World Cup 2015: Points to note

In the end, death was swift and painless for the Kiwis and their fans. It was, as is often the case with Australia in a final, a one-sided affair. Australia were the better team, but that’s not to say they’re World Champions. They won by 7 wickets, but it didn’t feel like a celebration of cricket. They were the best team of the tournament, but the culmination didn’t quite feel hard or gentlemanly.

World Champions are supposed to exhibit grace apart from utter dominance, modesty with a tinge of arrogance, and acknowledgment of fellow competitors. This team, under Michael Clarke, failed most tests except the most important: Skill.

They were easily the most dynamic and balanced team in the tournament. They aren’t the easiest to like, with guys like Haddin and Warner in the face of the nicest guys of world cricket. Grant Elliott, New Zealand’s best batsman again, was subjected to relentless sledging from his first to his last ball during his brilliant innings, for no real reason. It was old man Haddin first, then Johnson, and many more, with Clarke—who hasn’t been the most likeable Aussie leader—refusing to intervene at all. Even Nasser Hussain, England’s most ruthless and uncompromising captain, wondered aloud why such tactics were needed, and why they couldn’t just stick to their unique on-field skills.
Classless, graceless and arrogant, but Champions nonetheless.

For the 5th time.
This time, in their own backyard—thereby completing the clean sweep, winning in India, England, South Africa, West Indies and now Australia. They’re the most dominant team in the history of cricket, and with the average age of their new champion team being 27, this dominance will last for at least four more years.

With the end of yet another World Cup, as a spectator and keen observer, I have noticed a few interesting trends:

The current young batting stars of world cricket, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson, had just one good game each, and went off the boil for the whole tournament. Just when they were expected to come good in the knockouts, as most champion players are expected to do so, they again failed. Something went wrong, and they just couldn’t prove why they’re so highly regarded. The law of averages didn’t quite work for other stars who were expected to come good too—Hashim Amla, De Kock, Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal, Ravindra Jadeja, Ross Taylor, Luke Ronchi, Ajinkya Rahane, Tim Southee, Dale Steyn, Mahela Jayawardene, Ian Bell, Angelo Mathews, Marlon Samuels, Dinesh Ramdin, Eoin Morgan, Stuart Broad…these were all players who failed initially, succeeded in a single game, and were supposed to show their class, but just didn’t manage to leave their mark. The South Africans especially will be disappointed, with Amla failing in both the knockout games. The law of averages just didn’t apply to them anymore.

It was a World Cup for left-arm seamers: Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, Trent Boult, Wahab Riaz, James Faulkner—they destroyed most teams on their day, whether in Australia or in New Zealand.

Experienced batsmen like Kumara Sangakkara, Martin Guptill, AB de Villiers, Brendon Taylor showed that despite their struggles, class is permanent. They ended up as the highest scorers in a tournament that had the maximum number of 300+ scores, maximum individual centuries, two double centuries and loads of sixes. The youngsters still have a long way to go before they can dazzle with consistency and technique on the world stage.

The Black Caps looked unbeatable in swinging conditions and small grounds back at home. The only game they played in Australia, in the largest cricket ground MCG, was the final—the first in Australia for them since 2011. This sudden change was bound to have them come up short, and it did, which made this World Cup pretty much an extension of what is already feared: Home teams always have the advantage. Winning Away Series, and Away World Cups are things of the past.

Teams like India and Australia didn’t quite have the highest scorers of the tournament, but had each of their players come good at different times—with a few bowlers topping the lists at various points. Everyone stepped up one by one, and made sure that it didn’t become a one-man team…like South Africa.

All-rounders, hard as they are to come by in the Indian team, had a field day for most other teams. Corey Anderson, James Faulkner, Shane Watson, Glenn Maxwell, JP Duminy, Moeen Ali, Suresh Raina, Mitchell Marsh, Dilshan…they all left their mark in various games. Of course, there was never a Kallis out there, but the new generation isn’t too bad either.

Spinners had a tough time in conditions that were a blast for batsmen. Only Ashwin, Vettori and Tahir turned out to be trump cards for their captains in a tournament that favoured quicks and quick batting.

Ajinkya Rahane played a wonderful innings to steal the game away from South Africa. But though most pundits put him high on the list of the bright spots that came out of this World Cup, he was in fact quite underwhelming. He played terrible innings in the knockouts, and looked uncomfortable at the crease for most other matches at number 4. Either he must open the innings in ODIs, like he does in T20s, or he should stick to being India’s promising young test hope. He hasn’t quite figured out his role at no. 4, and can’t find his fluidity and technique in the middle overs.

Ravindra Jadeja won’t be in any Indian ODI teams for a while. He failed with the ball, failed with the bat, and didn’t really inspire confidence in any game with his hair either. He wasn’t quite the all-rounder India needed, which is why they fell short finally against a superior team. The lower order began with him, and that curbed Dhoni’s batting into an accumulating, painful, riskfree, overcautious cauldron of complexity.

Pakistan and Sri Lanka were highly unimpressive, while India and Bangladesh punched above their weight to eventually be taught a lesson. Despite India’s 4-month stay in these conditions, they once again fell to the same team that has beaten them all summer. And they will continue to fall to them, until the Australians come to India.

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