Monday, March 05, 2007

Don't Write Us Off

I don't have time to do a full blown preview of the World Cup but I want to make a few quick points.

1. Don't write us off. We may well not win the World Cup if only because our fielding is atrocious. But in all the hand-wringing about Shoaib, Asif, Razzaq and all our other bullshit controversies people are forgetting (a) that Shoaib never plays and Asif is relatively new to the ODI team, so our past success in ODIs wasn't really built on those two anyway; (b) that Razzaq, while leaving a big hole, has a pretty good replacement in Azhar Mahmood; (c) that in the last five years of bilateral ODI series in the Windies, we have the second best record (SA won 5-0, we won 3-0, Australia won 4-3, SL won 2-1, England drew 2-2, NZ lost 1-3, India lost 1-4); (d) that we have the type of attack that can do well on those dry pitches (reverse swing for Gully, Rana and Sami, good ODI spin options in Hafeez, Malik and Afridi, who I daresay will be our best bowler); (e) that with everyone from Ranatunga to Ian Chappell counting us out, there will be NO pressure on us and consequently everyone will play loose (like in India, 2005); and (f) that we're number three in the world for a reason - the core of our ODI team (Younis, Yousuf, Inzi, Afridi, Malik, Akmal, Rana) has been together for a while and has been performing for a while, so it's not as if we have me and my neighbors turning out to play for us. Will we reach the semis? I don't know. All I'm saying is we have a shot.

2. India, Australia and Sri Lanka are my favourites, in that order. India because they bat deep, they bat hard and their bowling is good enough to get the job done. Their biggest issue will be their fielding, but it's not nearly as bad as ours. If it clicks for them the way it clicked for them four years ago in South Africa, look out.

Australia are Australia. You lose a couple of games and suddenly you're in decline? Huh? They had something like six of their first eleven missing. Yeah, Lee is out but their bowling will be fine. Everyone is reading way too much into the end of the CB series and that bullshit Chappell-Hadlee trophy which they didn't want to play anyway. They are guaranteed of reaching the semis; the only reason I have India in front of them is because I think, on form, India has the better batting lineup and because Symonds' status is uncertian. If he is fully fit by the middle of the tournament, they become favourites for me, with India dropping to second favourites.

Sri Lanka have the perfect bowling attack for the Windies. The best spinner in the world (probably of all time), good pace (Malinga), swingers and cutters (Vaas, Maharoof), and the Jayasuriya types who always end up getting important wickets and/or squeezing the runs in overs 20-40. They are also one of the three best fielding sides in the tournament and have an excellent captain and coach. My only concern with them is their reliance on Sangakarra with the bat. You worry about these guys if they fall to 100-4, the type of position where Australia routinely end up with 280 but where they are more likely to end up with 230.

3. South Africa will NOT win. The choking thing is not why I say that; in fact, I don't think this SA team are a bunch of chokers at all. You have to remember it was the Hansie/Kirsten/Cullinan/Donald team that choked all the time. This team's personality is completely different because the personnel is completely different (similar to the way India changed from a wussy, pathetic team that could be bullied in the 90s to a stronger, tougher team in the present era because they made Ganguly captain for five years and brought guys like Yuvraj and Dhoni into the set up). The reason I say SA doesn't have a chance is their bowling. They have NO decent spinning options, no left arm pace, no semblance of variety in their attack at all. Their fielding is unbelievable but I think they're going to give away too many runs because good batsmen will get a measure of their attack and start teeing off.

4. It really is ridiculous that the World Cup is longer than the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. Look, I understand you have to market the sport and try and spread it all over the world. But do we really have to have six associate members in addition to Zimbabwe and Bangladesh? Six? I liked the 1999 format best, with four associate members, two groups of seven each, top three in each group advance (thus ensuring that at least two, if not three, of the bigger name teams would not get there which meant that the first round actually counted for something), everyone plays the other group's top three in the Super Six, semis, final, finish. That was a great format because you got excitement in the first stage (England, Sri Lanka, West Indies didn't get through), you got excitement in the second stage, you got crappy teams getting airtime and exposure (Scotland etc), and you got a good number of matches - it was a perfect balance. This World Cup is bloated, uninteresting until the second round (at which point it bears a striking resemblance to the 1992 format), too long, with too many bad games lined up in the beginning. But, hey, what the hell do I know?


billu said...

About South Africa - I agree that their bowling lacks variety, so it may be predictable, but I'm still not convinced that it will be easy to score off it quickly. (The only weak spot I see is Nel). I don't, however, have much faith at all in the South African batting lineup, no matter how long anyone says it is. Besides Kallis and Prince, there are pretty much no technically correct batsmen in their lineup, which works against crap like Rana with the new ball, but struggled against Asif and will continue to struggle against quality bowling.

About India - I agree that it is probably the strongest team on paper, except that I think they are the chokers this time around.

About Sri Lanka - If the Windies don't win this one (my current prediction), then Lanka is next in line. I get the feeling they are just low-key enough to slip past everyone's radar and be in the semis before anyone realizes it. They are also the only subcontinental team that is not afraid of anyone, including Australia.

About Pakistan - fingers crossed...

Omar said...

As long as Rana Naved is alive. Pakistan will never win anything. Ever.

Ahsan said...

west indies huh? interesting choice. i will say that after pakistan, i would be most satisfied with seeing them win. lara deserves it.

oba, rana naved isnt that bad. he just needs someone to give him confidence and maalish his head.