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Sunday, March 27, 2011

World Cup 2011 - On to the Semi finals

Two ten-wicket wins and two incredibly close matches - that sums up the four quarter-finals that were played in the 2011 World Cup.

West Indies were always in contention with Ireland and Bangladesh for the final slot in the quarterfinals. That itself showed their current form and capabilities. Over-dependence on Gayle in the batting front and Roach in the bowling department meant that they were always at the mercy of their opponents. Their coach, Gibson blamed the senior players for not putting their hands up during the match against Pakistan. Gayle was furious and tweeted his response back. There are going to be changes in the team following the disaster which is not surprising. The team morale was not high and one can see the same players play the IPL with great camaraderie. The unity that was on display during the times of Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards are missing altogether. It will be a long time before the team makes a decent comeback into international cricket. They will struggle to beat top nations for a while, as has been in the last 20 months.

England also had a severe bashing at the hands of the Sri Lankans last night - no one was surprised though. The English had managed to stumble their way to the quarterfinals and clearly had to depend on other teams' generosity to make the cut. Injuries to several players hampered them and the media were quick to point out the grueling schedule that the team had to endure over the last six months. It has been the same with the other teams as well, one can say. The English team's strategy in ODI cricket is far from adequate - notice the experience of the players in this format for further insight. 

Australia came into the tournament being ranked No.1 in ODI, as per ICC rankings. Though the rank did not justify them, the team was able to string together victories that enabled them stay at the peak for a long period. Injuries to players (mostly bowlers) meant that there were frequent changes to the playing eleven. It was not noticed as long as they were winning. Ponting's loss of form coincided with the lack of batting might in the Oz team. Watson and Haddin were probably the most consistent players for the last one year. After the retirements of a number of greats (like Mcgrath, Warne, Gilchrist), the Aussies were never able to recover. The loss of Warne left a gaping hole in the spin department - this was one of the biggest concerns going into the tournament which was expected to support the spinners.

South Africa prepared their campaign very well, adding a number of spinners to their squad who were capable of standing up to the demands of the subcontinental pitches. Imran Tahir was the surprise weapon, who showed initial promise of picking up a bushel of wickets. Opening the bowling with a spinner and Steyn, Greame Smith had a good strategy in place. They beat the Indians due to the help of their lower order, assuring everyone that they had left their choking back in Africa. Kallis and Smith were not firing in the first few games but it did not matter. The other batsmen were showing good form in bringing the team to the knockout stage. One great catch followed by a runout in the Quarterfinals meant that the cat was among the pigeons. No matter what the lower order tried, the writing was on the wall. The Proteas had choked once again - they cannot deny this any longer. This stigma will stick to them for another four years or till the time they win a knockout match in the World Cup.

On to the semi-finals then with three subcontinental pitches along with New Zealand contesting for the final match in Mumbai. May the best team win.       
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