After a slow-moving group stage that began in early October, the ICC Cricket World Cup I’m coming to the end of this week. India’s 160-run win over the Dutch on Sunday sealed the tournament’s group stage, with the unbeatable Men in Blue finishing top of the table with 18 points as South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand joining them in the semi-finals.
The event is being played in the 50-over format, and the games will last almost 8 hours a day. This format has been overshadowed in recent years by the fast-paced and more television-friendly Twenty20 cricket, where matches are decided in almost under three hours. However, the World Cup currently gives the longer game a chance once every four years.
Australia, South Africa and India have been tipped by almost everyone for the pre-tournament semi-finals. New Zealand were the fourth team, beating the weaker teams and losing to the bigger teams in the group. Their early game against India turned into a four-wicket disappointment, so the Wankhede semi-final could provide a solution.
For the unversed, Wednesday’s contest would be a repeat of the 2019 knock-out match when the Kane Williamson-led side registered a narrow 21-run win over India.
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After more than a month of wonder pitches, occasional rain, last-minute net running rate (NRR) calculations and drama, it’s time to reflect on the performance of the four teams at the sport’s marquee event.
However, coming into this tournament, the Yellow Army seemed to be in a state of disarray, and several times during the earlier games, that especially against Afghanistan, they looked like they would lose.
On the batting side, the workhorse is Glenn Maxwell, who produced one of the most impressive World Cup innings in recent times by smashing 201 off 128 balls to lead Australia past Afghanistan.
The Proteas have earned a reputation as a poor performer in the World Cup or more clearly, the tag of ‘chokers’; he has been playing in the event since 1992 but has not made a final. The team was on the wrong side of the biggest upset in this tournament, losing to the Netherlands. However, they came into this World Cup not only as favorites but as a model of how cricket would be played in the future, with a phalanx of power-hitting heroes setting incredible mathematical scores, thanks to their leading batting line-up Quinton de Kock.
Two easy victories in must-win games against India and the Netherlands may have put some emphasis on the quality of the team, but when they face arch-rivals Australia in the semi-finals, they are a team that they seem to have the softest ones.
Hosts India have been the most consistent team in the tournament, coming in with a very strong and balanced squad, and then moving on to display their adaptability time and again.
It also helped that skipper Rohit Sharma had arguably India’s best-ever World Cup bowling attack, and the team’s major weakness was its middle-order, which covered the three generally better ones with success. Injuries to key players could have derailed other sides, but India have so much depth that they could easily replace them.
When one looks at India’s hundreds of millions of loyalists and the successful Premier League (IPL), it is not unfair to expect him to win almost every game he plays. However, the team has only two World Cup titles, and only second place in the 11 events held so far.
While many expect that dismal record to change this year, the ferocious Virat Kohli, who is expected to retire from ODIs this year, could say goodbye.
Making it to the semi-finals is just what the Kiwis do and have always done. They have reached the stage in at least four of the last six competitions, and it is over 30 years since they have consistently failed to get past the league games. But unlike the odd weak and deflated version of other editions that looked shaky for the most part, this team feels like swashbuckling playing an XI that stands resolutely against the opponents. This feeling was made worse because they finished with four losses and bounced back just in time.
The rocklike batting of youngster Rachin Ravindra has been much praised, but the poor form of the others, especially on the bowling side, is dependent on any team as big as the Kiwis. Although they have a decent pace attack, the Black Caps need to run the board to make their presence felt against the Indian side at the batting-friendly Wankhede on Wednesday.
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