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Too much fun to have in one day

I should have done this yesterday. I know it’s unprofessional but I was too tired having stayed up for over 24 hours.

I thought this World Cup was supposed not to have any day/night matches. Why then was the final a day/night match. You can read elsewhere all about the fiasco that the game’s showcase became.

I have a few comments to wrap it all up.

First, a few records:

1. This was the longest world cup.
2. This was the most boring world cup.
3. This was the most tragic world cup (Bob Woolmer).
4. This World Cup final had the most stupid turn of events ever witnessed on a cricket field.
5. The darkest playing conditions experienced in all forms of cricket. This even beats the time when Mum called off the backyard cricket during a total solar eclipse in 1978.

On point 4, there were early signs of the umpires choking when Aleem Dar penalised Australia one run for Michael Clarke running on the pitch. Dar’s implementation of the rule was flawless but his assessment of what is running on the pitch was ridiculous.

And now some awards:

1. Biggest chokers: South Africa.
2. Worst Umpire: Asad Rauf
3. Biggest lie: Graeme Smith after the toss in the semi-final: “We are feeling pretty confident.”. Fooled nobody but himself.
4. Worst bet: India
5. Best performers: Ireland making the super eights
6. Best new talent: Lasith Malinga
7. Most gracious captain in defeat: Mahela Jayawardene

And now, some gloating:

1. Poor old McGrath didn’t get a bat in the whole tournament. He did state before the cup that he had an ambition not to face another World Cup delivery. Tait and Bracks also missed out on the thrill of taking strike.

2. Australia has won its second World Cup in a row, undefeated. You could say this one was untroubled. Australia has won 29 consecutive World Cup matches.

3. The “threepeat”, or is that hat trick of victories? During the Michael Jordan years with the Bulls, when they won the title several years in a row, those damn Yanks called it a “repeat” (said ree peat) after one defence. Three years in a row was a “threepeat”. Given the discussion on Malinga and double hat tricks, perhaps this should be called a “double repeat”. Australia has played the last four World Cup finals. They have played five of the last six and have made the final on six out of nine occasions.

4. McGrath now holds the record for most wickets. In his four world cups, he has played 39 matches and taken 71 wickets. Considering that Australia has made the final for all four of McGrath’s Cups, he has had ample chance to set the pace. However, please note that next best is Wasim Akram on 55 and he has played just one game less than McGrath.

5. Australia had three of the top four wicket takers in the 2007 World Cup (McGrath (26), Tait (23) and Hogg (21)). Murali was equal 2nd on 23 wickets. The top six bowlers played in the final. Two of the top three bowlers failed to take a wicket in the final.

6. Gilchrist has played three World Cups and made at least 50 runs in the final of each: 54 (36 balls), 57 (48 balls)and 149 (104 balls). That’s a total of 260 runs from 188 balls (strike rate 138.29).

7. Some statements to put Gilchrist’s innings into perspective. Hayden was dismissed for 38 with the opening stand having amassed 172. When Gilchrist was dismissed, there were 45 balls remaining. If he had kept going and faced another 23 balls, and kept scoring at the same rate, he’d have made 183 – in a 38 over match!

And some random observations:

1. This finalist combination is the first time that a match up has been duplicated in World Cup finals.

2. Rain reserve days are good but how they are used needs a re-think

3. It’s a shame the best umpire in the world, Simon Taufell, has no immediate prospects of standing in a World Cup final simply because he is the wrong nationality. Conversely, Steve Bucknor has stood in the past five World Cup finals. I’m not sure when neutral umpiring became a factor, but it’s a comment on West Indian cricket, considering that they made the first three finals.

4. During the rain delay, I watched the 1992 World Cup final. Steve Bucknor was giving the men out with his right hand back then. Is he the first ambidextrous umpire in World Cup history. Wasim Akram was one hell of a bowler. Inzi was described by Bill Lawry has a “fine athlete” and I have to admit that he did look it!

When was the last good World Cup?

Some of you may have noticed that I’m a little disappointed with this World Cup (even though we had a good game yesterday). In the past few months, I’ve discussed the merits of the World Cup versus the ICC Champions Trophy, including tournament formats and scheduling….

I’ve also discussed the difficulties cricket faces in marketing a true World Cup. It’s obvious that it cannot – soccer is the only real world game – and in trying (by making it larger and longer), it seems only to make the World Cup worse. When was the last time we had a good World Cup? Now let me see…

The first World Cup was in 1975 and was held at the home of cricket (Lord’s). It was won by the West Indies and is remembered for the remarkable final in which Australia was beaten by 17 runs. The match featured a thumping century by LLoyd, five Australian run outs (three executed by a young Viv Richards) and a tail end recovered by Lillee and Thommo. That match was preceded by a remarkable semi between England (93) and Australia (6/94) where Gary Gilmour took a famous 6/14 and scored 28 not out to guide Australia home. That World Cup was great. It was new, fresh and exciting. But ODI cricket has come a long way and no longer has the advantages of youth. That first World Cup was played in whites, 60 overs were bowler per innings and there were no field restrictions. There was certainly no one day science – the Test team simply went out and played for 60 overs with a bit of extra tonking thrown in. Sri Lanka was the only emerging nation involved.

Let’s leap forward now to now and work backwards.

I won’t go into detail over this World Cup. The reasons why the Super 8 is failing have been discussed. The only thing I would add is that there are no second chances with this format – one slip (as per India and Bangladesh) and you’re out – you don’t make it to the main event. In earlier World Cups (1979 – 1987), teams played each other twice in the preliminaries. And the later stages were shorter.

2003 was complete crap. Kenya and Zimbabwe were in the (not so) Super 6 due to boil overs and also because England forfeited to the Zimmers.

1999 was not too bad. It was the first time the (not so) super 6s format was used. One point of interest was that Australia came through with 0 carry over points, while Zimbabwe managed to come through with 4!! India were lame in the super 6s (didn’t win a match) and England didn’t even make it. Nor did the Windies or the defending champs, Sri Lanka. The major controversy, aside from Pakistan throwing the final, and an early round match against Bangladesh (perhaps it was a bad World Cup), was when Australia tried to play West Indies into the super six round but using 20 overs to score the remaining 20 runs against the West Indies. The West Indies finished on the same points as NZ (who beat Australia and went through to the super 6s) but their net run rate was 0.50 – just less than NZ’s 0.58. That action by the Aussies was not forgotten and New Zealand effectively threw a match against South Africa in a subsequent tri-series match in an Australian summer, ensuring South Africa got a bonus point, so that Australia would be knocked out. All is fair in love and cricket.

I reckon 1996 was the last good World Cup. It had two groups of six, with the top four of each group playing in the quarter finals. All of the quarters were good and featured the top teams. Remember the cracker game between us and the Kiwis? Chris Harris hit 130 or something and Mark reply did likewise as Australia successfully chased about 288. The other notable occurrence that all of the semi finalists came from the one group. Another notable occurrence was that Australia and Windies forfeited to Sri Lanka because they would not play in Sri Lanka. This was a major detraction and something that affected cricket’s diplomatic relations for a long time. The defending champions (Pakistan) did not make the semis. One possible drawback with the format is that it is knock out for three matches – you need to win three in a row to take it out. Then again, the World Champion team should be able to win three matches in a row.

The tournament in 1992 didn’t really have a 2nd round. There was just one big round robin (10 teams only) and straight into semis. This format, should in my opinion guarantee that the four best teams (or most deserving) make the semi finals. Both nothing is fool proof. There were no reserve days back then. The defending champs and the home team (Australia) missed the semis by one point. Pakistan (the ultimate winners) finished one point ahead of the Aussies, that point being earned from a wash out against England after they were dismissed for 74!! This World Cup is also remembered for an acrimonious semi final between South Africa and England. I remember it – I was there. With the match poised with South Africa requiring 22 from 13 balls, the rains came. The players were back just 10 minutes later, still with time to complete the overs. However, the bone-headed rules at the time stated that the match must be reduced by 2 overs. The adjusted target rules were also as bone-headed. I don’t know what the D/L method would have done (and God bless the D/L method) but the target was reduced to 22 runs from 1 ball. What few people remember is that South Africa had been given a bit of a caning on the field and to reduce the damage, bowled so slowly that they bowled only 45 of the 50 overs. And they could get away with it in those days!! So let’s not feel too sorry for them. Just in case you were.

I won’t go on much longer. I think 1987 was the best World Cup. Of course, as an Australian, I’m influenced because Australia came in from the wilderness to win. But who could forget the final at Eden Gardens between Australia and England? A World Cup must have a good final and that one was the best. Australia won by 7 runs with the ice men, Steve Waugh and Billy the Kid McDermott closing it out. The semis were passionate affairs with both the home sides (India and Pakistan) going down. I can’t remember if the Indians torched the stadium. It’s probably a good thing that the home sides did lose because a World Cup final between India and Pakistan at Eden Gardens may have been more than ICC security could have handled.

My whinging aside, I think this World Cup has potential for good semis and a final. There are some strong teams and this is probably the most open the Cup has been for a while. There will also be some crucial and good super 8 matches (as witnessed with old Bopara almost putting the cat amongst the pigeons). It’s just a shame that those matches are too infrequent. Perhaps we will even catch Troy in the tipping comp.

I’m on leave now until just before the final. I won’t even have access to a computer until around semi final time so I won’t be troubling you for a couple of weeks. For those of you who celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ, Happy Easter. And to those who don’t, happy long week end. I hope that was PC enough.

Watson’s Gift

Seldom has so much been owed by so many to so few. I don’t want to make light of the contribution of the RAF during the Battle of Britain. However, it has to be said that the list of benefactors resulting from Shane Watson’s finely tuned but injury prone body is long. Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Ian Harvey and now Brad Hodge have all been presented with opportunities because of Watson’s misfortune.

I’ve previously discussed the opportunities presented to Clarke and then Symonds during the Ashes summer. Let us not forget that Watson broke down immediately before the last World Cup. Ian Harvey strode into the side, playing his first match for Australia for 10 months at that World Cup.

I may be jumping the gun here but I’m anticipating that Hodge will return to the team and will have a good opportunity to press his claim for inclusion on that rarefied list that is the “first choice eleven”. Watson has not done any wrong this World Cup. I don’t have it in for him. For that matter, he hasn’t needed to do a lot either. The fact remains that he has enjoyed an almost unprecedented amount of favour from the selectors and in recent times at least, it could hardly be claimed that his selection has been purely on merit. So I don’t feel sorry for him, either.

To his credit, Watson is perpetually positive and philosophical. He is confident he won’t be going home early. He also had this to say: “I am only 25. It does take a while to develop, for your muscles to build momentum.”. The guy is a fitness freak and a gym junky! Under developed muscles? Turn it up.

As for the World Cup Super 8s, will somebody please wake me for the semi finals?

Yawn.

Wimpering Windies

The West Indies are teetering on the precipice and now have nine days to wait for their next match where, presumably, South Africa will shove them into the abyss. This Super 8 stage is quite interesting. When you strip it back, the West Indies have no advantage with their carry through points and Sri Lanka have hardly any (I say that because it is conceivable that Bangladesh will win a match).

If I can explain: All other teams will beat Ireland and catch those two points up. The fact is that the Windies and Sri Lanka have a harder draw because they have only one gimme instead of two. It is NZ and Australia who really have the head start in the Super 8s. Now that those two have both had a “real” win in Super 8, they are almost guaranteed 8 points (from a possible 14) which almost assures them both of a spot in the semis. They need to beat just one of the other three decent sides they play to be really safe.

The draw for Super 8 is puzzling. The West Indies have played three games now while most of the other teams have played one or two matches. And then they wait nine days for a match. Both Bangladesh and the West Indies had two matches, separated by just one day. With the rain reserve day, that means they could be playing three straight days, as in fact the West Indies did. And what’s with a 22 over match? What a load of rubbish. It’s not even half a match. Given that there are reserve days, why not try and get a decent match in? For the first Super 8 match, we were very close to the West Indies chasing Australia’s 322, reduced to a 20 over target of 163. A chasing side would take that any day. That is because 20 overs is the minimum for a match and the objective is to complete that match on the scheduled day if at all possible.

I reckon that a match should have to be 30 overs to be a match on the scheduled day, and if there are still weather problems, resort to 20 overs on the reserve day. And if the team batting first has completed 50 overs, the team batting second should have to bat at least 30 overs. As it turned out, the West Indies batted the next day, for the full 50 overs in equitable conditions.

Anyway, I’m getting bored. At least a quarter of the matches are a foregone conclusion and very few are hard to pick. I think we will see an Antipodean final. The semis will be Australia, NZ, Sri Lanka and South Africa. The semis are your standard 1 v 4 and 2 v 3. It’s likely that NZ or Australia will finish at no. 1 and unlikely that the other will finish at no. 4. It will be bigger than the Bledisloe Cup.

Finally, on batsmen making slow starts, let’s look at Chanderpaul for a case in point. He had made 37 from 87 balls (42.5 rpbh). He brought up the 50 in 94 balls (53.2 rphb) and was dismissed for 76 from 110 balls (69.1 rphb). You can see that he was building and accelerating (scoring 39 runs from the 22 balls before he was dismissed). However, he could not go on with it and the snail-like start could not be erased. It’s a big risk to fall behind on your strike rate.