April 7, 2007

A feast of excellence

ESPNcricinfo staff

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

  • testli5504537 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?

  • testli5504537 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.

  • testli5504537 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.

  • testli5504537 on April 12, 2007, 3:45 GMT


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

  • testli5504537 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

  • testli5504537 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!

  • testli5504537 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.

  • testli5504537 on April 11, 2007, 12:11 GMT

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

  • testli5504537 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..

  • testli5504537 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.

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