A tantalizing Cricket World Cup | Daily News


A tantalizing Cricket World Cup

Cricket World Cup 2019 has reached its business end with favourites India and the unpredictable New Zealand locking horns today at Leeds in the first semi-final. It will no doubt herald a pulsating week of cricket culminating in the final at Lords on Sunday July 14 - Bastille Day. (Incidentally, though cricket now is on a sticky wicket in France, they were the Silver medalists in Cricket at the 1900 Summer Olympics held in Paris itself).

The run up to the semis provided heart stopping moments to cricket fans and, beginning today, the mercury is bound to rise further, certainly for the Indian and Kiwi fans who would have their fingers crossed praying for the success of their respective teams. So will all Australians and the England fans, come Thursday, when cricket's oldest enemies face off in the second semi-final at Edgbaston, whose outcome will decide the two finalists at Cricket's showpiece event at the Game's Headquarters, to be played under lights.

Connoisseurs of the game must be hoping for a change in fortunes this time around for Eoin Morgan and Co to lay their hands on the trophy that had eluded England so far. England were the losing finalists in 1979 (to West Indies), 1987 (to Australia) and 1992 (to Pakistan, whose then captain Imran Khan is now Prime Minister). It will depend on how the team handles the pressure before the home crowd, who, no doubt, would be egging the boys on all the way.

In a way, it is a pity indeed for England, where the game originated, not to have had the pleasure of having a grab at the silverware, particularly considering the game’s rich traditions and ethos, with phrases such as ‘playing a straight bat’ and ‘it’s not cricket’ finding their way into the lexicon in countries far beyond its shores. Also it is inconceivable, considering the giants who strutted the field in English cricket who were household names, such as the Cowdrys, the Comptons, the Graveneys, the Dexters and the Mays.

Who would have ever conceived that the nation which taught the game to its colonies would be at the receiving end of its one time subjects, beaten at its own game, so to speak, as amply portrayed in the blockbuster Hindi movie, Lagaan. Hence, there are plenty of reasons for England to lift the trophy this time around. Or will it be another heart-wrenching experience? Thursday's outcome no doubt would place the issue in perspective. Will England advance to the Final or will it be another campaign ending in bitter disappointment? After all, five-time champions Australia are on a roll, losing only to cup favourites India and an inconsequential game against South Africa.

But cricket, as they say, is a funny game as has been proved time and again with the underdogs prevailing against all odds. In this context it is also inadvisable not to write off New Zealand which barely managed to scrape through to the last four. The Kiwis have proven to be a dangerous side in the past, particularly when the chips are down. Generally considered rank outsiders to win the trophy, albeit being finalists in the last edition, this can work to its advantage, with the pressure off on Kane Williamson and his men who could spring a surprise on India.

On the contrary, India will have all to play for, what with 1.3 billion countrymen not prepared to take anything other than victory and the World Cup in the hands of Virat Kohli. If past experience is anything to go by, a loss may be accompanied by dire consequences for the players and the management. The media hype now running at fever pitch almost deifying Kohli and his boys too can cast additional pressure on them that may affect performance letting the glorious uncertainties of the game come into play. The semifinals against Sri Lanka in 1996 may still be haunting most Indians where the unfancied Lions dumped Mohamed Azzarudeen's men on their way to eventually laying their hands on the Wills World Cup trophy on that humid night in Lahore.

This time around though there were no similar turnarounds with the Lankan team already having returned home after flattering only to deceive in their group match against England. No doubt, there will be the usual postmortems and recriminations. A few heads too would roll as has been the case after each disastrous World Cup campaign in the past. Most would suggest that we start on a new slate with the infusion of fresh blood. But things will be back at square one as the novelty wears off and patchwork solutions put in place.

Be that as it may, this World Cup will see the exit of many legends of the game who provided cricket fans with quality entertainment by their deeds on the field. It will be the end of the road for stalwarts such as Chris Gayle, Imran Thahir, Hashim Amla and our very own Lasith Malinga. For the moment though it is going to be cricket luvely cricket, indeed. 

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