricketing greats have expressed concern over the English team being too conventional for the modern-day format.

Many of the English batters were inconsistent in this edition of the World Cup, too. Even the bowling suffered due to the indifferent form of James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Their defeat against Sri Lanka was a pointer to the shape of things to come. In that match, England, after a superlative batting display, blew away the match with some listless bowling. The comfort with which the Lankans chased down a huge score of 310 aptly summed up England’s disastrous World Cup campaign. Their narrow but humiliating loss to Bangladesh only lent credence to what the great Sunil Gavaskar said, “England are the most overrated team in the world cricket today”.

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