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Monday, July 15, 2019

ICC Cricket World Cup-2019 Final: The Ultimate Thriller Where England Become New World Champions As Per Rules!

Photo: espncricinfo.com
Very rarely you get to watch such a thrilling one-day encounter, an ICC Cricket World Cup final at that! Further, it a was low scoring game where New Zealand won the toss and naturally elected to bat, and struggled and struggled and stuttered to get to a score of 240 in full fifty overs which never looked like a winning total a la the  hype created over the so-called 300+  pitches of the world event. However, in light of the semi final match against India when NZ gave a target of just 239 runs and won it, plus the pressures of a World Cup final the target of 241 for England was a challenging one on a pitch that was termed as ‘tricky’ by confused commentators. The essence of the game as was felt by all cricket lovers was that none of the teams was willing to give away an inch. It was, throughout the entire duration of the match, an outstanding display of seam bowling and super class fielding by both England and New Zealand. Even neutral fans were hooked as the probable winners changed every minute till the last ball of the 100th over and then the Super Over. For the first time in the history of world cricket we had witnessed a tied match in 100 overs and also a tied match in the deciding Super Over. But one team had to win to lift the coveted trophy, and so the rules regarding maximum boundaries hit by a team in their innings and the super over were applied. And, as per those rules England was declared the new World Cricket Champions.

A debate is still raging on all over the globe on the fairness of the rules. Well, when rules are being framed scepticism and opposition should come then and there, and not after the set rules were applied. The very Super Over rule was actually more apt for T20 tournaments and for IPL. The revellers for the shortest format never uttered a word when such rules were set by the ICC. Now all are saying NZ has been done a great injustice or that there should have been joint winners. In my view, both teams had their bits of luck and chances to win the match. England needed 3 runs from 2 balls in the 100th over which is considered cakewalk in the modern world of cricket, but could only tie. New Zealand also needed 3 runs from 2 balls in the super over, and could only tie. Hence, what was wrong in applying the set rules? In all instances when teams win by 1 run or 1 wicket similar painful thoughts always haunt you, particularly when it’s your favourite team that suffers such a fate. On a day one team becomes the winner, and there is no question of justice or injustice being done. It is also common to see sixes cut off by splendid catches on the boundary line or crossing the boundary after catching it successfully, and also the overthrows going to the boundary.


Whereas no team in this incredible final encounter deserved to lose England did become the Champions thanks to their nerve and brilliance, and therefore nobody should grudge their celebrations. The intensely competitive fight by the New Zealanders will remain in public memory for a long time, and the team must surge ahead for the ultimate glory in coming years. It’s not for nothing that Ken Williamson was declared the Player of the Tournament. India’s Rohit Sharma made an unbelievable record of 5 tons in a single World Cup, but couldn't go ahead to make his team win the games that mattered finally. These are all part of this beautiful game of cricket. Last thought is that the ICC should not mix up rules for all formats and should emphatically separate the ‘populist’ T20 format from the classic formats of Tests and ODIs. 

Saturday, July 13, 2019

ICC Cricket World Cup-2019: New World Champions to Emerge Tomorrow!

Photo: espncricinfo.com
A new World Champions emerges tomorrow at Lord’s in the ICC Cricket World Cup-2019 Final match to be played between England and New Zealand. Neither England nor NZ ever became Champions before, although both coming close several times. England had been playing semi finals in the first five versions of the World Cup since 1975, and they had been runners-ups three times of those five occasions, never able to win the final. They played a semi final last in 1992 and lost it, never able to make to the last four stage since then. 

On the other hand New Zealand played 7 semi finals including the present one and the first two in 1975 and 1979, and had been runners-up only once in the 2015 version when they lost to their big brother Australia. They had been playing good cricket in several world cups, but mostly they had been facing an inconsistent run of wins/losses. In this version they looked the dominant team, but eventually lost badly to Pakistan, Australia and England. Their surprise win over India in the semi final ultimately saw them through. 

Therefore, both the teams would be desperate not to let go of this golden opportunity. More so, England on their home ground and looking to end a bad spell running more than 27 years. On paper, England looks the favorite on the basis of their batting and bowling. However, they also had to account for inconsistencies in terms of losses to Pakistan, Australia and a lowly Sri Lanka. Of course their last three wins over India, New Zealand in the league stage and over Australia in the second semi final were resoundingly convincing. In fact, in the second semi final Australia were so thoroughly outplayed that I cannot recall another occasion when the fighting Aussies gave up so meekly. We expect a cracker of a Final on Sunday, the 14th of July, 2019. 

Meanwhile in India, the pain-induced speculations ruled the roost. Nobody really expected such a poor show by arguably the best team in the tournament, so close to winning it the third time. However, to me the result was not entirely unexpected; in a warm-up match they beat India convincingly; their league match got washed out depriving India of  a real opportunity to assess their seam bowlers and the India batsmen failed to expect and prepare for the ‘three Bumrahs’ in New Zealand. Further for me, the single biggest setback for India was the loss of injured opener Shikhar Dhawan at the very outset thus throwing the gates open for ‘experimentation’ that went on relentlessly for more than two years prior to the tournament. As I feared in another piece of mine here assessment on the basis of IPL records proved to be the only course, and not ODI records of players like Ambati Rayudu who had been India’s no. 4 in the last two years in most of the ODI matches. 

I think the no.4 ‘crisis’ was created artificially; I won’t go into reasons why. The team management could easily have made MS Dhoni as the ideal no.4 batsman, thus avoiding the unnecessary ‘slow batting’ controversy putting the veteran as a misplaced ‘finisher’ instead of the natural pinch hitters like Pant and Pandiya who got, horrifyingly, promoted ahead of Dhoni. Then, they should’ve gone for a sixth bowler option preferring Shami in lieu of Dinesh Karthik who is definitely now at the end of the road, not able to take advantage of the opportunities offered including the biggest one at the semi final. The matches against England and New Zealand we had been watching helplessly as Chahal or Kuldeep had to be bowled their full quota despite the rains of runs yielded by them. One more fact is that the Indian top four invariably failed in knockout matches in recent years; this was more pronounced in the absence of Dhawan at the first semi final against NZ. 

This will never end as far as India is concerned. So, better concentrate on enjoying an engaging final tomorrow. 

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