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Minor teams add spice to the contest

When the World Cup started, there were apprehensions all around that the league phase would witness a surfeit of meaningless contests. That has been true in group A, although the same can't be said about group B.

india Updated: Mar 16, 2011 00:36 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

When the World Cup started, there were apprehensions all around that the league phase would witness a surfeit of meaningless contests. That has been true in group A, although the same can't be said about group B.

With just four matches remaining in this group after Tuesday, South Africa are the only team to have made it to the quarter-finals. Three among India, England, the West Indies and Bangladesh will make the cut; it can't said with certainty who will not.

This starkly contrasts with the previous World Cup, where one lost count of matches which had no bearing on the event. Three of the remaining four group B games are make-or-break affairs. Quite a group of death this is turning out to be.

Exciting England
"It's been a good advertisement for the World Cup," said England batsman Jonathon Trott, whose team have been upset twice. "All matches featuring us have produced exciting cricket. Although it has not been good cricket from our part, from the point of spectators, it has been interesting."

Bangladesh and Ireland deserve credit for not letting things get predictable, both beating England to throw the group wide open. The Netherlands have not won a game but ran England close and also denied India a chance to drastically better their net run rate. England have kept their chances alive by beating South Africa and holding India to a tie.

It's true that the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Andrew Strauss and Dale Steyn have hogged the limelight. However, Ryan ten Doeschate, Kevin O'Brien and Imrul Kayes too have had their share of the spotlight. "Not that we didn't expect the smaller teams to do well, but there have been times when they have exceeded expectations," said an ICC official.

Pollard Positive
With group B games getting over on Sunday, no matches barring the one featuring Ireland and the Netherlands will be of academic interest. West Indies batsman Kieron Pollard was excited about the prospect of playing two big games - against England and India - at this stage of the competition.

“We were written off before the start of the World Cup and used it as motivation. We took the smaller teams very seriously,” said Pollard. Instead of planning for their next round opponents, teams are worrying whether they would be there at all, showing how close the competition has been.