By Madan Mohan
It will be a fornight from now when the last round robin match of World Cup 2011 is played. But, thanks to the bizarre schedule, we are already at the half way mark in terms of duration of the event. So, how has the World Cup been so far? In one word, boring.
Amrit Mathur has written a hard-hitting piece on how India alone is carrying the day in an otherwise unspectacular event, titled “Get real, World Cup is a flop without India”. Do read it, if you haven’t. By India, I don’t refer to their insipid bowling making chases more exciting than they might normally be (though, come to think of it, that could be of help too). It’s the Indian cricket-watching public’s enthusiasm for the game that is holding this tournament together. We must all, therefore, even if we are not Indian, hope and pray that India somehow gets to the semi-finals with the bowling attack at its disposal. It is difficult to feel very optimistic about the World Cup’s commercial prospects if India doesn’t perform at least reasonably well. But how did this come to pass?
For that, I return to the schedule. A round robin stage lasting about 30 days simply doesn’t cut it, sorry. That is too much time over which to stretch spectator interest. By then, the pre-tournament buzz would have faded and people would greet the quarter-finals with more relief than excitement. We can already feel interest in the tournament sagging and now, ideally, would be a great time for the round robin to wrap up and the business end of the tournament commence, raising levels of enthusiasm afresh. As it is, the last week of the round robin will probably only hold the interest of followers of teams not secure of a place in the quarter-finals, but having an outside chance to qualify.
But you know what’s the best part of all this? Nothing I have written here is new or revelatory. All this was foretold and anticipated months before the World Cup by various writers. So this is probably only a confirmation of what was expected.
The only thing that could have lifted such an over-bloated tournament was the performances. There, too, the schedule has been the enemy with clashes between more evenly-matched teams too far apart and a curious frontloading of matches involving minnows. Saturday’s tie featuring Sri Lanka and Australia is only the fifth tie featuring major teams on both sides so far.
What has been stranger still to observe is the lack of intensity, pressure and tension I have come to associate with World Cups. Maybe it’s partly me that I am too indifferent to hype now to feel excited about lame matches, but there used to be a raising of the bar in World Cups that’s been curiously missing in this one. Earlier, the World Cup was a long-awaited carnival for which teams gave that little bit more than they usually did. In short, they rose to the occasion and made every match count. Now, everybody seems to be in a hurry to get done with it and move on to the REAL big thing – the IPL!
Cricket writers foresaw that the World Cup would only be seen as holding up the Indian Premier League’s fourth edition and players and spectators alike would not be able to summon up the same measure of excitement for both events. That, I am afraid, is how it is panning out and if strategies for IPL4 rather than the World Cup are being chalked out in dressing rooms, that would not come as a huge surprise to me. People can’t wait for the World Cup to get over and for the IPL to get going.
There, nevertheless, has been some good cricket. Shahid Afridi’s effectiveness is turning out to be an important factor, but it is yet to be truly tested. Brett Lee is back in the news for all the right reasons. Kevin O’ Brien, the man of the moment, produced the kind of definitive innings one expects to see more of in a World Cup. Sachin Tendulkar and Andrew Strauss were efficient and effective, but not heroic.
O’Brien brought the word Zulu to the tip of my tongue. In the 1999 World Cup, nobody really had an answer to the Lance Klusener juggernaut, and on Wednesday, England appeared to be, quite literally, clueless in the face of O’Brien’s onslaught. A few more such feats and I would begin to really love this World Cup, but at the moment, Australia and Ireland seem to care more about winning the World Cup than the other majors.
Does the ‘second half’ of the Cup inspire? South Africa versus England could be a tough one, provided the Poms lift themselves and don’t repeat the mistakes they committed on Wednesday. India plays South Africa a whole week from now. England plays West Indies on the 17th and Pakistan plays Australia on the 19th. Yeah, that’s how scattered even match-ups are. It means more advertising revenues spread out over a longer duration. Gate receipts can go to hell, right?
Hmmm, no, I guess I will log in when the quarter-finals get under way!
(Madan Mohan, a 25-year old CA from Mumbai, is passionate about writing, music and cricket. Writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake)