By Colin E. H. Croft
“To see is to believe!” Yet, many of us do not believe what we have been seeing from those images in Japan, after its 8.9 earthquake, and the resulting tsunami. It is like Haiti and Sri Lanka combined. It also just goes to show that when nature barks, humanity should do its best; try hard to hide from the bite!
On another sad note, the passing of Sonny Murray, father of Colin Murray, of Carib Beer fame, coming so soon after the recent death of Joey Carew, highlights the continued removal of good cricketing personnel from our midst.
He was 94, and for all of his life, Sonny has been involved with Queens Park Cricket Club and West Indies cricket. It was he who was, in the distant past, responsible for operational logistics of international cricket teams visiting Trinidad & Tobago. RIP!
Now, to ICC Cricket World Cup 2011! What a glorious, inconsistent competition we have on our hands!
With that very impressive win over Ireland last Friday, West Indies may just have qualified for the quarterfinals, especially after getting great help from Bangladesh, who, with its own come-back, beat England.
Initially, England was a favorite, going into this competition, but they may have gone a game, or even a tournament, too far. Try as they might, they just could not conjure up any real spice against Bangladesh.
Having been playing competitive cricket since November last, when they took on Australia for the Ashes, England looked extremely jaded, even desperate and despondent, against Bangladesh. As the old saying goes; “The mind and spirit might be willing, but the body (especially the brain), might be weak!”
With India and England to come in Group B, West Indies simply has to hold its own and it will qualify, given its present net run rate. That qualification, though, while obviously refreshing and acceptable, could be very interesting. With the poor scheduling, they again have to wait yet another week to play!
West Indies, though, could, even now, be wondering which team from Group A – Pakistan, Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand – they will play in quarterfinals. I know that if a team is to win any competition, it will have to beat all other teams, but, sometimes, there are some you prefer not to play!
Of the four teams in Group A that West Indies will probably play, Pakistan is the most unpredictable. Like West Indies, led by the incomparable Shahid Afridi, whose bowling has already been destructive, Pakistan could play a “blinder” one day, and capitulate completely the next. Uncanny how they do it!
Australia is the most consistent, and having not lost a CWC game since CWC 1999, they would want to hold on to that record. They might be an aging team, but that does not mean a lacking team. Ricky Ponting and his men will be up for any fight that any other team brings to them. They know how to win!
Sri Lanka, on paper, led by the knowledgeable Kumar Sangakkara, is similar to India, with a better bowling attack. Sri Lanka’s batsmen, like India’s, have been most consistent so far in the tournament. The Lankans have played all home games already, so we will see how well they travel these days.
New Zealand has been the dark horse in Group A. Ross Taylor fired them back into contention with his blitz on Pakistan, so West Indies, if indeed they do meet, should be very wary of the New Zealanders. For true grit, with limited resources, few teams have completed more than New Zealand, so watch out!
West Indies next opponent is England, a game that the supposed inventors of the cricket game must win to even think of getting to the 2nd round. Tired or not, despondent or not, England is fully desperate. Like a very cornered animal, England could be a dangerous foe with its back so much up against a wall!
Andrew Strauss has tried his best to galvanize his players. With Kevin Pietersen missing through injury, England has to make do with yet another make-shift opener, wicketkeeper Matt Prior. Only they know why they did not select original, consistent and recently productive opener Alastair Cooke, but the re-inclusion of Ravi Bopara and especially Eoin Morgan has been a big boost for the battling batting team.
England’s bowlers have struggled much, more so the faster ones. Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan have been just okay. Spearhead James Anderson seems totally shot, and should have been dropped ages ago. He seems not to have any energy anymore and it would be to West Indies’ advantage if he plays. Michael Yardy and the best of England’s spinners, off-spinner Graeme Swann, have held their own well.
West Indies have already done better than many, including me, expected. I partly expected that they might just scrape a quarterfinal place, but what is very obvious is that they have become better after each successive game. The game against Ireland was as conclusive as possible, even with a few blips.
Devon Smith played magnificently for his maiden ODI century. With Chris Gayle missing through injury, Smith shepherded the top and middle order well, even though the dismissal of Darren Bravo; no score; must have sent shivers through the team. That they managed to overcome that showed some maturity.
If Gayle returns for the England encounter, either Shiv Chanderpaul, or debutant against Ireland, Andre Russell, would make way. There should be careful considerations on this, as, while Chanderpaul has been slow, the batting, especially if Gayle is not there, is not as sound as it seems on paper. Yet, if Gayle does return, he could also lend a hand with his bowling. That toss up as to who to drop is tough!
Against Ireland, West Indies made 275 all out, with two batsmen, Smith; 107; and Kieron Pollard; 94; making substantial scores. That also means that the rest managed only 74 runs between them. Pollard’s hitting has been great, and, as noted earlier, his promotion to No. 5 is excellent. Ramnaresh Sarwan and Darren Sammy continue to worry, and frustrate, with their lack of large scores so far.
If anything, West Indies fielding has improved tremendously. That aspect alone could have been responsible, more than anything else so far, to the team being considered a good outside bet to win ICC CWC 2011. Only yesterday, a friend suggested that, at the start of ICC CWC 2011, he had placed a bet on West Indies to win at 10-1 odds. He may not become instantly wealthy, but that is not a bad bet!
How West Indies approach the next two games would be very eye-opening indeed. England is hurt and hurting bad, while India, the only unbeaten team at the time of writing this article, is supremely confident. That game against India will also be West Indies’ last game in the preliminaries, so it may even come down to that for West Indies to know which team they will meet in the quarterfinals. Full force and full focus are keys!
Overall, West Indies consistent inconsistencies have left us all bewildered, sometimes abusive and even confused. Sometimes, they surprise us, maybe even themselves too! Enjoy!
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