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.