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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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