As we approach the business end of the World Cup, the competition moves to a new level, with lesser margin for error.
Everything boils down to playing and sustaining oneself for 21 hours --- seven hours per match, to be precise. Those seven hours are crucial because if an in-form team falters it is suddenly under pressure, possibly facing a dramatic exit. It is one of the cruel aspects of the World Cup and, even at the cost of repeating myself I would like to drive home the point. Those seven hours can ruin your Cup preparation for four years.
As my pick for semifinals. I fancy Australia playing India at Sydney. The other semifinal at Auckland should be between New Zealand and South Africa. Beyond this, I do not want to hazard a guess.
I have been impressed with the batting exploits of Kumar Sangakkara. He is one of the greats of the modern era. I reckon Sangakkara’s brilliance won’t be enough to stop South Africa. In another quarterfinal at Wellington, we play West Indies and it should not be difficult for us to get past them. Bangladesh gave us admirable competition. I thought Bangladesh amply demonstrated that night that they deserved to be in the last eight.
Mahmudullah really impressed me. I liked the poise and the quality of his strokeplay. Despite a crisis and difficult conditions he wonderfully consolidated the innings. For me, it was classical batsmanship. His ton will figure right up there with the best hundreds in this World Cup. The most striking thing was that he looked impressive against an attack that almost easily dominated all other teams.
Still, I can’t see Bangladesh getting past India. Spirit alone can’t win you big matches. You need solid bowling firepower.
To counter India’s top-class batting, the Bangladeshi bowling has to be more menacing. To me, they seem a little fragile when you think of the enormous task that awaits them. I would give India a 70% chance of winning this match.
Cricket has changed so much since the inception of the World Cup in 1975. Batsmen are much more skilful, more innovative.
I hear repeated pleas that the game is getting too one-sided and that the modern-day bats are causing havoc. You can bring in legislation in bat-making. You may extend the boundary ropes further. Or, you may make the seam of the ball more pronounced. I think the two new balls addresses a bit of that. It gives some advantage to the bowler -- at least a bit of balance is restored.
The writer is ex-NZ all-rounder