March 30, 2007

Whose side are you on now?

ESPNcricinfo staff

Now that India is out of the World Cup, watching the games has become a pleasurable, anxiety-free, almost aesthetic exercise. My nails are beginning to grow back; I have stopped giving the sofa a hammering every three minutes; and my daughter, I hope, will sooner rather than later begin to forget the swear words she picked up by being in my presence during the India games. It’s great fun, unadulterated fun, watching the cricket now. (In fact, it’s a little like the football World Cup: No India, great games.)

And there is so much to watch, so much worth staying up for: Shane Bond’s bursts of pure speed and control (it must be one of the most beautiful sights in the world, a genuinely quick bowler in full throttle); Matthew Hayden’s successive hundreds (the first one reminded me of the choreographed carnage at the end of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather. Hayden was ruthless and bloodied the opposition but there was such precision, such beauty in the violence); Malinga’s unforgettable four-ball devastation; and the brave manner in which South Africa began its (eventually unsuccessful) reply to the Australian total. It’s all riveting stuff, and there is so much of it around.

But there is this thing: Is it ever possible to watch any sport without actually supporting one of the two sides? (Or players if it happens to be an individual sport.) I think not. The 2005 Ashes series was the greatest ever and I enjoyed watching it more than many, many series in which India played but I was supporting a team: England, in that case. (The reasons are complicated, and I shan’t go into them here.)

While watching England play Australia (or X plays Y when neither is India) I am not as tortured as I would be if India plays, but I am very engaged with the fortunes of a particular side. The game itself gives great pleasure; but we need to identify with one of the two teams to give the experience of watching that extra frisson.

So it is with this World Cup too. I always know which of the two teams on the day I support.

But I am yet to decide which side I really want to go all the way. (In football, it’s always an easy choice. Ever since Diego Maradona arrived, I have been an Argentina supporter.) But I shall have to make up my mind soon.

Have you made up yours?

Soumya Bhattacharya is the editor of Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He is the author of two volumes of cricketing memoirs - You Must Like Cricket? and All That You Can't Leave Behind - and a novel, If I Could Tell You

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Posted by vijay padmanabhan on (April 26, 2007, 19:20 GMT)

Well now the wait is over. My predictions were bit awry. Both NZ and SA flaterred to deceive. I dont think any team threatened to defeat Aus in recent times. India has not beaten Aus since Jan 2004 on a glorious night in brisbane. Only plcaes other than no 1 have swapped only for SA to dismantle Aus for a brief hiatus. Well even though people dont support aussies winning world cup, they got to understand that no other team has even given a whimp of danger to aussies yet. Srilanka might dethrone aussies on a given day, but given the manner in which aussies have demoralised the opponents so far, even a srilankan upset would not convince a cricket geek to say that srilanka would deserve the trophy. I'm not saying that other teams are a dud, i just want people to imagine what level the other teams have to raise their bar to beat australia. only way aus can be beaten as of now is brininging a equally strong Aus a team and play them in the final. We still feel Aus dominance is not bad for cricket, but i cant help but revel at the sight of thoroughbred display from this champion team for 8 years and they are yet to be beaten. Srilanka, watch out. U got to bring something superhuman out of urself to dismantle Aussies from the throne they have occupied for near a decade. U might as well start dreaming now.

Posted by sanjana on (April 25, 2007, 15:22 GMT)

A spectacularly crashing dream - India's exit - triggered off this post, and yet another one brings me back to OUTSIDE LOOKING IN. New Zealand lost. New Zealand were crushed. Won't ever get to see Fleming in that Fern again. The Kiwis didn't really inspire a whole lot of confidence - frankly, not even in that mauling of South Africa. There's something annoying, something very perplexing about under-achievers...How Inzy snatched it away from them in '92 when I first started watching cricket, and how Malinga slung-shot them out of it in 2007 when I’m contemplating stopping watching cricket, will remain the stuff that nightmares are made of. Methinks, they were a little rusty throughout. Styris - the man who shot to fame in his maiden India trip deserved better, big man J O too for his run of form, Fleming more than anyone else...and so did McMillan - possibly the most entertaining and insanely talented of characters in international cricket, who will retire to a single-column mention in newspaper briefs one of these routine days.....Eternal semifinalists ??? Fleming, he of the most peaceful of countenances, had snapped back NO when the Kiwis were thrown the poser at the Champions Trophy in India...He will have to live with the tag for the rest of his life...Sad. So, do I move on and start trumpeting for Sri Lanka because New Zealand lost, and well, its not fashionable to support the Aussies - and India never commanded any respect or affection anyhow ? Not really. I'll stick to my team...At the next world cup ? Nah. I'll follow their progress through the next four years. How Dan Vettori evolves, does McCullum take over from Gilchrist, how Jeetu Patel comes through in India, does Mark Gilchrist continue to stay economical at the death, Peter Fulton - can he match Hayden's Power-play, does Bond regain his confidence after the Zak-sque first over, and ofcourse McMillan....Do New Zealand get to play as much as say India, australia, England...There’s joy in keeping track of the journey - i’ll save the anxiety for the 2011 semifinal. Rest assured, my Men in Black promise to be around !!! Cheers. N Flem, we still love you, no matter what.

Posted by JT on (April 17, 2007, 16:24 GMT)

Final will be Oz and Kiwis

kiwis are the only team with the Heart, skill and experience to defeat Australia.

lets face it a kiwi will walk on to a field bleeding to death if it meant beating Australia.

Posted by Sayyam on (April 13, 2007, 0:30 GMT)

I British born but born to asian parents with a pakistani dad n a sri-lankan mom, i would like to see the finals SL Vs Aussie, it would bring back memories of 1996 world cup, i agree for a certain extent the SL team is not soo strong as the 96 SL squad but they have the spirt, talent, determination n the decipline, they deserve to win, if SL could take up Aussies in 96 they surly can kick their ass in 2007, if not for SL i would like NZ winning the world cup.

Posted by Vijay padmanabhan on (April 11, 2007, 17:46 GMT)

Actually australia losing to england and newzealand in the later stages of that long one day series had something to do with Australia playing a tricky cunning game to make people belive that they can be beaten in this world cup. But by losing so, they infact made things scarier for other teams who knows what backlash can be expected from this wounded champions. This australian team is not used to losing whatever and i would not be surprised if they would be victorious in any sport let alone cricket. No team had the hunget to win the world cup 3 times more than the 80's windies side. People accuse aussies of sledging and being rruthless, but does any team really try to make the match of it by talking at as a challenge? The only team i feel which could make a match is newzealand. Srilanka is as unpredicatable because of malinga, but they dont seem to be strong enough to threaten australia. So my vote goes to Aus and Nz straightaway and lets hope Bonds yorkers devastate Aus batsman as that indian ocean tsunami

Posted by Prasad on (April 10, 2007, 4:22 GMT)

I'm a Sri Lankan living in the US. Without all the expat Indians, I wouldn't be able to watch the world cup at work. So, the Indian (and to a lesser extent all the other South Asian) support for the game is needed no matter South Asian teams are in our out. Thank you guys.

So, we see it now, right? We can enjoy the game better when we take the nationalism out of it. So why not take it one step further? Let the highest level of Cricket be played between teams of mixed nationalities. That way none of us have to blindly support our national team. Think about it ... how will Hayden play against Tait or Jayasuria against Murali or Fleming against Bond ... interesting matchups, eh? :-)

As for the World Cup this time around, Australia is in the best form. No one will be able to beat them. NZ or SL will come close, but no cigar. Just look at the size of those bicepts and necks. They are bigger than thighs of some Sri Lankans. (Hmmm... those not in the US, google Barry Bonds and BALCO :-))

Posted by Valavan on (April 9, 2007, 16:33 GMT)

Its good if anyone else takes other than Australia. SL has good bowling, NZ have good allrounders and SA has good fielding. Yet Aussie seems clinical. One mistake against Aussies will lead to loss. The clear evidence is Aus Vs Eng match. I can see Nathan Bracken going to be the world beater this time. HOPE everyone watched his Bowling performance throughout the WC. Australia can loose when they really have bad luck on their day(This is only being proven). They dont play like they lost the CB series and whitewashed by NZ. If SL can post 280+ in their game against Aussie, they have good chance, but even if Aussie put 210 on board, you cant bet that SL will win, All teams have PLAN A, PLAN B, PLAN C and PLAN D. But ausiies are the clinical executers of plans. So Again Aussie have chances of regaining the trophy than others

Posted by Pradeep N. on (April 8, 2007, 10:13 GMT)

We must support Sri Lanka for the following reasons:

1. Only team in the world representing major religions(Hindu:Murali; Christian:Vaas, Dilhara, Russel Arnold; Muslim:Maharoof; Buddhist: Jayasuriya, Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Malinga, Silva

2.Most of their names have a Sanskrit origin(In fact, Sinhala language is around 25% Hindi and the Script is similar to South Indian)

3.They belong to the SAARC, and share common values.

4. They deserve it, as they are the only side from the sub-continent to exploit situations and handle pressure easily!!!!

So, go Lanka go!!!!!!!!

Posted by Lesley on (April 7, 2007, 4:12 GMT)

Go for it South Africa now is the time. Dave you say they managed to score 400 in a minor game, except it was not so minor that the newspapers flashed it across the whole of Australia about the record breaking score Ponting and his men got and then had to retract it the next day after South Africa won it. Also the chokers tag was given to them by the Aussies it is a sociological edge when they play them.

As for Sri Lanka - Murali's balling as been tested and it is within the rules so that is good enough for me and a lot of others, so guess he must be a champion only a cheat to those that loose. So Go Sri Lanka Go.

Posted by Dave on (April 6, 2007, 14:25 GMT)

Scratch the minnows Scratch the West Indies England at the exit point

Leaves South Africa, Australia, Kiwis & Sri Lanks

South Africa have choked time and time again when its counted. Then of course they managed to be the second team in history to score above 400 in a minor game and a year later its all they can talk about. Will choke again and then blame rain/luck/calculators/equality rules/umpire but not themselves

The cut-throat nature will suit Sri Lanka, inconsistent like any Asian side but deeper talent and character than India & Pakistan. Perfectly capable of pulling this off. Whether you'd back them or not probably depends on whether you think Murali is a champion or cheat. The wildcard

Australia. Best team in test and on day cricket by a mile a mile (how many world cups did that famous 1980's WIndies side win again?), unbeaten in world cups for over 20 matches. Shooting for their 3rd win in a row and 5th final in the last 6 cups. So no-one outside Australia except maybe an Irishman will back them.

New Zealand. Tough, gritty, talented with the best captain in the game. The only team that seems to relish playing Australia. Go you Kiwis go!

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