The World Cup So Far – Kabhi Khushi but Mostly Only Gham!
There’s been much joy so far in this World Cup but there’s also been a lot of complaints and controversies.
It’s half-time in the World Cup but the magic is missing.
Former Pakistani cricketer Rameez Raja put his experienced finger on the pulse when he announced that the cricket so far has lacked a spark and the tournament is yet to take off. Moments of joy are sporadic and there is much unhappiness all around.
India though is in a good space – sitting pretty, ahead of the competition, very much the team to beat. Kohli’s eleven are ruthlessly dominant but coach Shastri urges caution. “Not good to get ahead too much,” he says. It’s one game at a time.
One reason India is smiling is that Rohit Sharma decided to export his subcontinent mastery overseas. Against South Africa, he was scratchy to start with but constructed an innings of character. Just think: a century in a big game even on an ordinary day in office. Surely, if Kohli is the reigning king, Rohit Sharma is a prominent member of cricket’s royalty.
Against Pakistan, Rohit was a master on stage, scattering the Pakistani attack with strokes that recalled the brilliance of Majid Khan and Mark Waugh. Slashed six clearing point, front foot pull into the stand behind square – it was elegance at its stylish best with balls flying into gaps, everything solidly from the middle of the bat. So effortless it seemed he wasn’t even trying!
India apart, other teams are seriously unhappy this World Cup. Pakistan is in a crises with calls to sack captain Sarfaraz Ahmed after he committed multiple mistakes during the match against India, firstly by ignoring World Cup-winning PM Imran Khan’s advice, then picking the wrong team and making the wrong decision after winning the toss. What’s worse, he was caught yawning on camera during the match!
The PCB is also unhappy with Indian broadcaster Star for airing promos showing Pakistanis in poor light.
The South Africa team is unhappy with itself because of their knack of consistently underperforming in multilateral competitions. That monkey refuses to get off their back but the Proteas, with one win from five games so far in this World Cup, have only themselves to blame.
There are many unhappy with the ICC as well. With rain washing out games, Sourav Ganguly even tweeted questioning why the world body couldn’t get Eden Gardens-quality light-weight covers to protect the outfield so play could resume as soon as rain stops.
Sunil Gavaskar came down even harder – he wanted the ECB fined financially for lack of preparation for a tournament as big as the World Cup. An angry Bangladesh coach Steve Rhodes questioned ICC’s wisdom of scheduling matches where rain is likely to interrupt games. “We put man on the moon, why not have reserve days for rained out games?” he asked.
On the backfoot from this onslaught, the ICC could only blame ‘unseasonable’ weather for the problem.
The Sri Lankan cricket team’s manager, Asanthe de Mel, gave further grief to the ICC over ‘step-motherly’ treatment to his team. His list of complaints alleging second-class treatment was long and exhaustive: from small hotel rooms to a bad bus to poor net bowlers and unfriendly match pitches.
The ICC and its broadcaster partner, already worried about a dull World Cup, must also be unhappy receiving a bouncer from Michael Holding about threats to gag him when commenting on matches.
The debate about how best to present an event like the World Cup is delicate and both Holding and ICC have a point. The ICC naturally dislikes any negativity or controversy or public criticism that impacts the event – least of all from someone their own. But Holding is a respected voice in cricket and his stand, of offering independent expert opinion to viewers, has obvious merit. When told to be careful about airing his views, Holding threatened to pack his bags but the matter was sorted out.
At the start of the World Cup over three weeks back, Indian fans were unhappy – first over the scarcity of tickets and then the high cost for India match tickets. Then, there was an uproar over the ICC’s lack of flexibility on MSD’s keeping gloves. But that storm has blown over and ‘all is well’ on that front.
The second half of the World Cup could come alight with South Africa and West Indies playing to potential. Even if they don’t, India is happy as long as Rohit Sharma and Kohli continue to bat like champions.
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