Darren Bravo of the West Indies batting during the Group B ICC World Cup match between India and West Indies © Getty Images
Darren Bravo of the West Indies batting during the Group B ICC World Cup match between India and West Indies © Getty Images

 

By Sreelata S. Yellamrazu

 

As the competition meanders into the knock-out stage, more than one team knows that unless they cover their tracks, this will be the end of their run.

 

As India and West Indies slugged it out on Sunday in the final league match of the first round of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, both teams were grateful that South Africa performed to expectations on Saturday to ensure that the door was shut tight on Bangladesh. Of course, a little help came from the co-hosts themselves.

 

None had counted on this scenario where the decision in a group would await the outcome of matches at the very end of the round-robin stage. Instead some outstanding performances, offset by some rather bizarre ones from Bangladesh as well as the associate nations, made it a tricky proposition for certain teams in the Group B.

 

The quarter-final line-up is as per expectations, with the teams going into this stage with their problems and chinks intact. None of the teams have been able to resolve the issues that were speculated in great details before the championship.

 

India, for instance, were always going to struggle in the fast bowling department – Zaheer Khan being the one glorious exception. The spin options after Harbhajan Singh were expected to favour Ravichandran Ashwin over Piyush Chawla, and expectedly the latter’s inclusion not only weakened the side, but the sidelining of Ashwin became a subject of much controversy.

 

Leaving Suresh Raina on the bench has become a headache for the Indian team, which has now suffered three embarrassing batting collapses, after one or two of the top batsmen provided the platform. Losing the initiative cost India two wins – settling for a tie against England and losing to South Africa. Against the West Indies, Yuvraj Singh proved enough on the day because West Indies had enough batting collapse concerns of their own to contend with.

 

Australia’s batting line-up can wobble, as was the case against Pakistan. Only Shane Watson and Michael Hussey lend credibility, as has been the case for a while now. The Aussies have virtually no worthy spin option to talk about.

 

South Africa perhaps have the most balanced side. But their loss against England is always going to give the opposition hope that the side’s mental fragility under pressure situations remains.

 

West Indies’s hope depends on which side of the bed they get wake up in the morning, while New Zealand depends on wind direction. That’s basically to say that either team is here by their sheer strength to beat the overwhelming odds against them.

 

Pakistan’s opening as well as wicket keeping issues can alone make or break them at this point.

 

Sri Lanka are quietly confident about their chances, but their mettle will be tested in the final three rounds, depending on how far they make it.

 

England are, by far, the most fortuitous team. But, then, fortune favours the brave.

 

It is India at the moment whose princely riches are being squandered without reason, and that could make the difference between the cup and the slip.

 

The quarter-finals are a new ball game with the same old teams and their plaguing problems. Only this time the difference is that there will be no second chances.

 

(Sreelata S. Yellamrazu is an accomplished cricket writer-columnist by profession, penning about the game in her own distinct style with an analytical mind, touching upon the nuances of the game, the beauty of the interlude while getting to the heart of the matter and capturing the game in all its facets. Some of Sreelata’s writings can be found at www.mindspacecricket.com)