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Warning: Turbulence ahead

Hate it or Love It (The Underdog's on Top)

My headline is pulled from the now-classic 'Game' track and you could almost hear it throbbing in the background as first Bangladesh and then Ireland pulled off their now well-storied back-to-back upsets.

As a witness to the Trinidad incident, many thoughts and whispers raced around the ground during the first fifteen overs:  (i) Was this the same Bangla team that visited us two years ago?; (ii) Was this the same Queen's Park track?; (iii) We smell upset, bring the kids down to see this!
The animated crowd, traditionally in the Indian camp, eventually swayed to the polished performance by the alleged underdogs who seemed far more prepared for the conditions than the favourites.  That, and their increasingly energized supporters gave ya no choice but to join in, this being a country that respects a man's party skills.

This was not a freak performance by the winners - and Dravid will know this - as I observed this team already at the UWI practice grounds on my way to the office today.  Focus applied on all faces (except perhaps Sehwag as usual).

For all the heroics in the Caribbean that day, no one beamed more brightly than beleaguered ICC pres, Malcolm Speed, who could not contain his smiles as he passed through our box on Saturday. 

It was also quite heartening to see so many Trinis approach him and lend their verbal support for the continuation of the minnow policy.  It was certainly his day to crow and almost spilled over to Sunday with a rather fearless batting performance by Canada threatening to send this WC into the books as perhaps the most twisty ever.
That title however may still well have been achieved with the tragic fall-out of the Pakistan/ Ireland match. For those who doubt that the game is no longer played by men of passion, they may now have to adjust their thoughts with the current collective mood swinging wildly between Guinness-drenched euphoria and the sobering effect of an actual death and virtual team collapse. 
Thank you Keith Fletcher for your many contributions and one can only wonder what this week has in store.
 All in day's work?  
It's been a tough weekend. Away from West Indies, back in the South Asian nations have seen a wide gamut of emotions. First and foremost, the death of Bob Woolmer has left many shocked. The magnitude of the event along with the background accompanying it puts it beyond being ‘just another incident’. Sheer drama has now been accompanied by a lot of despair and sadness clouding the festive Caribbean atmosphere. Cricket followers from around the world cannot be blamed for gasping and reaching for the phones on hearing the news. Pakistan is facing a storm, which, by a few yardsticks, is not very different from the Tsunamis. Many cricket careers – and possibly, cricketer's houses and cars - remain at stake.

With Inzamam retiring from ODIs and the place for a coach empty, for agonizing reasons, Pakistani players may well face the toughest times of their career. Young players like Malik and others who had opened up and settled under the leadership of duo,  will suddenly feel the absence of parental guidance. The last thing they will want now but will no doubt get, is a bashing from the home media. However, they have no option but to answer the fans, for they are the ones whose hearts and hopes are in shambles.

At the other end of the spectrum, Bangladesh has just begun partying like a house of newly weds. Their victory over India is different in many ways from their previous triumphant outings. Firstly, unlike others, this victory has come from sheer wonderful cricket. They left Indians shocked, in despair and most importantly, badly wounded. Now, with this newly found enthusiasm and courage, this group of optimists will take on Sri Lanka on 21st March. And with the current sequence of events, there will be few queuing up to predict the result. Personally, I feel this Bangladeshi team has just hit a new high which will boost their performance for a long time to come.
Talking about the current tournament, if they manage to reach the next stage, they may just prove to many that they are no longer minnows. Or perhaps, set a record of largest number of upsets in a tournament. Ahh, did I just say something I might regret?
  Back in India, the stage is set. Posters are being burnt. Roughly 24 hours after meriting India with a semi-final spot, experts from every nook and corner are coming up with more and more reasons to confirm that India has nothing in it to reach the next round. Suddenly, even before the bright feeling of a gigantic sporting event being played in an exotic part of the world could sink in, a feeling of hollow dread has settled in amongst the fans.
However I strongly believe such kind of situations will only strengthen the team and boost them enough to give their opponents some vital knockout punches. What remains to be seen now is whether this team has the character to seize this disguised inspiration and reach beyond what their fans have resigned themselves to now. One thing is crystal clear, in a game like cricket, nothing is impossible.
 Coming to Ireland, here is one bonafide minnow whose Super Eight spot no one grudges. The team will now get exposed to some of the greats in the sport. They will, without a doubt, learn a lot from these matches. Cricket will get a chance to grow. More importantly, we get to see more possible upsets in the coming rounds.
 Already running out of nails to bite, this edition has outdone the excitement everybody expected from it. With results costing people lives and careers, this tournament enters history already for a strange set of reasons. But then that’s Sport. You win some, you loose some.
Jatin Thakkar 


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