The ICC World Cup 2019: Upsets aplenty!

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The ICC World Cup 2019: Upsets aplenty!

Gautam Ganguly | June 29, 2019 13:22 hrs


The on-going world cup cricket extravaganza has been expectedly drawing huge passionate followings both on and off the field. The present exciting tournament, like any other previous editions, has witnessed quite a few upsets, the crowning instance being Bangladesh annihilating a revamped West Indies hands down chasing an imposing West Indian total of 321 runs comfortably. Ian Bishop, the legendary West Indian bowler, and a host of other cricket experts have acknowledged the rise of Bangladesh as a “force to reckon with” in international cricket following this victory. More importantly,  Afghanistan, the baby of the tournament, had sent shivers down the spine of teeming millions of Indians   by restricting a much vaunted Indian batting to a meagre 224 runs and then taking the game to “proverbial handshaking distance” from victory.  It’s such stuff that makes World Cups worth watching! 


“The glorious uncertainty of cricket” was experienced at its superlative best when England, holding top ICC ranking position head of the tournament, failed to get past Pakistan’s total of 348 runs despite centuries scored by Joe Root and Jos Butler. Rarely has a team lost in an ODI after two of its batsmen scored centuries and still failed to overcome the opposition’s target. ODI history has indeed been enriched by such value additions.


Ironically, if the defeat against Pakistan was a major upset for England - the team that was rated as the favourite by most cricket pundits - greater mishaps were in store for them. Sri Lanka with a none-too-promising previous performance had scored a miserly 232 runs. The target appeared innocuous. Then,   veteran Malinga pulverized the strong English batting line up and folded them up to a paltry 212 runs    much to the chagrin of English team and its supporters. Interestingly, losing against both Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the countries that were taught basics of cricket once by their English rulers, presents the Indian mythological image of “Guru” Dronancharya losing to his disciple, Ekalavya, as it were!

   
Digressing a bit from the Himalayan upsets in the tournament so far, Team India’s effort in winning all the five matches has been immensely satisfying to the millions of Indian cricket connoisseurs across the world. While beating Australia can be always relishing, every Indian looks expectantly for the encounter   against Pakistan - the mother of all oppositions. The overwhelming victory of Team India against the arch-rivals reaffirms that Pakistan has again crumbled before a galvanised, superior team effort for the seventh successive time. Within minutes of the Indian victory, Indian social media was replete with rollicking fun and humour on our hostile neighbour highlighting simultaneously a strong sense of aesthetic satisfaction and enmity. It needs to be mentioned that India has defeated Pakistan in all ICC World Cup matches since 1992.

  
The New Zealand team with its top class performance has gone up in ICC ranking besides earning accolades as a complete team from cricket critics. However, Pakistan has brought the sky-high reputation of New Zealand to a grinding halt by beating them in its round-robin clash raising the spectre of a repetition of 1992’s miraculous turn of events. The memory of the New Zealand team under redoubtable Martin Crowe reaching the semi final in the 1992 version of the world cup annihilating their oppositions ruthlessly comes flashing to the mind.  The opposition was lacklustre Pakistan who had lost two matches   and remained in the fray on stroke of fortune. The world was stunned by the uncertainty of cricket    when a young  Inzimam Ul Haque  came out of the blue ransacking the New Zealand bowlers mercilessly to take the Pakistan team to a sensational victory reaching the 264 runs target with three balls to spare. 

 
The ICC World Cup 2019 stands agonizingly poised. Australia and India are the only two teams that are through to semis. But the rest of the two slots remain wide open. Guessing the possible qualifying teams, at this stage, in the midst of intense competitions will be nothing short of hazardous.


There is no need to reiterate that the entire nation went breathless for few seconds when Kapil Dev ran twenty yards back to hold the catch of Viv Richards that ushered a new dawn in Indian cricket on 25th June, 1983. Whether Team India will rise to the expectation of millions of cricket crazy Indians to repeat the 1983 performance once again in the “Mecca of cricket” lies buried in the unforeseen immediate future.


(The author is a retired civil servant and a die-hard sports enthusiast.)

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