The cricket World Cup 2019, which was heading towards, what looked like a four-country affair, has turned into a battle for survival. A true example of cricket uncertainties, the very ingredient that makes this game so popular in countries that follow it passionately.
At present Australia is the only one who has sneaked itself into the play-off stage. India are in a good position to do so, but the tournament favourite England and the team that looked in good form New Zealand, are both in a precarious stage of being relegated to the also ran.
The West Indies, one felt, was set to make a name once again in world cricket, but they failed to capture the moments of good fortune through immature and childish thought process. However, they have shown that they are on the rise and with some exciting young cricketers in their side, they will be a force to reckon with in the future.
Bangladesh has been my side of the tournament. They do not have a great batting or bowling side, but their sheer enthusiasm and determination has been exemplary. They do stand a chance of qualifying for the semi-finals, but have the strong Indian side and the awakened Pakistan side to beat. Bangladesh will need to play some extraordinary cricket, just like the man of the tournament at present, Shakib Al Hasan.
Pakistan, after a defeat against their arch rival India, looked like a side beaten and broken. A revival looked far from ones imagination. Victories over South Africa and especially New Zealand has catapulted them into believing of qualifying for the knock-out stage.
They have Afghanistan and Bangladesh to beat and to do so with their talented cricketers and their new found confidence, they could actually achieve it. One could see a possible repeat bout between India and Pakistan in the semi-final at Old Trafford, if India finishes as the top side in the league.
England, the host team, have an uphill task to reach the next stage of the tournament. They need to win against India and New Zealand to make the last four. For them every match is a death knell and they will need to regain their lost form. They have a very capable side and players with the required skills to do so. The pace bowlers are top wicket takers in this World Cup.
The wrist spinners are playing their part, but one is concerned about the finger spinners. This art seems to be disappearing as a force to reckon with in the 50 overs format. The fast and medium pacers seem to be using finger spin in their armoury but the genuine spinners are missing. One wonders as to whether the modern bats, fielding restrictions and lack of variety are responsible for their extinction. Maybe, a few will come into the equation once the wickets get drier and there is more turn to offer.
The most wonderful aspect of this World Cup has been the emergence and success of technically and skillful correct and conservative batters. The performances of Joe Root, Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Babar Azam, Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib al Hasan, Steve Smith have shown that players do not need to be big hitters to be successful. All of them are good Test match batsmen and for them to become so effective in the shorter format of the game is pleasant and nice to see.
One was getting worried about youngsters imbibing the art of hard-hitting batsmanship rather than the subtle, wristy and artistry stroke play of a top level batter. Fortunately, the success of these cricketers will bring forth the importance of technique. One, therefore, wonders whether the exclusion of a player like Ajinkya Rahane will be sorely missed in the business end of the tournament for India.
The fielding is one area that one has not seen a great amount of improvement. Maybe the occasion of playing on a world platform is making them more tentative. India is leading as regards the least number of catches being dropped and this is reflecting well in their overall performance.
The umpiring has been another area of concern. Maybe an additional review option could be one way of solving this issue, as just one review does make it a tricky option for both the fielding and batting side.
The coming week should be the most exciting phase of the World Cup 2019 tournament. Qualifying for the last four places has taken an interesting turn because of the unexpected defeats of England and New Zealand. The gates have opened up and the uncertainty of the sides to qualify makes this tournament even more exciting!