I realise that the sport called cricket may be fairly unknown to many of my readers, but it is a great game which also happens to be the second most popular team sport in the world, after soccer (yes, 2 billion Indians make an impact, for a start!).
The 2011 edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup has just terminated, with 14 participants in the initial pool stages. Held this year between February 19th and April 2nd on the Indian sub-continent (with India, Sri-Lanka and Bangladesh as joint hosts, Pakistan having been removed as a possible host following the 2009 terrorist attack in Pakistan on the Sri-Lankan team). When this contest started about six weeks ago, I predicted India to be favourites, and was proved to be right, India having just defeating Sri-Lanka in the final by 6 wickets. This is the second time that India has won this contest, which is hosted in a different country each time.
In fact the whole contest was a pretty resounding victory for the Indian sub-continent, with Pakistan, India and Sri-Lanka all reaching the semi-finals, the odd-team-out being New Zealand. This constituted a considerable upset as many of the top teams were beaten in the quarter-finals: England, Australia, South Africa and West Indies. Even if it was predictable that India would at least make it to the final on their home ground, the fact that three teams from the continent were in the semi-finals is surely a surprise and a credit to the quality of cricket as it is played on the sub-continent. And the way that the Pakistan team gracefully accepted their narrow defeat by the Indians, their arch enemies, is perhaps a sign of hope that sport might, finally, do more than fan the flames of stupid hatred between nations. Let us hope so!
congratulations to the Indian team
Here are the results of the final stages of the tournament:
FINAL: Saturday, 2 April
India v Sri Lanka, played at Mumbai (India)
India won by six wickets
Sri Lanka v New Zealand, played at Colombo (Sri Lanka)
Sri Lanka won by five wickets
India v Pakistan, played at Mohali (Punjab, India)
India won by 29 runs
Pakistan v West Indies, played at Mirpur (Bangladesh)
Pakistan won by 10 wickets
India v Australia, played at Ahmedabad (India)
India won by five wickets
South Africa v New Zealand, played at Mirpur (Bangladesh)
New Zealand won by 42 runs
Sri Lanka v England, Colombo (Sri Lanka)
Sri Lanka won by 10 wickets
A word on the performance of the English team
England were on the end of a gruelling tour of Australia, about which I have already spoken on this blog. On that tour they brilliantly beat Australia in the Ashes contest (the best of 5 five-day matches), and then comprehensively lost a series of one day games against the same opposition. The players clearly arrived at the World Cup quite tired and jaded, and indeed several team members dropped out through injuries. They were in fact lucky to make it to the quarter finals of this World Cup, having been beaten by Ireland, which is not usually a top-notch cricket team but who played a fantastic game that day. They also lost to Bangladesh, not a top team either, although they did beat South Africa and the West Indies. Their tied game with India, the final winners, was one of the highlights of the tournament. So a mixed performance, with great highs but too many lows and a probable explanation of too many games played in the past few months.