Sri Lanka go for the kill in group of death
Now comes the chance of Trinidad, which hosts the appropriately named Brown Package, the group of the subcontinent, and the closest these feeble opening-round pools can come to producing a group of death. It is also the chance for Bermuda, to bask in the first five of their fifteen minutes, and for Sri Lanka, to join West Indies and Australia in their opening statements of intent.
About time play began too. When a gas leak at the team hotel was not reducing the world's finest cricketers to hanging about the parking lot in boxers and slippers, the coaches of Pakistan and South Africa were contemplating calling off a practice match because of a dicey pitch. When there has not been mild heartburn about the government's disinterest in securing a sexier second-round package of matches, there has been downright indignation about the overt Jamaicanisation on Sunday's opening ceremony. All that remains is the for the cricket to start, and to watch what it does to the notorious traffic on this oil-rich island.
The Queen's Park Oval looks bright-new lovely. It has not always looked so, despite its delightful location at the feet of the Northern Range. The greyness inside has been dispelled. The steaming concrete cycling track around the field has been replaced by an inviting grass bank. Bucket seats have been installed everywhere in vivid colours. The building hosting the Party Stand, in such a shambolic state a month ago that it earned a stern reprimand from the venue development chief Don Lockerbie, has miraculously been put together.
Only the surface may be sluggish, as it has been. Sri Lanka may still put up a big score given their relative strength but it is not, by obscene modern standards, a high-total pitch. The last two one-day internationals here were on India's tour last year; the highest score in four innings was 255. In the only limited-overs played here this domestic season, Trinidad bowled out Guyana for 183.
Sri Lanka will reappear with those two little giants of theirs, Vaas and Murali. A full strength side, playing to full intensity, the coach Tom Moody made clear. "It is always a good sign if you cannot finalise your eleven on the first day of a tournament." They have never played Bermuda before, and "there are a couple of bowlers who might surprise you, but nothing I don't expect our boys not to adjust to."
Bermuda have some happy memories of this patch, playing - and narrowly winning - their debut one-day international against Canada here last year. Naturally expectations are sufficiently grounded now. So the coach, Gus Logie, in charge of West Indies a couple of seasons ago, can talk of his team as having no particular strengths but being a united team, and having no particular gameplan except to keep things simple; and the captain, Irvine Romaine, can cheerfully say that while there would be no work in Bermuda tomorrow once the cricket starts, "we hope we can make it last the entire work day!"
It is their amateur charm that makes minnows loved as much as denounced. Referring to the beautifully rotund spinner Dwayne Leverock, Logie said: "We've seen already in the two warm-up games that we've played one of our players is, you know, larger than life and everybody been talking about him for different reasons. But the fact of the matter is that he's bowled pretty well; and if he can do that again over the next few days I'm sure the world is going to be talking about him again. If two or three players can come out of this World Cup and shine above the ordinary I think it will be well worth it. We've seen it in the past with John Davison of Canada, you know people are still talking about his hundred. So hey, why not Bermuda?"
Sri Lanka (likely) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 5 Marvan Atapattu, 6 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 7 Russel Arnold, 8 Farveez Maharoof, 9 Chaminda Vaas, 10 Muttiah Muralitharan, 11 Lasith Malinga
Irvine Romaine (capt), Delyone Borden, Lionel Cann, David Hemp, Kevin Hurdle, Malachi Jones, Stefan Kelly, Dwayne Leverock, Dean Minors (wk), Saleem Mukuddem, Steven Outerbridge, Oliver Pitcher, Clay Smith, Janeiro Tucker, Kwame Tucker (wk)
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Rahul Bhattacharya is the author of Pundits from Pakistan: On Tour with India, 2003-04