March 30, 2011

World Cup 2011

The most important event in the history of the planet?

Andy Zaltzman
Andy Zaltzman tearfully tells the world's media about his devastating and mystifying failure to be invited to the Mohali semi-final as a diplomatic guest of the Indian or Pakistani governments
Andy Zaltzman tearfully tells the world’s media about his devastating and mystifying failure to be invited to the Mohali semi-final as a diplomatic guest of the Indian or Pakistani governments  © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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Well, this is all very exciting. History will ultimately be the judge of whether today’s game is indeed the most important event in the six-billion-year history of Planet Earth, but, going by the press coverage alone, it has to be a contender. Ravichandran Ashwin against Mohammad Hafeez – it’s like Napoleon versus the Duke of Wellington all over again.

The heavens opened spectacularly in Mohali last night, the fearsome opening pair of Thunder and Lightning ably supported by first-change bowler Torrential Rain, but thankfully The Weather has now been ushered well away from the PCA after the ICC rescinded its press accreditation due to alleged violation of contractual agreements.

Many have said that this game will be decided as much, or more, by which team can control their emotions than by cricketing skill. As we saw in Colombo yesterday, 30,000 decibel-shatteringly passionate supporters can turn into a 30,000-person nervous gulp. When Sri Lanka momentarily appeared to be tanking a guaranteed winning position, and the normally granite-stomached Sangakkara, after an innings of supreme cool and craft, inexplicably sent a precision bloop directly into the hands of third man, I had not seen so many anxious faces since Gordon Brown threatened to belly dance at the 2008 Labour Party conference.

Will the PCA crowd today prove to be a help or a hindrance to India? Will Dhoni’s ethereal aura of calm sustain in the frenzy of the most-watched cricket match of all time? How will Pakistan’s hitherto almost impregnable spin stranglehold react if India’s powerbatting starts tucking into it? Will India’s powerbatting even be able to tuck into the tournament’s best tweak team and fast bowler? Will India’s effectively-one-man pace attack be enough on a pitch that may offer little assistance? How will Pakistan’s batting fare in the face of a big total – they crumbled like freshly stewed rhubarb at a dessert-making contest in their one sizeable chase this World Cup, against New Zealand in Pallekelle? Whose limbs will Kamran Akmal be using today?

The game might be decided by a single knife-edge blast of brilliance, a captaincy gamble that either works or backfires, a schoolboy nerves-induced pratfall. It might be won at a canter by overwhelming batting dominance, or superior bowling incision. This is a genuinely fascinating contest. And if it directly or indirectly aids the cause of political harmony (and/or celebrity public profiles) in the bargain, so much the better.

OFFICIAL ZALTZMAN MICROPREDICTION (as in yesterday’s podcast): India to win. Either by 53 runs if they bat first (306-8 v 253 all out); or by 6 wickets (247-7 v 249-4 (47.1 overs)).

EXTRAS

● Sadly from my point-of-view, although not too high on the list of great tragedies of the modern era, I will not be in the stadium for today’s megagame. The rather tetchy PCA Press Box has meant that I am insufficiently important as a ‘journalist’ to win media accreditation. Sadly, and unaccountably, the ICC do not prioritise media passes on a Most Juvenile Writers First basis. And, surprisingly, neither Indian nor Pakistani governments consider me sufficiently important either economically or diplomatically to extend me an invitation. Instead, I will try to find a big screen in Chandigarh and a large crowd of Indian fans with whom to watch the game. I will report tomorrow on the ensuing communal gargatuoparty or hypersulk, depending on the result.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by RG on (March 31, 2011, 17:31 GMT)

YOU WERE THERE. VIP Block, Block E, corner seat.. I was in your row!!! :) (Do you have any idea why it is called a "VIP" block?)

Posted by Anonymous on (March 31, 2011, 13:52 GMT)

f

Posted by shiva on (March 31, 2011, 13:09 GMT)

worst bowling side, that was hilarious. pakistan batting must be of real high class to lose 10 wickets by facing one of worst bowling sides in cricket. @ amin arif: good call buddy

Posted by AND on (March 31, 2011, 12:55 GMT)

Andy, your writing is absolutely hilarious! How I wish you could be a commentator in place of certain empty headed big mouths we are forced to listen to! Look forward to your description of the "gargatuoparty".

And, your prediction was remarkably close!

On another note, all credit to Afridi for his performance both as a player and as a person. We Indians admired his grace at the finish. Let's give him and his team a cheer.

Posted by avinash on (March 31, 2011, 10:43 GMT)

ok andy,sorry to hear this! now start predicting the winner of the final.........u have a good strike rate!

Posted by Sandman on (March 31, 2011, 9:25 GMT)

Eagerly awaiting your report on the gargatuoparty :)

Posted by Theena on (March 31, 2011, 8:28 GMT)

Why didn't the rest of us in the Sub Continent - Sri Lanka in my case - get a chance to see your stand-up act, eh? I'd love to see you on stage, Andy.

Posted by Doggy on (March 31, 2011, 8:28 GMT)

Thumbs up to you Zaltzman!

Posted by Arnob on (March 31, 2011, 8:07 GMT)

@amin arif: Reality strikes Pakistan 231/10 - The worst bowling side didn't do too bad, eh (;)

Posted by VK on (March 31, 2011, 5:52 GMT)

Hi, do you still say its one of the worst bowling sides?

No, its one of the inconsistent bowling sides like the Pakistani batting side. Please mind your words.

Reply to: Posted by: Amin Arif at March 30, 2011 7:14 AM --------

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Zaltzman
Andy Zaltzman was born in obscurity in 1974. He has been a sporadically-acclaimed stand-up comedian since 1999, and has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4. He is currently one half of TimesOnline's hit satirical podcast The Bugle, alongside John Oliver. Zaltzman's love of cricket outshone his aptitude for the game by a humiliating margin. He once scored 6 in 75 minutes in an Under-15 match, and failed to hit a six between the ages of 9 and 23. He would have been ideally suited to Tests, had not a congenital defect left him unable to play the game to anything above genuine village standard. He writes the Confectionery Stall blog on Cricinfo.

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