Now that the dust has settled on the Group Stage of the 2019 World Cup, I thought it would be fun to dust off the blog and share some of my thoughts on the tournament from a fans perspective following from overseas. Not stats-related, not a review as such, just a few of my random musings about the six weeks that have passed! Here goes
Format and Schedule – okay but for the wrong reasons!
When the format and schedule was announced I assumed that around three weeks into the mega-group stage, the first signs of boredom would have crept in and I would be losing interest. After four weeks, I suspected I may have all but given up. The group had the potential to be tedious, endless and full of dead rubbers.
However, this never transpired, albeit largely thanks to Sri Lanka’s shock win over England. As evidence for my continued engagement, I live in Bermuda and most of the games started in my time zone at 6.30am. I am absolutely not a morning person but throughout I have been dutifully getting up at that ungodly hour to start watching the day’s game – a very very rare occurrence that I am seen alive before 8am believe me! ! have been thoroughly entertained, and frankly I am as surprised by this as you are.
However, my enjoyment of the tournament has been despite, not because, of the format. Let me be 100% clear, this format sucks. It is exclusionary to the point of Machiavellian and was clearly designed by the ICC to maximise profit and to ensure as best they could (without actually match-fixing!) that the Big 3got through to the semis. We couldn’t have India exposed to the risks of a shock defeat in a small group meaning they didn’t qualify for the semis now could we (ahem, 2007!), and by making all teams play nine times, the risk of this is minimised, in fact all but eliminated.
Not to mention the shutting out of any Associates. This has been decried, discussed and despised by so many people that it is hardly worthwhile me repeating it here, but a World Cup in any sport should be inclusive and seek to grow the popularity of the sport beyond its usual reach. Cricket does itself a huge disservice by being so closed-minded and driven by profit.
Because of this, half of me really wanted this format to fail to deliver an exciting World Cup, as that might…just might…have led the ICC to reconsider for 2023, but sadly I can’t see that happening now.
You hardly needed to be Nostradamus
As if to prove the above point, half the cricketing world correctly predicted the top four six weeks ago. Three of the four were an almost certainty to make the semis, with the fourth being strong favourites to join them. Two or three others were given dark horse status pre-tournament, but no-one really believed that! So, in many ways, the last few weeks have been a massive waste of everyone’s time!
The wonderful Shakib Al Hasan
The rest of the world now knows what many of us having been saying for a long time – that Shakib Al Hasan is a superstar and the best all-rounder in world cricket (save possibly for Ellyse Perry!).
There have been many other stand-out performances in this World Cup – Rohit, Bumrah, Warner, Starc, Archer, Root, Williamson, Ferguson, Shaheen to name a few – but no-one has come close to the all round impact on his team than Bangladesh’s talisman has, and he must be a strong favourite for the Player of the Tournament award despite not making the semis.
Net Run Rate is suddenly bad eh Mickey?
Some of those – I’m looking at you Mickey Arthur – whingeing about the unfairness of Net Run Rate (NRR) as a tie-breaker were strangely quiet on the subject before the tournament began weren’t they? It’s almost as if their criticism is based solely on the effect to specifically had on their team at the end. I don’t know, but maybe one way of ensuring NRR doesn’t come back to bite you is not getting blasted out for 103 in your first game putting you on the back foot from the start?
Better late than never I guess!
For the next World Cup, someone at Cricket South Africa headquarters should set an Outlook alarm or something, so that their team turns up on time, not five weeks late. Had they started the tournament as they finished it, who knows what might have happened?
World cricket will greatly miss a few players for which this tournament is their swansong, in ODIs at least. Despite everything that comes with his talent, I will miss Universe Boss Chris Gayle and seeing him bowling with sunglasses and cap on was an absolute highlight. Imran Tahir’s sheer love of taking wickets and his sprinting ability has been a joy to watch, and Shoaib Malik has been a fine servant to Pakistan for many years. A few more retirements of modern-day legends may well be announced in due course (Amla, Malinga?) and they will equally be missed.
Sheldon Cottrell and his salute have been a breath of fresh air. His engagement with the fans, especially children as evidenced by the videos circulating of him taking the time out to perform his signature celebration with youngsters, have been wonderful to see. This is exactly the kind of thing cricket needs to engage a future audience. We should be the ones saluting you Sheldon!
Cricket bat guitar guy deserves harsh treatment
Whoever came up with the concept of that bloody awful Gray Nicholls cricket-bat guitar screeching at every break deserves to be loaded into a very large cannon and fired directly into the centre of the Sun. This may seem a little harsh, but it isn’t – if anything it is too good for them!
That loveable teddy bear-like Kiwi, Ian Smith, is still comfortably my favourite commentator -I especially enjoyed him giving Michael “Slats” Slater a hard time when they were on together. Although I must be mellowing in my old age, as I have actually warmed to Slats in this tournament. He used to make my ears bleed in his Channel Nine days when I lived in Oz, but maybe all he needed was to be separated from the rest of that nauseating old boys club?
Of the commentators I don’t get to hear very often, I also quite liked Pommie Mbangwe and Shaun Pollock, and Kumar Sangakkarra is as good at commentating as he is at everything else – i.e. very very good.
On the flip side, it would be good if Sourav Ganguly could at least try to pronounce players names correctly, and as for Michael Clarke, whatever he might be saying is lost as my head struggles to cope with him saying “nooooooice” all the time like something out of Kath and Kim! Please, for the love of God, make it stop!
This Could Be The Best Year Of Your Life!
Watching the tournament online through Hotstar, I have gained over the last six weeks an intimate knowledge of at least five methods in which to remit funds to India should I ever need to, although of the five I definitely won’t be choosing that “bad compromise” guy – he makes my skin crawl! Also, Virat Kohli is a much better commercials actor than Joe Root ever will be – wooden is an understatement Joe!
Oh and I did buy the annual pack, so this is indeed going to be the best year of my life!
Onwards to an ideal final?
So onwards to the semi-finals and finals. I don’t have any predictions for you, but being an Englishman married to a Kiwi, I am firmly hoping for an England v New Zealand final. My two favourite teams and will ensure that the World Cup has a new winner. Surely no-one wants to see Australia win for a sixth time – that would just be boring ?
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