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Sunday, March 06, 2011

World Cup 2011 - Contenders after first 2 weeks

Cricket World Cup mediaImage via Wikipedia
It has been a little more than two weeks since the start of the 2011 World Cup and the initial results are mixed, in fact. There have been the expected one-sided matches coupled with the odd upsets. These set of matches have eliminated the thought that ODI cricket was on its way out and has no role to play - how wrong was this thinking?

The points table as of now shows a clear trend that looks like it will follow for the rest of the tournament. Two sides top each group - Pakistan and South Africa - two teams that were not high in the list of favorites tipped to win the Cup this time. But, guess what? They are doing well and looking dangerous.

South Africa has been a revelation in this World Cup, especially when they are playing with three spinners and mostly opening with one. Today's match against England looks to go the same route as the other two that South Africa have played so far. Smith and Kallis have not been in the best of form but that is not affecting the team so far - what does it say about the team? One initial fear about this team is that they always look so formidable in the initial stages of most ICC tournaments only to falter in the knock-out stages. Right now, that is far away from our purview and hence, we will focus on the current performances.

Pakistan has already showcased their strength in bowling, thanks to their captain's three successive four-wicket hauls. Their batting looks brittle while their fielding is ancient, to say the least. Run-outs are incidental and this is the only team that does not have the resources to have specialist coaches like other teams. This is not stopping them to top the group after wins that included one against Sri Lanka. Again, this is the team that can self-ignite any time of the tournament and this ability makes them the wild-card for the rest of the tournament.

Australia have motored along with results that do not reflect their current mess in test cricket. Two wins and a no-result against Sri Lanka means that the Aussies can be confident about their position in their group. Their team has performed so well that they have not felt the need to select the replacement of Bollinger. For all one knows, Michael Hussey will be on the plane to the sub-continent as this player - just wait and watch. Only if Ponting can stop complaining about the pitches after each match that helped the spinners - is he expecting a pitch like Perth on the sub-continent?

West Indies, despite their loss against South Africa, are looking good thanks to the performances of Kemar Roach - a fast bowler who can make the pitches insignificant. Their senior batsmen, Sarwan and Chanderpaul, have not made a mark so far but it will be a surprise if they do not when the situation warrants it.

Enough has been made of India's lineup - whether seven batsmen are required or six - but one has to realize that they have played only two matches so far. They play their next two matches against the so-called minnows - Ireland and Netherlands. Time for the team to use these matches to fine-tune their artillery that is capable of strikes that can match those happening in Libya right now.

Group B is all the more interesting with the last spot for the Quarterfinals up for grab between Bangladesh, England and Ireland. How this will pan out remains to be seen. So far, the ICC cannot complain - Bangalore has given them enough sound-bites to be remembered for a long time. The ODI is not going anywhere folks - it will remain along with the test and T20 version in a very nice way.          
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