Friday, March 02, 2007

The Pinnacle of Cricket?

I have always approached Cricket World Cups with mixed feelings. As a connoisseur, I am not exactly sure if the showpiece tournament of the game should be an ODI contest. And this when I am not sure ODIs have a sound future. They managed to revive Test cricket some forty years back, but themselves became so predictable that now we need to work on 20:20. A happy co-existence: pre-industrial Test cricket, played over five days with the possibility of no result, and the players getting a break for tea also; along with helter-skelter 20:20, possible to start and finish after office hours.
As Mukul Kesavan had once pointed out, cricket loses out by being organised on national lines. Hence, we can never possibly see Lara and Sachin play for the same team, say a Chelsea (am sure one will need a money-bag like Roman Abramovich to get these two stars together). The problem with this arrangement is that all showcaseable cricket becomes International, and increasingly meaningless as I have realised. Do we want to watch the challenger to Australia over the elongated Commonwealth Bank series? Or watch India beat Sri Lanka in an inconsequential series before the tournament? And playing this is hardly practice, two great World Cup victories in last century were by two cornered teams, Pakistan and Australia, led by two inspired men, Imran and Steve respectively.
A fellow blogger of mine gave lot of flak to Dravid for saying that the World Cup could be won by any of the eight teams, basically implying that it only Bangladesh, Kenya and Zimbabwe who have no chance. And for commerce's sake, I do hope Bangladesh does not upset India tomorrow. But Dravid is dead right, with Aussie's recent travails, it will all boil down to the team in form. Except for West Indies in the beginning and Australia now, no World Champion team has been the world's genuine best. India and Sri Lanka were good in some condition during their glory days, but world-beaters? India were thrashed by the West Indies in most matches before and after the World Cup. And Pakistan could not even qualify for the then B&H series finals in Australia, just a season after winning their title in the same country and conditions. I also don't think West Indies were such a bad ODI team as their record, of not reaching the semi-final in 1987 and 1992, showed.
But that is the joy of sport, the unpredictability. In football, it has always been a dark horse, a Cameroon in 1990 and South Korea in 2002 who have made the game enchanting and truly global. Yet, I cannot think of an undeserving winner of any FIFA World Cup in recent memory. The last one possibly stretches to 1982, when maybe Brazil or France could have been better than Italy, but that is also arguable.
The problem with the cricket World Cup is that the wrong form of game is possibly tested. And presence of minnows and politics does not help much. It will take one upset to remove the sheen from Super Eight. And in 2003 in South Africa, a combination of both factors ensured a sure-shot semi-final victory for India against Kenya.
Cricket as a game works more by concentration rather than expansion. I know it would have never gone beyond England and Austrlia if then minnows were not given the opportunity, but somewhere a balance needs to be found where all great records are not obilerated because someone decides to thrash an undeserving attack (or lineup). If Gary Kirsten (against UAE), rather than Saeed Anwar (against a much more competitive India), would have broken the great Viv's then highest ODI score record, , it would have been a catastrophe for me.
I will still get swayed by all the marketing unleashed, and will spend nights watching the game I love. But I will rather be the individual who awaits Sachin's last tour to England and Australia, not join the billion having heart-failures in his last World Cup.


svety said...

I had been waiting for this one and it definitely does not disappoint. I knew I could trust u to come with a point of view not in keeping with the traditional way of looking at the event...the last para is outstanding..but don't make us wait so long for the next post...:)

Amit Bajaj said...

i guess i am that fellow blogger you are referring to. mate, i never questioned the correctness or otherwise of dravid's statement - my point was that it's not the right thing to say for the Indian captain. Do you think Mark Taylor would have ever said that? ( assuming the situation he faced were like this).

Can you imagine what would have been the contents of the 'Tryst with Destiny' speech by Nehru if Dravid had instead been the PM? It makes me shudder! (I know i am stretching it to weird proportions, but sometimes the picture gets clearer that way)

Abhigyan said...

I agree, it appears ridiculous. But I like Dravid becoz he is usually right, not only popular. For instance, he did not take credit for Sehwag's century, unlike Greg Chappell who said he helped Ganguly. And Chappell is media-savvy, that's why he became the coach.

Boy, and my prediction of Banglades beating did come true, and the commerce bit is on tenterhooks.

Tazul I. said...

Great articles you had been on ICC world Cup 2007. Why don't write some about ICC World Cup 2015