A World Cup that wasn’t

Posted: April 3, 2015 by Niranjan Kuppan in Cricket
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A World Cup that wasn’t

As Australia took back yet another World Cup in a yet another one sided match, it’s hard not to reflect on what has been a “different” (I don’t know how else to put it) World Cup of sorts. The tournament itself was barely engaging that exposed alarming gaps between the teams. Yet neither Australia looked like run away favorites nor did batsmen brush aside bowlers. It’s been a bowler’s tournament powered by Mitchel Starc’s Player of the Series heroics and that’s a good sign. But overall, the ICC Cricket World Cup of 2015 was an average tournament with hardly any close games bar one or two. So how did the teams perform overall?

Australia – Best of the Lot

Australia is still not in the same level as their world beating team of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. This team is still very susceptible against good bowling teams. But powered by an inform Steve Smith and a fired up Mitchel Starc and with a passionate home support (Semifinal was a different story though!) Australia simply did the right things at the right time to bring home the cup. But it remains to be seen how well they progress from now especially outside their home.

 New Zealand – One Man Army

When Mitchel Starc bowled Brendan McCullum in the first over of the World Cup final, how many of you thought “this is it for New Zealand” and how many of you turned off your TV? It was as simple as that. Sure they performed very well overall but the Black Caps rose and fell with their captain who was their biggest threat and a very aggressive captain. Trent Boult was outstanding and so was Corey Anderson while Grant Elliot was Renaissance man. But you knew in your hearts that it was about McCullum and that’s how it turned out to be. It was a great team performance but not worthy of a World Cup win.

South Africa – Choked Again!

I’m sorry to break the little bubble that you all went in after their loss in the semi final but I genuinely felt that South Africa choked yet again. Not just in that heart breaking game at Eden Park but even otherwise. They lost to India and Pakistan in the group stages, had one good game against Sri Lanka and at halfway through in the Semifinals, they had 300 to defend in 43 overs with what was billed as the best bowling line up in the world and a captain like AB DeVilliers. Yet they somehow managed to choke their way back to Johannesburg. Fielding lapses and dropped catches are not something that you associate with them and ABD’s brilliance as a batsman conveniently morphs the fact that he is not a good captain under pressure. It’s like defending 350 in 50 overs. Even Holder would have done it with his eyes closed. The best fast bowler in the world bowls a length ball in the penultimate ball of the match against a “who is this guy again?” batsman who was not a regular for NZ before the World Cup. CHOKED! (Read that a 100 times)

India – Over Achievers

 Despite the beating they got in the preceding CB series and the long Australian summer that would have burned them out, India somehow managed to find reserves both physically and mentally to put in a performance worthy of being the defending champions. 77 wickets in 8 matches and bowling out every opposition except their eventual conquerors and considering Australia and New Zealand played just the one game outside their country, team India’s performance was of the top drawer. Credit to Dhoni for lifting the team up at the right time and the performances of Shikhar Dhawan among batsmen, Ravichandran Ashwin and the three pace bowlers were commendable. It was not a typical Indian performance where wins are buttered with brilliant individual performances but a true team effort where none stood out as exceptional but still got the job done. But for one Steve Smith, #wewontgiveitback and #maukamauka would have been a reality.

Sri Lanka – We Know the Story

Sri Lanka are a below average team outside the sub continent. Need I say more? Oh yeah, just the one thing. Kumar Sangakkara – Take a bow! What a player and what a loss to cricket. I hope he gets into administration after his retirement from test cricket and clean up the mess that is Sri Lanka cricket. There is a lot of passionate following in Sri Lanka and they deserve a much better team to support.

Pakistan – Lads! It’s Pakistan

I really don’t have to say anything more.

West Indies – The (usual) case of what would have been

Plagued by off field player-management tensions, West Indies still managed a decent showing thanks to their young & passionate captain. You can’t but think what would have happened if Bravo, Pollard and Narine played in this team. Whether they are poorly managed or the players have big egos, there is a need for solutions both short team and in the long run. We don’t want to lose a team like West Indies, do we? Remember how the whole of cricketing world rejoiced when they won the T20 World Cup? Need more of those.

Bangladesh – Stupidity and More Stupidity

The way Bangladesh celebrated their entry into Quarterfinals by beating an abject England side said a lot about their overall mind set. They have been a test playing side for 15 years, backed by an over passionate, partisan supports back home and no short of finances or talent. Yet this was termed as an over achievement and an upset. And the way they lost to India and reactions aftermath just goes to show how backward they are as a nation in general. Blaming umpires in a tense finish is one. But blaming them on a absolute battering is complete stupidity. Grow up Bangladesh.

The Minnows – Just Impressions

For UAE it was all about the experience while Scotland impressed with their work ethic. Afghanistan showed why Cricket can be great to a war ravaged nation. Led by the impressive and clam Mohammed Nabi, the Afghans won a lot of heart with their performances. With the right support and backing, they can be great for cricket itself. I expected a whole lot from Ireland than what they achieved at this World Cup. They have got a very good set of players and a case of argument must be made for why they should be playing regular cricket and if they do, they will be a quarterfinalists in the next edition. I can promise you that. It pains me to add Zimbabwe in this group but most of their performances were close to being one. Cast aside Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams and they are no better than UAE. Africa needs more than just South Africa to sustain cricket in that continent. By the way, is Kenyan Cricket still alive?

World Cup XI

Some of you may not agree with at least a couple of my selections but I selected the team base on the quality of their performances than just blind stats.

Brendan McCullum (C & WK), Shikhar Dhawan, Kumar Sangakkara, Steve Smith, AB Devilliers, Glen Maxwell, Corey Anderson, Daniel Vettori, Trent Boult, Wahab Riaz and Mitchel Starc.


Niranjan Kuppan & Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

Andy S Grove, Intel’s former CEO, writes in his award winning book Only the Paranoid Survive that “The Person who is the star of the previous era is often the last one to adopt to change, the last one to yield to logic of a strategic inflection point, and tends to fall harder than most”.

A strategic inflection point, he goes on to describe, is “a time in the life of business when its fundamentals are about to change. That change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end”.

It is fair to say that football clubs, these days, can be looked up on as businesses – ones that thrive on investment, by virtue of which trophies and fans are won. Most football clubs have built their successes based on their past, historical times during which the breath of a club was stronger than its bank balance.

The bank balance of a club, today, plays as much a role in its success as it has always done in a sport like Formula One. Catheram and Marusia, for instance, struggle because they aren’t financially as sound as some of their other competitors, and the entire cycle is influenced as a result of that. If money can buy success these days, it is important to have the right people who put the money in to good use.

Football isn’t very dis-similar. With a plethora of investors throwing their currencies on clubs across Europe, clubs are increasingly becoming aware of the need to spend big, and more importantly, spend wise. Gone are those days where one could point fingers at the likes of Manchester City, or Chelsea, or PSG. Their argument would be simple – they’ve invested the money a lot more wisely than some of the other ‘big’ clubs.

This brings me back to what Andy S Grove stresses, repeatedly, in his book. When a business achieves success, the investment comes in. The leader of the organization is expected to put the money in to good use assessing the business circumstances – market needs, competition, future trends and so on and so forth.

There’s an interesting analogy that leaders use – that a great leader would have a microscope in one eye, and a telescope in the other. Try it and I’ll be surprised if you don’t get a headache. What this means is: a leader is aware of the short term goals that the business needs to achieve, yet aware of the long term vision for the organization.

Out of ideas? A common sight these days with Brendan Rodgers

Out of ideas? A common sight these days with Brendan Rodgers © Daily Mail

In footballing terms, a long term vision could be to improve the standards of a club’s academy thereby nurturing players who would become first team regulars in the long run. Or investing in young talent, through the help of a scouting system, from outside the club before their market value exponentially rises. This would save a lot of costs in the long run because the primary needs are being served by the organization from within.

A short term vision, on the other hand, would be taking the necessary measures to ensure that for the following season, the resources are intact to match the club’s success over the previous year, if not out-perform. These could be players who fill in to address a void due to the loss of a key resource, or coaches that provide valuable back-room addition to improve on aspects where there were noticeable deficiencies.

Let me get to the point. Liverpool FC find themselves at the helm of an inflexion point. The success that the 2013-14 season had bought the club, instead of leap-frogging a desire to reach higher standards, has sent the club on a roller coaster ride, in reverse gear.

I am not seeking an opportunity to blamestorm here, I am a fan, and I will always ride through the highs and lows of the Liverpool family. What bemuses me, though, is a set of aberrant errors made by, understandably, a manager at the start of his career – very young by footballing standards.

So let us begin with the long term vision. Liverpool’s academy has historically been a renowned one that has seen its graduates, to quote a few from the contemporary era, like Owen, Fowler, Gerrard, Carragher and Sterling, albeit through different circumstances, rise to great heights in the footballing circles. There is sufficient evidence to support the fact that the yesteryear managers of Liverpool FC, even until the likes of Houllier and Benitez had a strong team marshalling the academy to churn our first team material graduates.

Although the academy can’t be faulted for its deficiencies, it is clear that Rodger’s inclination towards not using them points our fingers towards two possible explanations: one, that the support system that once existed through the likes of ex-Liverpool players, Steve Heighway and Phil Thompson for instance, has robbed the academy of the passion that otherwise would’ve been driven through men who knew the club best.

The other explanation could be his own reluctance, for reasons he knows best. We aren’t qualified to comment on this, nevertheless, this will rob Rodgers off one of a characteristic that could have otherwise backed him during these turbulent times. Every football fan derives great pleasure from seeing their academy graduates being tested on the biggest arena – regardless of whether they succeed or fail.

There’s still hope on players like Flanagan, Ibe, Wisdom and Rossiter who will be expected by the fans to feature in greater prominence in the seasons ahead. This does not deter fans from questioning some of Rodger’s decisions to invest in the transfer market, heavily, on players who are similar to those graduating from the academy with promise. Joao Carlos Tiexiera and Suso are examples of creative, attacking talent who could have been nurtured, instead of investing for similar roles heavily in the transfer market.

This brings us to the short term vision. Given the ascent to Champions league football, and fuelled ambitions that called for the Premier League title after over two decades worth of wait, there were two concerns that the club had to address: lack of squad depth, and replacing arguably the best player of the Premier League over the course of the 2013-14 season.

Defeat to Crystal Palace left most fans hoping that this would be rock bottom

Defeat to Crystal Palace left most fans hoping that this would be rock bottom © LiverpoolEcho

Metaphorically, Steven Gerrard may be the engine of the team, but the team wouldn’t have run had it not been for Suarez and his extraordinary feats. It would be unfair to question Rodgers tactics of investing heavily around other positions – yes, the squad did need the depth but not without replacing the engine. It hardly matters if an aeroplane has a new landing gear – the engine needs to be new, if not newly overhauled.

Blame it on Liverpool’s recent branding as a second tier footballing city, Rodgers’ experience, rather the lack of it, as a manager of a top football club or the reluctance to spend big on a particular player, the summer transfer window of Liverpool FC resembled that of Spurs last season. Failure to learn from Tottenham’s debacle of trying to replace Bale with an extra team bus had fuelled comparisons sooner than say, at the end of the season.

Rodgers would wish he could eat his words from last year when he’d, arrogantly so, stated that any team that had spent over a 100 million should be competing for the title. He finds himself sailing the same boat, raising more questions than answers to the ever-demanding audience of the Premier League.

Arsene Wenger, despite his record of signing young talents, invested in experienced players who could deliver from day one – over the last few years, names like Mertesacker, Cazorla, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud resonate with this theme.

Balotelli and Lallana came in with proven Premier League Experience. Their starts couldn't have been more contrasting. ©  LiverpoolEcho

Balotelli and Lallana came in with proven Premier League Experience. Their starts couldn’t have been more contrasting. © LiverpoolEcho

Rodgers, on the other hand, barring an unwanted Balotelli, and Lallana, cannot claim to have signed  ‘first team material’. This would beg the question as to why Liverpool were unable to sign a ‘marquee player’ this summer to take over Suarez’s mantle. Whether you blame it on Rodgers ambition, rather the lack of it, or the brand value Liverpool carries today, the manager is answerable.

To sum it up, Rodgers’ failings over the last few months is indicative of a ship that is about to hit an iceberg. What is clear now is that the iceberg is visible, the question is: who is going to steer the ship away from an impending disaster?

Onwards and upwards.

After Liverpool’s comprehensive 3-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Sunday, TCE team catches up with The Chennai Kop – Liverpool FC’s Chennai Supporters Club to get a feel on their perceptions after this very important victory. TCE also picks their brains on the Champions League draw.

Liverpool’s high pressing and quick tempo proved to be the difference between the two sides at the end of the day, a game during which controversial striker Mario Balotelli made his debut for the Red Merseyside club. After missing two glorious chances in the first half, Balotelli, yet, managed to impress through his determination and work-rate, one that City fans would’ve hardly witnessed during his previous spell in the Premier League. Brilliant individual performances from Sterling, Henderson, Sturridge and Lovren ensured that the result went Liverpool’s way.

This comes in as a much needed victory for last season’s title challengers after the weekend saw Arsenal draw 1-1 at Leicester, and rivals Manchester City lose 1-0 to Stoke City at home.

TCE will continue to cover the Premier League, Champions League, and the soon commencing Indian Super League through audio and video podcasts. Watch out for this space!


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