Will all the top eight teams qualify for quarter-finals? Many expect that to happen. But, the stunning victory of ‘minnows’ Ireland over England on Wednesday raises doubts over the possible upsets in Group B. (Kudos to Ireland’s Kevin O’Brien, who scored fastest ton in World Cup (113 in 63 balls with 13 fours and 6 sixes) to surpass England set target of 227)). Though many thought it would be India, South Africa, England and West Indies will automatically reach quarters, now teams like Ireland, Netherlands and Bangladesh coming good to cause any upsets.
First of such a taste being experienced by England and one should not surprise if one of these teams which are considered ‘minnows’ may spring such surprises as tournament progresses. India, which is considered as ‘hot favorite’ looks in bad shape with its poor performance against England. Though the batsmen could perform to their fullest potential, the bowlers failed miserably to defend such defend-able 338 score. As a result, England managed to crawl and level scores and for that their skipper Strauss deserves all praise. Well Strauss might have described the match result as great ‘advertisement’, but it may prove quite expensive for India in their bargain to position themselves well in Group B table. Many cricket buffs in the sub-continent prey India to top the table only to avoid a possible clash with its arch rivals Pakistan in the quarter-finals itself.
As of now, Ireland, which emerged as formidable claimants of quarter-final berth for the first time, have already shocked England with their ‘chasing capabilities’ of their lower order batsmen even after losing half the side. They may prove equally vulnerable to other top teams like India and West Indies, besides South Africa in days ahead. England, on its part, appears learnt no lessons even after another ‘minnow’ Netherlands giving nightmare in their opener and then just managing to level scores for tie with India, in spite of moving so closer to victory. Their complacent approach yet again proved costly with a defeat at the hands of their traditional (not cricket, but otherwise) rivals, Ireland. What will happen, if Bangladesh too may spring a surprise on England?
Though India may boast its batting strength, but its hollowness in bowling got exposed when their bowlers failed to defend such a huge total against England. Even the ground fielding is poor. Ironically, the UDRS (Umpire Decision Review System) too went against it though the TV replays clearly showing the ball uprooting the middle and let stump as the referral umpire using the technology upheld the Umpire in the middle decision. If former Indian skipper Kapil Dev under whose captaincy India could win the Cup in 1983, expressed his concern over poor performance by bowlers, the Board of Control Cricket in India (BCCI) took the ICC to task for finding fault with Dhoni’s view point on UDRS.
To me, even suggestion of top four team’s line-up in Group B becoming extremely difficult as of now. None should surprise, one of the top teams are out of contention even at quarter-final stage and one of the ‘minnows’ like Ireland, Netherlands or Bangladesh, getting in as fourth team with their sheer hard work.
As far as Group A is concerned, qualification of all the four top teams – Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, looks almost certain as none of the ‘minnows’ in their group like Zimbabwe or Canada or Kenya, posing any serious problems.
Hence, the focus is now more on Group B as cricket buffs holding their breath tight to know the shocking news of one of their favorites out of action at quarter-final stage itself. That’s going to become realty for sure!