Week One of this underperforming tournament has belonged to an unlikely bunch of nationals. They are said to hail from a country named ‘South Africa’, named after its location at the South of continent Africa. The individuals who have taken up the sport of Cricket, based in this area, have been a hard-knuckled strong-hearted bunch over the last few decades. They have had to endure all sorts of natural, man-made and spiritual calamities in the sport, but have never called it quits. Yet.
Their endurance on the world stage has been suspect, and has been reason enough for all the taunts and sly remarks over a period of time- where they have consistently fallen short of not only the final hurdle, but the second-last hurdle too.
Well, trust them to come to the party on a World Stage that has gotten about as much attention as Lady Gaga’s new set of ‘leaked’ naked pictures. Nevertheless, it is still an ICC tournament- designed to set apart the Test Cricketers from the rest. Or the best from the rest…in a slightly unorthodox manner.
The results from week One of action have been quite surprising, though nothing ever is nowadays in World Cricket, after T20 took over the world:
The Warriors have blitzed their way to two wins out of two- putting them in Pole position to qualify for the semi-finals. What may happen in the knockouts is a different matter altogether, and they will try their darnest best to avoid going down in the history books as yet another South-African team. Ashwell Prince, the unlikely hero of their first game against Bangalore, gave way to their second opener Smuts for a runaway innings against the much-fancied South Australian team.
They have recorded the highest NRR so far, beating South Australia by a whooping 50 runs- taking their star bowler Tait to the cleaners.
Came, Saw, Saw again, Went
The Cobras, meanwhile, proceeded to defy the law of averages that states that no two teams from the same country can perform well in the group stages. They beat another team that were favorites, atleast on paper, for a second title: NSW Blues- thanks to old warhorse Gibbs turning back the years while chasing a par NSW score. With batsmen like Warner, Watson, Smith and Katich, it is only a matter of time before the Australian team fires. Unfortunately, it may come against an undercooked IPL team.
Then there were South Africans Jacques Kallis and Van Der Merwe from teams KKR and Somerset respectively, who made sure that the art of batting through an innings remain in tact without the likes of Dravid and Tendulkar not playing the tournament. One is not sure, though, if Kallis batting through is a good idea for the ailing KKR team- considering the fact that he has time and again built his innings like he is playing a 50 over match. An acceleration at the end is sometimes simply not enough. Van Der Merwe, in contrast, stole the game from the Riders in a batting display scary enough to give a certain Duminy the shivers in the national middle order.
As of now, it seems that the only way an IPL team can get on the board is by facing another IPL team. Somebody has to win. And the Mumbai Indians did exactly that, upsetting World Order by beating Champions CSK in a nail-biting and unusual match that had the Indians snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The likely hero- Malinga. The unlikely hero- Malinga with the bat. The shocking factoid- Harbhajan Singh scored the winning runs, and was captain of the highly-injured side. If not for Malinga, Mumbai would have been absolutely mauled, more so because their middle order looks worse than the current Indian Test team middle order. That could be all, though, folks, because Davy Jacobs has sustained some kind of freak injury during practice. I wonder if the rules will be twisted again to suit Ambani, er, the MI setup.
It has been an empty week for Indian teams, carrying forward the trend of their national team. MS Dhoni looks out of ideas, inspiration and luck. Gambhir has gathered enough nerve to play for KKR in their first game, for which he paid the ultimate price- a golden duck and a loss for his team.
Business as usual
Onto Week Two, and the fiery underdogs Trinidad&Tobago will play their first game against surprise package Mumbai Indians. Also, the fate of a few teams will be sealed within the next few days- namely any team that loses two games in a row. The Australian teams, for a change, are on the backfoot. One expects the qualifiers T&T and Somerset to go a longer way in the tournament, considering the fact that half the national teams play for these club teams. While England and West Indies do battle and play an untried brand of inconsistent cricket back in the UK, players like Pollard, Darren Bravo, Rampaul, Samuels and Barath are plying their trade for massive paychecks and a shiny trophy.
Players like Mathurin and Bishoo, the future of cricket, are being discovered as we speak. Yes, always two sides to the coin. Or so they say.