We are about 3/4 of the way through the tournament, with three teams eliminated and one team qualifying for the semi-finals, leaving the remaining six teams vying for the last three semi-final spots, and this is as good a time as any to reflect on the tournament’s progression.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly:
(1) Pakistan’s 1992 meme
One of the most amusing parts of the tournament has been the eerie similarities between this and Pakistan’s championship year in 1992. They lost their first match to West Indies, second match was a washout, third match was a win, fourth and fifth matches were losses, sixth match was a win, seventh match was a win against a then undefeated New Zealand. Wow! And on top of that Aladdin came out in 1992 and has been rebooted for 2019! Whether Pakistan actually win the World Cup, it’s been a lot of fun to follow the dream.
(2) The form of Shakib al Hasan
He has been the standout player not only for Bangladesh but for the entire tournament, with 3 man of the match awards, in all 3 of Bangladesh’s wins, and 2 other matches where he was the best player on the team. He only failed once, and that wasn’t a big failure. It’s fair to say that, had he played at his normal level, Bangladesh wouldn’t have won a single match, and, if Bangladesh are to be any chance of progressing through to the semi-finals, he will need to continue this form, or even go better (especially against India). But even if Bangladesh do miss the semi-finals, and even if some random administrator refuses to give Shakib al Hasan the player of the tournament award he deserves, this has definitely been his tournament.
(3) A return to pace
For a long time now we’ve been seeing spin dominate, but in this World Cup we have seen a big return to pace bowlers, with all of the highest wicket takers being pacemen. We’ve seen West Indies bounce out Pakistan and nearly do it against Australia, we’ve seen a hat-trick by India’s Mohammad Shami, we’ve seen great bowling from Mitchell Starc, Jasprit Bumrah, Jofra Archer and Mohammad Amir, and it has just plain been exciting.
(4) Matches haven’t all been high scoring
While high scoring matches can be fun, and some predicted the first ever 500+ score in this tournament, it has been a pleasant surprise that we have not yet passed 400 even, and, especially in the second half of the tournament, we are returning to low scoring affairs, where 232 is successfully defended, and scores of 250, not 350, are the norm.
(5) We have had a few nail biters
The closest match saw Carlos Braithwaite hit one high into the air and it passed the boundary rope to hit the 6 to win West Indies the match only to be dragged back in by New Zealand’s Trent Boult to win the match. New Zealand’s win over South Africa was pretty close too, and, until India’s Mohammad Shami bowled the hat-trick, Afghanistan looked like beating them too. Perhaps the most exciting match, though, was when England’s Ben Stokes was about to win the game but gave number 11 Mark Wood a solitary ball to defend, it was bowled wide of off stump and he wafted at it to edge it behind, giving Sri Lanka a win and blowing the tournament wide open, in a match that Sri Lanka were always losing until they didn’t.
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(1) India getting to play late while South Africa had to play an extra game
Ugh. Talk about unfair. India should never have been allowed to start late, and South Africa should never have been forced to play the extra game. South Africa’s 3rd game was India’s 1st, and, while India benefited enormously by being a game behind everyone else, South Africa suffered tremendously by being a game ahead. Maybe South Africa would have been eliminated anyway, and maybe India would have qualified anyway, but it doesn’t stop it from being unfair. Please, ICC, don’t do this kind of thing ever again.
(2) The bails refused to dislodge
We had batsmen clean bowled but the bails refused to dislodge, there were run outs where the bails stayed on, and it just became ridiculous. Most of us are used to playing cricket matches in a park or beach where the bails dislodge just by a bit of wind, so having this occur was just plain awful.
(3) The whole “not an upset” nonsense
Pakistan defeating England was an upset, Sri Lanka defeating England was an upset and yet Bangladesh defeating South Africa wasn’t (???) It was one of those crazy stupid political comments made by Ian Bishop that just created controversy for the sake of controversy. There was no reason to claim that it wasn’t an upset. When a team ranked 8th defeats a team ranked 3rd, it is an upset, especially when they score their highest ever ODI score to do it. It was just stupid. The surrounding absurdity about it, with people pretending that they said things that they didn’t and just all of these lies surrounding it has been beyond ridiculous.
(4) The claim that England are eliminated
They are still in the top 4 and just need to win one more match in their last two, yet so many people are irrationally claiming that the world’s number 1 team are already eliminated, just a week after the same people were claiming that England were certain to win the tournament. Facepalm city.
(5) The claim that Sri Lanka are suddenly a good team
Sri Lanka are ranked 9th for a reason, and, while it was great to see their come from behind upset win over England, which theoretically gives them a chance of making the semi-finals, don’t confuse that with them suddenly overcoming years of poor performance, including other performances in this tournament. They are not a good team.
(1) The reaction of many Bangladeshi supporters
It started with their win over South Africa, and just got worse from there. They claimed that they had been “red hot favourites” to beat South Africa, then claimed that they were “guaranteed” to make the semi-finals, and were also “guaranteed” to win the whole tournament. That sounds passionate and fun, but it’s very different to how the Pakistani fans are reacting. This has been hostile beyond hostile. Their behaviour has been ugly and hooligan-like. They have always had an inflated view of their own team, but now they have shown themselves to be sore winners. It has been revolting to witness.
(2) The booing of Steve Smith and David Warner
We knew that the ball tampering scandal would affect how these two players would be viewed, but it has been quite awful, in some matches more than others, as they have been booed as they walked out, booed when they get to 50 or 100 or whatever score. While Warner at least has been close to player of the tournament in spite of it, he has come under unfair criticism for slow batting, with some people going so far as to claim that in the match against India that he deliberately lost the match. It has been absolutely revolting to see.
(3) The rain
They could have scheduled the World Cup in August, when England has hardly any rain, but no, they decided to schedule it in June, when rain is commonplace. How stupid do the organisers need to be to schedule a major tournament in the rainy season? On top of that, they had no covered grounds – in spite of that technology existing right throughout the world, and they didn’t have adequate drainage. They didn’t even bother to have reserve days. We had 4 matches that were washed out, 2 more than the previous record, and we had rain reduced matches on top of that. This could have been so much better.
(4) “Umpire’s call” is still a major problem with DRS
In the Australia vs West Indies match we saw no less than 8 decisions reversed, and, while technically it didn’t cost the match, it sure soured it. The problem with umpire’s call, especially for LBWs, is still a major issue, especially as it flies in the face of the concept of the game, that the benefit of the doubt lies with batsmen, not bowlers, and certainly not umpires. I say make it that if the ball is shown to be touching the wickets that it is out, and if not then it is not out, regardless of what the umpire says. At a bare minimum we need to lower the variance of what umpire’s call is. It is ruining games and just encourages bad umpiring. If an umpire is wrong, they are wrong. There is no need to stoke their egos. If they are umpiring poorly, replace them with someone who can umpire better. All we are doing is encouraging worse umpiring, the very opposite of what DRS is meant to be doing.
(5) There are way too many one-sided matches
Less than half of the matches have been close enough to be watchable. More than half have been decided with more than 10 overs to spare or with more than 50 runs to get. While we had the last ball thriller of West Indies against New Zealand, that was the only one. Most of the matches have been decided well before then. So much for a 10-team competition making for close results, we are having more one-sided matches than ever before. We should have been honest and said that it is a 10-team World Cup because India don’t want to be knocked out by one bad match, like they were in 2007. It’s all to stoke India’s ego, at the expense of everyone else, and cricket as a whole.