1. It has been far more exciting than we’d thought: We’ve already had an all-time World Cup classic in the tied game between England and India; the Netherlands ran England close; Bangladesh scored close to 300 against India; and gutsy, low-profile Ireland’s magnificent win against England must be one of the most heartwarming – and least expected – stories in World Cup history. Who would have thought when we started on February 19? Most fans were waiting for the dreariness and unequal contests of the opening round to be out of the way before the excitement of the knockout stages.
2. Call the minnows minnows at your peril: Ireland have beaten Pakistan previously. But Pakistan imploded in 2007, while against England, Ireland put up the hugest run chase in the history of the Cup. This now emphatically makes every game a must-watch, infuses an element of doubt in the mind of fans at the start of each match. I’d planned to barely keep an eye on India v Ireland on Sunday; now, I’ll watch with the attention that I watched India v England. A repeat of Ireland v England seems improbable, but not impossible. And that thrill and excitement can only be good for the tournament in general, and its opening stages in particular.
3. This could be the highest scoring World Cup ever: Owing to a combination of placid pitches, the heightened risk-taking ability of batsmen in the era of Twenty20 and old-fashioned method of keeping wickets in hand and going for broke in the latter part of the innings have made this tournament a feast of runs. Simply tot up the number of 300+ scores we have already had. No total seems safe enough.
4. Which is why, bowling and fielding have become even more important: Having attacking bowlers on song (cf: South Africa, Australia, Muralitharan) will be crucial. As will be being electric and fit and purposeful on the field. In high-scoring tight games, that may be the difference between winning and losing.
5. India need to take particular note of Nos 3 and 4: Harbhajan needs to bowl like a strike bowler rather than one who contains. Having the one strike bowler in Zaheer won’t be enough. We need more aggressive field placements and more commitment and aggression on the field. India are traditionally slow starters in a World Cup. Remember 2003? In our opener, we played against the Netherlands as though they were Australia. In the second game, we played against Australia as though we were Bangladesh. And then came a sequence of stirring consecutive victories right up to the final against Australia. So it’s too early to start saying that India aren’t one of the favourites. But being vigilant will only do us good. India didn’t deserve to win against England on Sunday. From now on (and especially in the knockouts), they must play as though they don’t deserve to lose.
Soumya Bhattacharya is the Editor of Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He is the author of You Must Like Cricket? and All That You Can't Leave Behind --both memoirs on how cricket defines India -- and the novel, If I Could Tell You. His books have been nominated for national and international literary prizes. He can be reached on twitter at @soumya1910