April 7, 2007

A feast of excellence

ESPNcricinfo staff
45

Now that we are halfway into the second, compelling stage of the World Cup, it’s safe for me to come out and say (I’ve stopped predicting when it comes to cricket; it’s too much bother and I can do without giving friends another reason to laugh at me) which teams I’m hoping will reach the semi-finals: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka. Is that what you reckoned as well? Well, good, we agree about something at least. Here’s why I want them to go to the semis, why I am enjoying watching each of these teams in this World Cup. What are yours?

Australia: There is no team more dangerous than an Australian side that is out to prove something. Remember the last Ashes series? Remember the last tour of India? There is something so thoroughly professional about the team. Notwithstanding its defeats before the World Cup, it sometimes seems to be functioning at the rarefied level other sides can merely hope to aspire to. It exemplifies how the toughest side in the world ought to play the tough game. Australia has been indisputably greatest cricket side of this century. Many of the members of this side are playing their last World Cup. It would be a pity to see them make a mess of their last grand campaign.

South Africa: It’s a team that has made an enviable virtue of playing to its strengths. It doesn’t have much variety in terms of bowling but what it has it makes best use of. I love their athleticism, their dour, steely rearguard actions. Watching them, you understand how far the game has evolved; just how fit you need to be to play the sport at this level.

New Zealand: Poor, perennial underachievers. It’s a very good team – that’s not new. It’s a very good team that’s delivering the goods, consistently – now that is new. They have the zeal, they have the experience and they have Shane Bond. There aren’t too many more exhilarating sights in the game than a genuinely fast bowler in full flight. (Except for… well, some other time.)

Sri Lanka: The sheer joy the team exudes on the field is heartwarming. It’s a team that is brilliant in every department but it most brilliant in the celebratory manner of its play. Cricket isn’t all about having joy and fun and seasons in the sun. It never really was. But who can blame a fan for adoring a team that makes him believe that it is?

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • B .JONES on May 28, 2007, 22:40 GMT

    England did well to trounce West Indies in the second test. Panesar and Sidebottom were re-establishing themselves as test players. I am at a loss as to what Umpire Rauf was doing.... (1)lbw decision against England in the first test and(5)lbw decisions (Panesar's bowling) against West Indies. No lbw decisions were given by the other umpire. In the second test, Umpire Rauf meted out (1)lbw decision against England, (2) to Sidebottom in the first inning and (4) more in the second inning, (3) to Sidebottom and (1) to Harmison. Whereas it may be quite coincidental, it seems as though one umpire adjudges lbw to specific bowlers while the other umpire does not see these lbw cases. Should there be "challenges", using cameras to help umpires make better decisions in cricket, much as is done in American football ...Or should umpires poor decisions continue to upstage fine performances, as was displayed by the English team?

  • Abdul Hameed on April 14, 2007, 2:08 GMT

    India's fast bowlers: There are a lot of youngsters who can genuinely bowl fast. But we have seen that when they are selected to play for the country their speed is reduced considerably. Look at Munaf Patel, he was really fast between 140-145 Kph, but now he bowls lollipops at 110-125. Who is responsible for this and why such bowlers are in the team? At present there are two youngsters Ishant Sharma and Abid Nabi who fast and with good physique. BCCI has to nurture them and groom them ASAP.

  • Prabhu on April 12, 2007, 9:20 GMT

    First of all when someone comments on the article, keep it relevant (Hint…Ravi) I think its going to be a Aus, SL, NZ, Eng semifinal. Hope SL wins because of the way they play the game, their humble nature and because of the talent in the team. I despise all the name calling regarding the whole chucking thing Ravi brought up(Both sides). Its pathetic that people who are not experts in the field of bio-mechanics or for that matter cricket, form an opinion purely based prejudice. I don’t like Shane Warne because of how he plays the game but would be the first one to admit he is arguably the greatest spinner in the history of the game. Ravi if you don’t like Murali or Srilanka that’s fine. You are entitled to your own opinion. But refrain from spewing out rhetoric that has no scientific fact behind it. You run the risk of sounding ignorant.

  • Glenn on April 12, 2007, 3:45 GMT

    Maharoof,

    Thanks! Lets hope that cricket is the ultimate winner and gets a finals series it can be proud of.

  • Valavan on April 11, 2007, 15:17 GMT

    Doosra itself an illegal delivery. If harbhajan bowls then hi is throwing a javelin. ICC are currupt jokers. well SL may win cup. I think its not easy as it is going to be. For Pradeep, the Srilankan Fanatic, i think Nather bracken will not forget to show you. He will show you how fragile you are. believe me, u will not miss it

  • Venu on April 11, 2007, 13:35 GMT

    I'll go ahead and say that Bangladesh has a good chance against England today. If they can win today and win against Ireland there is still a whisker of hope that they can make it to the semis. As I write this Tamim Iqbal has smacked a gorgeous cover drive off James Anderson. Go Bangladesh!

  • Lahiru on April 11, 2007, 12:50 GMT

    Hey, This is the first comment that I've posted. I've really enjoyed reading the others on this board. I've found Ravi and Valivan's posts quite ludicrous.

    I feel really bad that India is out of the world cup. Without India the world cup has become hollow nad empty. It seems though that ppl like Ravi and Valivan are trying to make me appreciate the fact that India is out of the world cup.

    At the same time I feel happy for Bangladesh for finally shaking off the label minnow. Its really weird to feel happy and sad at the same time after a match. (Bangladesh vs. India)

    I wish ppl would stop calling other bowlers chuckers. Muralitharan has been cleared of such allegations and it is unfair to pick on him again and again simply out of jealousy. Similarly, lets leave Shoaib Akhtar and the other bowlers out of this whole chucking thing.

    I think that Australia will win the World Cup. I hope though that either Sri Lanka or New Zealand win the World Cup. The last 2 world cup wins should keep Australia happy for the next 15 years whereas Sri Lanka has been appx 10 years without a World Cup win. New Zealand has never won a world cup so it'd be nice if they win their first this time around. Anyway, all this is just my personal opinion...so please don't flare up and start flaming me.

  • maharoof on April 11, 2007, 12:11 GMT

    Glenn, you are a real gentleman. Lets enjoy the game.

  • Pradeep on April 11, 2007, 11:50 GMT

    Interesting.... Malinga a chucker for his elbow not bending!!! wow, who said that.. does he know any cricket rules... by the way how straight is harbajan singh's elbow, mind you he has no diability and he throws lollypops at batsman... sad to hear that indians want sachin outta there after toiling hard single handadly for almost 20 years. they cheered when he scored the same people want him to give up cricket when he is not finding his touch with the bat... i ll bet anything, the same people who want sachin to retire will start cheering and backing him up when he starts scoring those hundreds. anyways i am happy for india that greg chappell is out of there. by the way it was really sad to note that malinga had sustained an ankle injury.. hopefully he'll be all right for the semi finals.. we want him.. he s our man.. i am a bit dissappointed over vaas's bowling.. hopefully he will come good too.. murali and jayasuria are great as always.. by the way valavan and ravi... pls ask harbajan to bend their arms 90 degrees and bowl a proper doosra.... they cant... by the way murali is doing it without flexing his arm, as acknowledged by the icc.. by the way the icc increased the flexing limit and guess what harbajan singh was still beyond that limit... WHAT SAY YOU about that.. he had to go back and work on his action.. further it was increased to accomodate brett lee and shoib akthar... the two of the greatest chuckers of the game.. now shane bond and malinga are the only two legitimate fast bowlers in cricket today.. by the way if you talk about malinga jeff thompson also had the same action... GOOD LUCK SRILANKA... WE WANT THAT WORLD CUP BACK HOME.. IT BELONGS TO US..

  • tharumax on April 11, 2007, 11:34 GMT

    Thank god for sending India out. Otherwise these blogs will be full of rubbish like those from Ravi and Vallvan.

  • B .JONES on May 28, 2007, 22:40 GMT

    England did well to trounce West Indies in the second test. Panesar and Sidebottom were re-establishing themselves as test players. I am at a loss as to what Umpire Rauf was doing.... (1)lbw decision against England in the first test and(5)lbw decisions (Panesar's bowling) against West Indies. No lbw decisions were given by the other umpire. In the second test, Umpire Rauf meted out (1)lbw decision against England, (2) to Sidebottom in the first inning and (4) more in the second inning, (3) to Sidebottom and (1) to Harmison. Whereas it may be quite coincidental, it seems as though one umpire adjudges lbw to specific bowlers while the other umpire does not see these lbw cases. Should there be "challenges", using cameras to help umpires make better decisions in cricket, much as is done in American football ...Or should umpires poor decisions continue to upstage fine performances, as was displayed by the English team?

  • Abdul Hameed on April 14, 2007, 2:08 GMT

    India's fast bowlers: There are a lot of youngsters who can genuinely bowl fast. But we have seen that when they are selected to play for the country their speed is reduced considerably. Look at Munaf Patel, he was really fast between 140-145 Kph, but now he bowls lollipops at 110-125. Who is responsible for this and why such bowlers are in the team? At present there are two youngsters Ishant Sharma and Abid Nabi who fast and with good physique. BCCI has to nurture them and groom them ASAP.

  • Prabhu on April 12, 2007, 9:20 GMT

    First of all when someone comments on the article, keep it relevant (Hint…Ravi) I think its going to be a Aus, SL, NZ, Eng semifinal. Hope SL wins because of the way they play the game, their humble nature and because of the talent in the team. I despise all the name calling regarding the whole chucking thing Ravi brought up(Both sides). Its pathetic that people who are not experts in the field of bio-mechanics or for that matter cricket, form an opinion purely based prejudice. I don’t like Shane Warne because of how he plays the game but would be the first one to admit he is arguably the greatest spinner in the history of the game. Ravi if you don’t like Murali or Srilanka that’s fine. You are entitled to your own opinion. But refrain from spewing out rhetoric that has no scientific fact behind it. You run the risk of sounding ignorant.

  • Glenn on April 12, 2007, 3:45 GMT

    Maharoof,

    Thanks! Lets hope that cricket is the ultimate winner and gets a finals series it can be proud of.

  • Valavan on April 11, 2007, 15:17 GMT

    Doosra itself an illegal delivery. If harbhajan bowls then hi is throwing a javelin. ICC are currupt jokers. well SL may win cup. I think its not easy as it is going to be. For Pradeep, the Srilankan Fanatic, i think Nather bracken will not forget to show you. He will show you how fragile you are. believe me, u will not miss it

  • Venu on April 11, 2007, 13:35 GMT

    I'll go ahead and say that Bangladesh has a good chance against England today. If they can win today and win against Ireland there is still a whisker of hope that they can make it to the semis. As I write this Tamim Iqbal has smacked a gorgeous cover drive off James Anderson. Go Bangladesh!

  • Lahiru on April 11, 2007, 12:50 GMT

    Hey, This is the first comment that I've posted. I've really enjoyed reading the others on this board. I've found Ravi and Valivan's posts quite ludicrous.

    I feel really bad that India is out of the world cup. Without India the world cup has become hollow nad empty. It seems though that ppl like Ravi and Valivan are trying to make me appreciate the fact that India is out of the world cup.

    At the same time I feel happy for Bangladesh for finally shaking off the label minnow. Its really weird to feel happy and sad at the same time after a match. (Bangladesh vs. India)

    I wish ppl would stop calling other bowlers chuckers. Muralitharan has been cleared of such allegations and it is unfair to pick on him again and again simply out of jealousy. Similarly, lets leave Shoaib Akhtar and the other bowlers out of this whole chucking thing.

    I think that Australia will win the World Cup. I hope though that either Sri Lanka or New Zealand win the World Cup. The last 2 world cup wins should keep Australia happy for the next 15 years whereas Sri Lanka has been appx 10 years without a World Cup win. New Zealand has never won a world cup so it'd be nice if they win their first this time around. Anyway, all this is just my personal opinion...so please don't flare up and start flaming me.

  • maharoof on April 11, 2007, 12:11 GMT

    Glenn, you are a real gentleman. Lets enjoy the game.

  • Pradeep on April 11, 2007, 11:50 GMT

    Interesting.... Malinga a chucker for his elbow not bending!!! wow, who said that.. does he know any cricket rules... by the way how straight is harbajan singh's elbow, mind you he has no diability and he throws lollypops at batsman... sad to hear that indians want sachin outta there after toiling hard single handadly for almost 20 years. they cheered when he scored the same people want him to give up cricket when he is not finding his touch with the bat... i ll bet anything, the same people who want sachin to retire will start cheering and backing him up when he starts scoring those hundreds. anyways i am happy for india that greg chappell is out of there. by the way it was really sad to note that malinga had sustained an ankle injury.. hopefully he'll be all right for the semi finals.. we want him.. he s our man.. i am a bit dissappointed over vaas's bowling.. hopefully he will come good too.. murali and jayasuria are great as always.. by the way valavan and ravi... pls ask harbajan to bend their arms 90 degrees and bowl a proper doosra.... they cant... by the way murali is doing it without flexing his arm, as acknowledged by the icc.. by the way the icc increased the flexing limit and guess what harbajan singh was still beyond that limit... WHAT SAY YOU about that.. he had to go back and work on his action.. further it was increased to accomodate brett lee and shoib akthar... the two of the greatest chuckers of the game.. now shane bond and malinga are the only two legitimate fast bowlers in cricket today.. by the way if you talk about malinga jeff thompson also had the same action... GOOD LUCK SRILANKA... WE WANT THAT WORLD CUP BACK HOME.. IT BELONGS TO US..

  • tharumax on April 11, 2007, 11:34 GMT

    Thank god for sending India out. Otherwise these blogs will be full of rubbish like those from Ravi and Vallvan.

  • Glenn on April 11, 2007, 11:15 GMT

    I've jut enjoyed reading all of the cmments above. Ralph, whatever country you live in, you've reached legendary status! Great call. There are some other good comments as well and some people are wearing their hearts on their sleeves. I think anybody with any nationalistic pride has a right to feel either disappointed or elated with their team's performance from time to time but should always support their team no matter what. There are obviously some fans out there who are disappointed with their team's performance in the WC. Unfortunately, sport will always see upsets. In this WC, Aus seems to be the favouites and there are four or five other teams who could make the semis. When the semis start, there could easily be more upsets because, at this stage of the event, when the cream rises to the top, (to use an overused analogy), any team on their day can beat any other team. I personally agree with the author and would like to see a number of Aus's aging champions go out with a win but I wouldn't bet anything on it because the performance on the day can be affected by many things like, winning the toss, overcast conditions during one innings, rain, Duckworth/Lewis, or even just a bad day at the office (to use another anaolgy). The last four, whoever they will be, will deserve to be there and they all will have a 25% chance of winning. For me, I can't wait for the semis and I will enjoy watching the final whoever makes it and whoever wins it.

  • suresh kottegoda on April 11, 2007, 7:46 GMT

    dru ! man havent you heard of `whiny whiny cry baby club` of bishen bedi in which ravi & valavan are members of ? now they have started calling malinga also a chucker because in him we have some one who can blast the heads off & crush the toes of batsmen. what do india have ? harbhajan -a mechanical robot who bowl lollipops & a bunch of lethargic jokers who call them selves `fast bowlers` instead of being jealous of sri lanka`s progress in cricket i think the `big brother` can learn a thing or two from its little brother.

  • Dru on April 11, 2007, 4:40 GMT

    First off, nice piece.

    To Ravi, it looks like we're seeing the same old Indian superiority complex when it comes to their "inferior" South Asian counterparts. First, they'll continue to harp, for the next 4 years that Bangladesh's and SL's victories over them in the 1st round were flukes. Then they'll continue to harp on Murali being a "chucker", because its a new word they learned from their Australian and English sahibs

  • Valavan on April 11, 2007, 4:28 GMT

    News to Nath: Thank you nath. I have actually asked this to check who is gonna raise up hands for this. Infact everyone who caught in chucking controversy have chucked. They dont chuck often but when they are desperate to get a wicket, they do chuck. Indeed the new Srilankan paceman who has an abnormal action do chuck atleast one ball in every over. If ICC is bringing limits in benting arm, means ICC will soon accept chucking is fair bowling. shahid afridi was never caught in chucking controversy because he chucks only the wicket taking balls mostly. Anyway i will close this controversial topic.

    About performance related to this topic. I think Aussie is in form. They are the only team who materialize strategies. I have seen 2 occasions in this WC, SA Vs Oz when Smith was retired hurt, i understood Aussie will turn the game, second in Oz Vs Eng. They turned as soon as they removed Bell. This is in this WC. In the last WC, the semifinal against SL and the supersixes against NZ. Aussie realy have an edge until if someone surprises them in semis or final.

  • RSN on April 11, 2007, 3:02 GMT

    I had to read the entire blog twice to see if anything new has been written..sadly no!

  • meg on April 11, 2007, 2:07 GMT

    Supporting the kiwis all the way...i was at the ground watching when they chased that huge total just before the world cup...i know the aussies are the aussies, but I think the kiwis have it in them to beat them again. Apart from the practice game against b'desh, the kiwis have really been complete professionals. They're a team that knows their ability and aims to play above it.

    This might just be their year :)

  • Nick on April 11, 2007, 1:37 GMT

    The Indian faction needs to make a decision, are they a team, or a collection of individuals who happen to play cricket together?

    And Tendulkar? He needs to stop whining about having hurt feelings, accept some responsibility for his failures and show some grit.

  • Jaswinder on April 10, 2007, 12:34 GMT

    Chimpunath who's this fast bowler - he sounds like he could break a few heads - Aussie heads that is ... bring him in..

    By the way this Aussie team is no match for the Great WI side of the late 70's. They played with their bats not their mouths.. like the game is supposed to be played. My money is on the Kiwis -they do look good and that three-nil thrashing was ooh so sweet to watch. Mr Cricket was ready for a straight-jacket .... great to watch. Lol!!

  • suresh kottegoda on April 10, 2007, 9:01 GMT

    pradyuman, thank you for being so diplomatic. what do you think reason/s for india s poor showing ? ok forget about bollywood & commercial endorsements.......here s my humble opinion 1.greg chappel - too much tinkering with the batting line up ( which is by far the most talented in the world ) , breaking up the harmony within the team by way of his extremely vindictive, manipulative tactics 2.keeping kumble on the bench ( the great competitor ,a match winner in his own right & would have bowled well in WI conditions) 3.ignoring M.kaif, v v s laxman ( my personal favourite brilliant batsman )ramesh powar, & gautam gambhir 4.not letting great tendulkar open with ganguly 5.too much pressure & hype on the players inhibitting their normal instinctive play what to do then ? 1.shall we get rid of greg chappel altogether ? ( without letting him inflict more damage on indian cricket ) 2.work harder on overall physical fitness 3.get a sports psychologist( i m not kidding! they help ) 4.limit the number of ODI s india play per year (that will increase the intensity in each game) 5.give tendulkar a break ( my god not retire ! ian chappel is an idiot like his bro ) 6.bring in youth to indian cricket team - but no sweeping changes please ! 7.utilise local expertise of gavaskar, shastri, kapil, amarnath, doshi, visvanath, wadekar, kirmani, azharuddin............ any other suggestions .........?

  • Nath on April 10, 2007, 8:20 GMT

    With Bangladesh beating SA (is that the sound of choking I hear?), I would love to see WI make it if at all possible. The others will obviously be Aus, NZ and SL. I also wouldn't mind england finishing 4th if Aus finish 1st, just so Australia have a simple path to the final.

    News flash Valavan : other people are allowed to have opinions! You ask why bring the chucker controversy here, and then get stuck into it yourself! Why condemn another for raising a subject if you are prepared to comment on the subject?! Lee's action does look suspect in slow motion when he bowls his quicker balls, but let's face it, his action is nowhere near as consistently diabolical as murali's, nor have they had to change the rules of the game just to allow Lee continue to play. Furthermore, Lee isn't even playing in this tournament!

  • siddharth on April 10, 2007, 6:32 GMT

    well .,valavan is actually right..lee does chuck and afridi's faster is anything but a legitimate delivery. anyway, since india is not here anymore, i'd like aus, lanka, sa, nz to reach the semis so that we can atleast get to watch some close games...b/w the latter three. aus is way above everybody else at the moment.

  • Prasad on April 10, 2007, 3:19 GMT

    Windies have their backs against the wall. Aussies targeted Pollock. To some extent, so did Sri Lankans. I think Chris Gayle will target pollock while Chanderpaul will block/nudge Ntini. They will put up a good platform for the rest of the Windies batsmen to build on whether they bat first or second. I smell a WI victory.

  • Valavan on April 9, 2007, 14:36 GMT

    Why u bring chucker contreversy here? Please tell Who all agree that BRETT LEE is Chucking? COMON GUYS RAISE YOUR HANDS. Who all think that SHAHID AFRIDI is chucking? COMON GUYS YOUR HANDS UP PLEASE

  • arjun on April 9, 2007, 13:16 GMT

    Sri lanka and Australia for the finals. A '96 world cup win perhaps?

  • Pradyuman on April 9, 2007, 12:12 GMT

    Guys, lets not get into this murky business of calling names. India lost not because of bollywood or endorsements, but because of simple poor display. Other teams (barring the Oz) have had frequently gone through such phases without the lure of money or fame. Lets just enjoy the game and refrain from acrimonious comments. Murali is definitely a great bowler and a wonderful character. there is no point inraking up his action controversy again when the ICC has practically annulled all possibilities of anyone ever being called in future.

  • ravi Seneviratne on April 9, 2007, 10:18 GMT

    ravi ,

    You better take the advice of Ravi - keep dreaming,Indian team is happily resting and thinking about Bollowood. Sorry , you have got your wired crossed , Sri lanka team is the only team that will carry the Asian spirit , not the english pickle

  • suresh kottegoda on April 9, 2007, 9:24 GMT

    ravi ! dream on ! your favourite england has eaten dust yet again ! i smell your jaelousy because sri lanka sent your team (india)crashing down. what qualifications do you have to call the greatest spinner of all time a chucker ? may be you are one of those who has played cricket in the backyard with your sister. it is not sri lanka, its your cry baby indian team who are world renowned for excessive appealing ( thank god we dont have to put up with those dum TV commercials `starring` indian cricketers any more )

  • Santanu on April 9, 2007, 8:20 GMT

    Would love the Bengalis to do more - the author is one too:).

  • Malik on April 9, 2007, 7:24 GMT

    I'd agree with Saleque; we can't discount Bangladesh... I mean look at it his way; they're favourites against a pretty spirited yet very immature Irish side. They can most definitely skittle out a down-and-out West Indies team. And i can definitely see them beat an England side which is not exactly flying high on morale. and with the kind of confidence Bangladesh are riding on... if they get to bat first in the remaining matches and post good totals, i see them winning every time. So don't discount the Bengalis, by no means.

  • Saleque Sufi on April 9, 2007, 1:49 GMT

    I do not entirely agree with the writer of this. Well Australia is by far the best side and is clsoely followed by Nwezealand and Srilanaka but I do not think South Africa will qualify after their comprehensive defeat against the most atlked about team of the tournament Bangladesh.It is now a race among the host West Indies, England , and even not to discount Bangladesh.Wonder whether the writer still thinks the memorable wins of Bangladesh against India and South Africa were flash in the pan. It is avery young and carefree side and can be extremely dangerous on their day. Moreover, most of the wickets are similiar to their home wickets and they have young guns to exploit them. What happens if they carry their form against England And west Indies/ Do not they have more than a fair chance to qualify? Please do not write the tigers off yet.

  • Ums on April 8, 2007, 13:44 GMT

    Well in Ralph.. ur a genius. Do u have any more predictions?

  • Richard on April 8, 2007, 12:22 GMT

    What a day for Bangladesh they truely showed South Africa up and so will the rest of the teams. South Africa are too full of excuses , from supposed lousy net, to supposed boredom, what nonsenss, Bangladesh deserved to win and it would be great to see them in the semis, at least they dont have an attitude like SA , they get on play and enjoy the cricket which is what its all about. I dont see anyone beating AUS but I do see SA going home early AGAIN. Well done Bangladesh!!!

  • Kamran Malik on April 8, 2007, 11:43 GMT

    Well i think after the brilliant performance by Bangladesh,they have really pumped up the worldcup and also give a wake up call for other teams in the Super Eight.For me the teams making the semis will for sure be Australia,Srilanka,Newzealand and one out of Southafrica or England.Anyways i would really hope that England can really show a real good performance today to increase their chance of Qualifying for the Semis. But for me i am pretty sure that Australia and Srilanka will make the Final

  • Faridoon on April 8, 2007, 9:34 GMT

    Well I've tried all the different plausible win/loss permutations and combinations on the Excel Sheet doing the rounds on the Internet and one way or another, AUS, NZ, SL & SA manage to make it to the semis most often.

    Of the four, i'm loving the way sri lanka are playing their game. They've always been good at fielding and fitness. The change I see in them is that more than once they lost two quick early wickets but unlike the SL of yore the middle order grinds out the next 15-20 overs to bring them on par again. They've been doing a great job of resurrecting the innings after early losses. This is new to them since thier natural game is to go bang-whallop while the field restrictions are on. Just look at the way the usually flamboyant Tharanga curbed his instincts and played to save wickets when the team needed it. Maybe the captain's presence at the crease with him helped. But overall I'd love to see a repeat of the 1996 final and perhaps the same result? ...doesn't hurt to dream!

  • Shafraz on April 8, 2007, 9:10 GMT

    Ralph u by any chance a psychic? Well anyways u called it spot on, Now that Bangladesh have pulled it off ... it does leave the 4th spot open does'nt it ... This has always been the case with SA,They never perform to potential at the world cup.I still hope they will make it through, cos AUS,SL,NZ & SA are i think te best 4 teams in the world by a bit of a margin.

    AUS - Have the best batting line up. SL - Easily the best bowling outfit NZ - Gritty, fighters. SA - These guys are pure professionals, Almost regimental in the way they go about things ...

    I'd love to see how the Aussie bating performs against the Lankan bowling ....

  • Chimpunath on April 8, 2007, 6:07 GMT

    Hi, There is a fast bowler called abid nabi. he is indias fastest bowler.. He should be included in the indian team. India will surely benifit from an express fast bowler. Look at other teams Srilanka: malinga, Aussies:BretLee, New Zeland:Bond, SA: Ntini,steyn,nel all got express bowlers.. We need a varitey in bowling. we need naggers like mcgrath,oram,vaas,pollock along with pace of lee,malinga,bond,steyn etc. Abid Nabi will average over 140 consistently and can go upto 150s often. He is a kashmiri fast bowler. Please media, publicize him and make him get noticed by the selection committe. If he gets in india will have a killer attack in the bowling department. Please do this soumya you could benifit indian cricket greatly by publicizing him!

  • Aravind on April 8, 2007, 4:06 GMT

    Ralph, spot on. I think SA have been pretty ordinary of late. Perhaps their No1 ranking has made them complacent. Their game today was horrible... Someone should knock Greame Smith on the head.

  • Rahul on April 8, 2007, 3:18 GMT

    The fire and intensity Bangladesh showed today was missing in India or Pakistan. No wonder they're home right now.

  • Sami on April 8, 2007, 2:45 GMT

    Wow, is this guy Ralph, who posted the last comment, an Oracle of the game or what? The forecast he made was dead on and is exactly what happened plus of course, Ashraful's great knock. South Africa are now vulnerable to being pipped by England for that fourth spot, unless of course if Bangladesh keep on winning. Joi Bangla!

  • Raj Desai M.D. on April 8, 2007, 0:27 GMT

    I enjoyed reading your post,but I have a slightly different perspective.I beleive that the present Australian team is nowhere close to the 2003 world cup team.That particular team was the closest thing to the great West Indies team of 1979. Bowlers like Brett Lee,Jason Gillespie and a younger Mcgrath could be somewhat compared to Holding,Roberts & Garner.Infact this Ausralian team is comparable to the 1983 West Indies team which lost to India in the finals.That particular team had a declining Roberts,Holding & Clive Lloyd.I am personally not yet sold on either Hussey, Michael Clarke, Shaun Tait, & an aging Mcgrath is going to find it difficult to both maintain his fitness & form as the tournament advances.After that great game aagainst Sri Lanka, England is going to be very difficult to beat. A game like that gives a team a terrific high and a winning momentum.England have a balanced attack, and Vaughn & Flintoff are due.Watch out for England,they are going to beat Australia tomorrow. I am going to play the devil's advocate here & say that Australia is going to be picked off atleast in the Finals if not the semifinals.

    Raj Desai M.D.,F.A.C.C. New Jersey,USA.

  • Jayakumar on April 7, 2007, 22:54 GMT

    It is amazing to see Ralph made a spot on prediction. I would really like to see SA in the semis. England with their weak bowling lineup and most importantly no real zeal to make any impact on ODIs, doesn't deserve to be there. English are out there to enjoy and have fun in the sun, not play serious cricket.

  • Syed Ahsan Ali on April 7, 2007, 22:13 GMT

    Yes, I do not why but my sixth sense is saying England will be there instead of SA.

  • Ravi on April 7, 2007, 16:25 GMT

    Sri Lanka?? Come on...they appeal too much (see the appeal against Vaughan), have a chucker (yes I consider him so) for a spin bowler, and a suspect top order - they won't win the cup...why are you singling out SL for team effort? Seemingly every team (except IND and PAK have shown it in the World Cup)...see Ireland for example....but my team of underachievers is England (and if they beat the Aussies, then I back them to get the fourth semifinal spot ahead of SL..with AUS, NZ and SAF)...Anyways, go England (with some inspired batting and bowling effort, they can beat Aus again!)

  • sundar on April 7, 2007, 15:12 GMT

    It is really sad that even after a month has gone after the world cup started, we still had only two close games. Bring on the semifinals.

  • Ralph on April 7, 2007, 14:11 GMT

    I wouldn't discount the possibility of Bangladesh really putting the cat among the pigeons by beating South Africa today. If Bangladesh can get 250+, which they could well do if Aftab Ahmed or Tamim Iqbal fires, then everyone knows that the South Africans struggle against spin.

    Even if South Africa win today, I don't think they'll make it through. Their net run rate leaves them very vulnerable - if England beat them, or England beat Australia, then I think England will pip them to the post.

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  • Ralph on April 7, 2007, 14:11 GMT

    I wouldn't discount the possibility of Bangladesh really putting the cat among the pigeons by beating South Africa today. If Bangladesh can get 250+, which they could well do if Aftab Ahmed or Tamim Iqbal fires, then everyone knows that the South Africans struggle against spin.

    Even if South Africa win today, I don't think they'll make it through. Their net run rate leaves them very vulnerable - if England beat them, or England beat Australia, then I think England will pip them to the post.

  • sundar on April 7, 2007, 15:12 GMT

    It is really sad that even after a month has gone after the world cup started, we still had only two close games. Bring on the semifinals.

  • Ravi on April 7, 2007, 16:25 GMT

    Sri Lanka?? Come on...they appeal too much (see the appeal against Vaughan), have a chucker (yes I consider him so) for a spin bowler, and a suspect top order - they won't win the cup...why are you singling out SL for team effort? Seemingly every team (except IND and PAK have shown it in the World Cup)...see Ireland for example....but my team of underachievers is England (and if they beat the Aussies, then I back them to get the fourth semifinal spot ahead of SL..with AUS, NZ and SAF)...Anyways, go England (with some inspired batting and bowling effort, they can beat Aus again!)

  • Syed Ahsan Ali on April 7, 2007, 22:13 GMT

    Yes, I do not why but my sixth sense is saying England will be there instead of SA.

  • Jayakumar on April 7, 2007, 22:54 GMT

    It is amazing to see Ralph made a spot on prediction. I would really like to see SA in the semis. England with their weak bowling lineup and most importantly no real zeal to make any impact on ODIs, doesn't deserve to be there. English are out there to enjoy and have fun in the sun, not play serious cricket.

  • Raj Desai M.D. on April 8, 2007, 0:27 GMT

    I enjoyed reading your post,but I have a slightly different perspective.I beleive that the present Australian team is nowhere close to the 2003 world cup team.That particular team was the closest thing to the great West Indies team of 1979. Bowlers like Brett Lee,Jason Gillespie and a younger Mcgrath could be somewhat compared to Holding,Roberts & Garner.Infact this Ausralian team is comparable to the 1983 West Indies team which lost to India in the finals.That particular team had a declining Roberts,Holding & Clive Lloyd.I am personally not yet sold on either Hussey, Michael Clarke, Shaun Tait, & an aging Mcgrath is going to find it difficult to both maintain his fitness & form as the tournament advances.After that great game aagainst Sri Lanka, England is going to be very difficult to beat. A game like that gives a team a terrific high and a winning momentum.England have a balanced attack, and Vaughn & Flintoff are due.Watch out for England,they are going to beat Australia tomorrow. I am going to play the devil's advocate here & say that Australia is going to be picked off atleast in the Finals if not the semifinals.

    Raj Desai M.D.,F.A.C.C. New Jersey,USA.

  • Sami on April 8, 2007, 2:45 GMT

    Wow, is this guy Ralph, who posted the last comment, an Oracle of the game or what? The forecast he made was dead on and is exactly what happened plus of course, Ashraful's great knock. South Africa are now vulnerable to being pipped by England for that fourth spot, unless of course if Bangladesh keep on winning. Joi Bangla!

  • Rahul on April 8, 2007, 3:18 GMT

    The fire and intensity Bangladesh showed today was missing in India or Pakistan. No wonder they're home right now.

  • Aravind on April 8, 2007, 4:06 GMT

    Ralph, spot on. I think SA have been pretty ordinary of late. Perhaps their No1 ranking has made them complacent. Their game today was horrible... Someone should knock Greame Smith on the head.

  • Chimpunath on April 8, 2007, 6:07 GMT

    Hi, There is a fast bowler called abid nabi. he is indias fastest bowler.. He should be included in the indian team. India will surely benifit from an express fast bowler. Look at other teams Srilanka: malinga, Aussies:BretLee, New Zeland:Bond, SA: Ntini,steyn,nel all got express bowlers.. We need a varitey in bowling. we need naggers like mcgrath,oram,vaas,pollock along with pace of lee,malinga,bond,steyn etc. Abid Nabi will average over 140 consistently and can go upto 150s often. He is a kashmiri fast bowler. Please media, publicize him and make him get noticed by the selection committe. If he gets in india will have a killer attack in the bowling department. Please do this soumya you could benifit indian cricket greatly by publicizing him!