Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 6 Issue 38 | September 28, 2007 |

   Cover Story
   A Roman Column
   View from the    Bottom
   Writing the Wrong
   Photo Feature
   In Retrospect
   Dhaka Diary
   Book Review

   SWM Home


The Fun World Cup

Nader Rahman

Dhoni holds the wining cup.

Up until the World Twenty20, the newest form of the game was still in an embryonic stage, in the two weeks that the event was held the gestation of the game had nearly ended. The other World Cup, that failure in the West Indies seemed to epitomise the sate of world cricket then, in turmoil with only one team standing head and shoulders above the rest. The Twenty20 has shown there is still life in the old dog, the drudgery of matches like India Vs Bermuda and South Africa Vs Holland from the last World Cup was replaced with only the best in the world taking on each other with a minimum number of associate teams. That coupled with a format so short could only mean competitive matches. With the number of overs down to 20 per side everyone was in with a chance. The result was a competitive, action packed, thrill a minute World Cup.

While the long term benefit of the Twenty20 cricket is debatable, nothing can take the gloss of a well organised event with a worthy underdog winning. The games began with a real humdinger as the West Indies failed to defend a mammoth total against the hosts. By winning the first game they put to rest the ghost of the 2003 World Cup opener when they went down to the same opponents. From then on the games came thick and fast and within a few days there were already a few major upsets. From a local point of view Bangladesh beating the West Indies, essentially dumping them out of the tournament was the real upset. An Ashraful-charged Bangladesh chased down a moderate West Indian score with consummate ease, along the way the Bangladeshi captain scored the fastest T20 fifty ever, off a mere 20 balls. That record was to be broken later, and in some real style one must add. From an international point of view Australia's humiliating defeat against the amateurs of Zimbabwe must have been the biggest shock of them all. The reining world champions in all forms of the game had been humbled by the teenagers from Zimbabwe, quite possibly it was the greatest shock in the history of international cricket.

The rush of victory.

There was also a great novelty factor as three complete matches were played on the same day along with a house DJ at all the grounds and skimpily clad dancers who shook everything they had for each boundary and wicket. The atmosphere was almost carnival like with packed stadiums cheering every slog. In terms of the cricket, while the initial excitement wore off fast the arguments for the game go both ways. Firstly the games were interesting, there were high scores (as everyone would have wanted) and sheer number of sixes and fours hit drove the crowds to near delirium. But the purists had a good point when they said it all became a little tame with the number of boundaries being hit. It became very old very fast to some. The exciting part about seeing a boundary hit in a cricket match is that it does not necessarily happen too often. In T20 cricket there is a certain level of expectations, times when one just knows what will happen. That is where the games went dry. In the stands they were selling T20 merchandise and one of items offered was a hard hat because they expected it to be raining sixes. That is exactly what happened, just a little too often.

The games themselves were competitive and it seemed fitting for the final to be an India Vs Pakistan game as they both brought a style of play tailor-made for T20 cricket. As Australia wins a game clinically, the Asian powerhouses India and Pakistan win with flair. And for T20 cricket that really is a recipe for success. But things could have gone horribly wrong right at the start as they were both put in the game group. India went into their group encounter under immense pressure without Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly they took on Pakistan after their game with Scotland has been washed out. It was a sink or swim and in an absorbing game India came out victorious, and the margin was 3-0! After Pakistan tied the match, it essentially went into a penalty shoot out AKA a bowl out. All three Pakistani bowlers failed to hit the stumps as the Indians hit the wood work every time, it was as dramatic as one could get. By winning India put themselves into the second round but only by the skin of their teeth.

Pakistan on the other hand went from strength to strength the reached the second round with real confidence, their middle order was in fine form and their bowlers were probably the best in the tournament with Afridi and Umar Gul in tremendous form. In the second round Pakistan upset world champions Australia, as they proved that they had not mastered the shortest form of the game. The air of Australian invincibility had been dealt a severe blow as Pakistan seemed to be peaking at just the right time. For Pakistan there was a fairly tale to go with their unexpected success. It was the story of Misbah Ul-Haq, he essentially was picked in place of Mohammad Yousuf and his inclusion in the team at the expense of the their best batsmen was decried by all. Pakistani papers were filled with hateful editorials as they questioned why the board had picked a 33-year-old in place of Yousuf, at least they should have gone with a younger player, one for the future, they screamed. But Misbah silenced them all with a string of wonderful performances after the Pakistan top order had consistently flopped. He was innovative and aggressive and taming the ball like a dream, one could say the story of the T20 World Cup was that of Misbah.

A few fantastic knocks by him and the middle order coupled with great bowling specially by Afridi took Pakistan to the final as they steamrolled everyone in their path.

India on the other hand started off again on the back foot as they lost their first second round game to New Zealand and needed to win all their matches merely to qualify for the final. In their next game against England they put on a show that will not be forgotten soon, Yuvraj Singh took centre stage as he clobbered a 12 ball fifty which included six sixes in an over off the unfortunate Stuart Broad. Their final second round match was against the host nation and for the most past it seemed the home advantage along with a vastly more experienced line up, South Africa would walk past India. But the new team imbibed with the spirit of their captain M.S. Dhoni they were unstoppable. The youngster Rohit Sharma hit a fifty under pressure as India put up a score in the low 140's. Then came R.P. Singh who ripped the heart out of the South African line up. South Africa choked again as they not only lost but managed a score low enough for them no to qualify for the semis. India took on the mighty Australians in the semi final and a 30 ball 70 from Yuvraj powered them into the final, toppling the world champions.

It seemed a fitting final as two of the three teams to beat Australia made it to the final, they have set the standards in world cricket for the last decade and only teams that beat them should rightfully look to be world champions. In the final India won the toss and batted first without Sehwag they looked shaky and recovered to score a moderate 157. The danger man Yuvraj was prised out early along with Dhoni or else India might have scored much more. Pakistan set about the chase in flamboyant from but wickets seemed to falling quite regularly. The game was still on 75 for 4 in the 11th over but then disaster struck as two wickets fell in successive balls the captain Makil and the danger man Afridi were back in the hut. The game looked beyond Pakistan's reach and it seemed the inaugural title was destined for India, then came a man called Misbah. Having played in just a handful of international games he assessed the situation and then planned his calculated assault with devastating effect. Having targeted Sreesanth as a weak link he clobbered him for three sixes in a row and with the help of some lusty lower order hitting he took Pakistan into the final over with a 13 to win with only a wicket in hand. Having belted a six from the second ball of the over along with a wide Pakistan needed only 6 runs off four balls, the match should have been theirs. Alas they fell at the final hurdle as Misbah tried a scoop shot over short fine leg only to find the fielder. India had won the inaugural T20 World cup by 5 runs and for a tournament full of fun the party had only just started.


Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2007