More than a fortnight into the World Cup, voices of dissatisfaction are already being heard loud and clear. The prime concern has been with the lack of keen competition between the teams. There have been no nail-biting finishes and just one among the more than 20-odd matches played has gone into the last over, though the batsmen have had a rollicking time. History and statistics have been unleashed on the viewers as always, but the real action minus any past baggage or tradition has created a little thrill.
The whole drama seems repetitive and even boring. Unlike in the past when there was criticism over the format, with the ICC being blamed for letting in associate member teams that diluted the worth of a World Cup, this time around the best ten teams are in the fray. And if the best is not competitive enough among themselves, we would have been better off with a couple of minnows getting exposure at this level. Maybe this criticism is premature and we hopefully will see thrilling duels that are the kernel of any limited overs game.
The one game which ignites the subcontinent like nothing else, the India-Pakistan game, too was a dud. There were more energy, time and even gross imagination spent on the build-up to the game which made you wonder is the world going to come to an end that day! The broadcasters, with their jingoistic, crude and distasteful ads, making the contest sound like a WWE match-up, where Hulk Hogan is in a contest with a Khali, probably need a psychiatric examination for reducing a sporting contest to an obscene comic book narrative.
But in the end, all the flag-waving and the chest-thumping could not rescue the match from the depths of mediocrity because of the shockingly poor cricket played by Pakistan. While India stood tall, Pakistan was anything but competitive, looking more like a collection of ill-trained, unprofessional zombies who had by mistake sauntered into a world with which they had no connection. There was more entertainment created by their despairing fans on the social media with their sarcastic, self-deprecating witty posts than by their bumbling cricketers on the playing field. The Indian fans could learn a lesson or two from them in how one should react in defeat, with humour and not rage.
The Indian team has so far done itself proud, not just by the quality of cricket they are playing but also through their sober conduct. Kohli, one must say, has been a revelation, leading with maturity and dignity that makes one wonder where has all his anger dissipated.
If a prediction has to be made on the basis of the matches played so far, it would be safe to assume that India look the strongest team of them all. Their match with England could well be a dress rehearsal for the final and it would be interesting to see how both teams cope with each other’s bowling.
Injury to Shikhar Dawan is a blow which they can overcome, but one is not sure how dangerous avoid Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s absence may create. Hopefully, his replacement, the wily Mohammed Shami, will endure another month’s cricket well. But India’s trump card as foreseen by most, have been Jasprit Bhumrah and the two wristy craftsmen, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. These two create a web of deception in the middle overs that forces the rival batsmen to think more of survival than be in destructive mode. If any team has to think of beating India, it has to decode the mysterious ways of these two spinners, which may be easier said than done.
So far it has been an upset-free World Cup much to the dismay of cricket lovers, but the Indian team will hope it remains so for them till the end.