Monday, January 31, 2011

World Cup 2011 - The Ignored XI

Squad selection is always one of the most debated points preceding a World Cup, usually boiling down to defending the selection of overrated cricketer X, or wrongfully omitted cricketer Y. The latter is more interesting. Hence here is my ‘Ignored XI’, the selection of players who should consider themselves unlucky not to be taking part.

1. Imran Nazir
Capable of doing freakish things with the bat, it seems like he has been completely ignored for some years. The first of my openers.

2. Fawad Alam
An in-form Pakistani batsman who has been consistent and has good temperament under pressure
Enough said © Associated Press
3. Irfan Pathan
The ‘Genuine Indian Allrounder’ search was thought to have been finally complete somewhere in the early 00’s. Yes, Irfan lost his way with his form, but that was when the management should have taken initiative, given him some time to rediscover himself, and come back stronger (a la Zaheer and Ganguly). Not to be. 

4. Rahul Dravid
Maybe I was the only one who dreamt that Dravid would make a comeback and boost the technique and temperament of the middle order. After being discarded some time ago for utterly ridiculous reasons, they will regret that when it comes down to the crunch, and a cool head needs to get them home.
We'll take pretty 20's over fighting 70's thanks © Getty Images
5. Mohmmad Yousuf
If you forget the politics just for one moment (as hard as that is), he is their most technically correct and experienced batsman. On paper, this was a truly daft decision. Leaving him out is Pakistan’s loss, and the ‘Ignored XI’s’ gain.

6. Grant Elliott
Given New Zealand’s lack of depth, and how many bits-and-pieces cricketers they are taking to India, this is a weird omission. He has an ODI hundred to his name batting in the middle order, and a match winning knock in the 2009 Champions Trophy. Handy with the ball too. “He was poor in Bangladesh” they say, find me a Black Cap who wasn’t.

7. Albie Morkel
Maybe not so useful with the ball lately, but definitely would be picked on his batting ability. Particularly after proving to be a useful performer in the IPL (given that the cup will take place in India, this is a factor, probably the only time it will be).

8. Peter Siddle
After being one of the very few Australians to come out of the Ashes with his reputation intact, this is a strange omission. At the very least he should have made the XV on backbone alone.

9. Nathan Bracken
Not so long ago, he was regarded as the number one ODI bowler in the world. To be constantly overlooked for the test team was baffling, but not unexpected given Australia loves to segregate in this fashion (Langer, Katich, Bevan). But given that their ODI bowling is fairly depleted, surely an experienced and economical bowler is on the top of the wish list?

10. Sreesanth
Granted, he is a show pony and can leak runs like nobody’s business. But when he does get it right (and lately he has been), he is a proven performer who bowls with pace and penetration, something that almost every Indian bowler in the squad lacks. If Munaf Patel is a bigger threat, you must be joking.
A circus with talent © Associated Press
11. Chris Tremlett
 ‘The Terminator’ has become a favourite of mine. Apparently having the Australians hopping about with good pace and bounce is not enough to make the squad. That too the English one of which only Anderson is a given. From stature alone he’d have the opposition quaking in their boots.

Looking at that squad, my wicket keeper would have to be Dravid, not exactly ideal. But that aside, I think that’s a strong line-up that would challenge any of the other participating teams.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

World Cup 2011 Predictions

With great excitement and expectations comes the 2011 Cricket World Cup. We can expect a tournament full of vigour and colour, the hosts have the resources and experience to make this a truly memorable event.

This world cup promises a lot for many reasons, particularly compared to past ones:
  • Australia are fallible.
  • So is everyone else.
  • With T20 cricket barking loudly and uncontrollably, this will to be a good advertisement for the *real* limited overs game.
  • We return to the quarter final format after three editions of the super sixes/eights nonsense.
But ultimately its about the teams and the players to perform. Let’s take a look how they stack up:

Sri Lanka
A strong team with the right balance of experience, class and craziness. Like 2007, should be a finalist, and with better luck with rain and match referees they could take it away.

India Home
The current hot shot line-up of Indian batsmen are bumblers overseas (India Away). However they suddenly transform into gladiators at home. That’s the biggest factor in this world cup. In conditions tailor made for IPL style batting, they will highly fancy themselves. Their biggest weakness is a lack of bowlers, and a lack of ability against real bowlers. Your other finalist, but god save us if they win (a fifty over IPL?).
I must admit he proved me wrong. © AFP 
Australia A
If somebody told me two years ago that Shane Watson is Australia’s best batsman, I would have laughed, into fits. Funny game. This lot pales in comparison to that unapologetically arrogant (but admittedly brilliant) team a few short years ago. Poor Ricky Ponting knows what it must have felt like to be Stephen Fleming, not so easy without infinite resources now is it? That said, their hard nosed mongrel attitude will push them to the semis.
Inheriting the Fleming Frown. © Getty Images
The Semi-Finalists
South Africa as always appear to be fit, nicely balanced and primed to take away the cup. And as always they will inexplicably collapse in a heap come semi-final time. It will be well publicised, it won’t be pretty.
Oh so familiar. © AFP 
The Silent Semi-Finalists
New Zealand are the definition of “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Have the uncanny ability of sneaking into semi-finals unnoticed. And then receive a mauling and depart, equally unnoticed. Won’t get that far this time, but will make more noise than usual. Quarter Finals.

The Pretenders
Thanks to a newly formed backbone courtesy of South Africans and Andrew Flintoff, England have managed to forge together a decent, Ashes winning test team. They also won some hit and giggle tournament in 2010 (I won’t insult us by calling it a World Cup), and so expectations are suddenly very high. Wrongly. What they fail to realise is that they haven’t done squat in the fifty over format. Will exit without a fuss. Quarter finals.

Pakistan (Jekyll)
On paper, and as usual, as strong as any. They are quite capable of cleaning up every team and walking away champions. But if you look back, this applies to every World Cup. Heck it applies to every match they play in. Team Jekyll can make the semi’s.

Pakistan (Hyde)
And then you get the sorry bunch that make Ireland look like Australia, Siddle look like Dravid and Southee look like Steyn. Won’t even make the quarters.
Remember this? © AFP
Chris Gayle
He will rip apart a couple of teams, and push them to the quarters and possibly one beyond. Then the law of averages will kick in, and we’ll again wonder why the other ten even showed up. (Sorry Chanderpaul, make that nine).
Eleven versus one © Getty Images
We all used to laugh at them, ridicule them, and make them the subject of every “even X can beat us” joke. Those days are over, and this tournament will prove it. They’ll beat a good side, seriously scare another, and will fully deserve to be a quarter finalist. Special mention to Tamim Iqbal, raise some hell.

The Rest
Zimbabwe and Ireland both look pretty good and could really annoy one of the good teams. Won’t progress though. Holland have Ryan ten Doeschate and not much else, which is not enough for fifty overs. He’d walk into any major team, and it’s really good to see him representing Holland (Eoin Morgan, I'm looking at you). Canada and Kenya are fodder. 

That leaves us with a top four of India, Sri Lanka, Australia and South Africa. 
Lets hope this time we don't have a dud final three games.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The First Innings

I used to mock the idea of blogs, and now here I am creating one.

Perhaps through needing a space to vent, or needing an audience, or maybe just for kicks, I was compelled to get something out there. It wasn’t all roses mind you, the blog names I wanted were already taken up with dead pages that haven’t been updated since 2004 (I won’t name you, but I don’t like you).  

And so, ‘The Cricket Musings’ is born. I don’t promise you will agree with my opinions, so I am always open for healthy debate. I will strive to keep the content coming, keep it fresh and keep you interested. For now I’m sticking to basics, but in the long run I want to customize this more and maybe even host it myself.

My debut post will be up shortly, do have a look. Blogs are only as good as its publicity, so please do leave comments and watch this space.