The oldest truism about the one-day game is that anything can happen and that is valid even in the 2015 World Cup – but only up to a point. While anything can happen in an individual game, to win a tournament a team has to win a series of matches and ‘anything’ rarely happens over a series of matches. If it did, most cricket pundits would be out of a job.
The World Cup has evinced great interest and nowhere more so than perhaps in the south Asian subcontinent. While it is certainly good to see that, one fears that for most south Asian fans, this time around it might end in tears. For the truth is that given the performance of the various contesting teams over the past couple of months or so, particularly their performances in Australia and New Zealand where the World Cup is being played, it has to be said that out of the three top teams in most people’s books, not one is from the subcontinent.
South Africa has played the most consistently brilliant cricket over the past couple of months, as have Australia and New Zealand, at least in the one-day format. Australia has outclassed India while New Zealand has done pretty much the same, first with Sri Lanka and more recently with Pakistan. It is not just the case that the subcontinental teams have lost, but that they have never really given the impression that they stood just as good a chance of winning as the opposition.
Wickets in both Australia and New Zealand will give extra bounce – they always have – and subcontinental batsmen have always had problems adjusting to that. This time around, it does appear as if it will be much different.
Purely from a Pakistani point of view, it has to be said that the performance of the side in the two warm-up games and then the two ODIs against New Zealand has been far from encouraging. In fact, after the second ODI in which Pakistan went down by 119 runs, Pakistan captain Misbah ul Haq said in his post match interview that the side had been wanting in all three departments of the game and with barely ten days left to go for the tournament, one wonders just how much of those deficiencies can be set right.
I personally would be extremely surprised if any one of South Africa, Australia or New Zealand did not make it to the semis. That said, there would still be one semi-final spot left and any one of the remaining five top teams could make it there, depending on the quarter-final draw and who hits form on that particular day. That said, gloriously unpredictable as the game is, this World Cup is perhaps less unpredictable than many of its predecessors..