Week two of the Cricket World Cup is coming to an end, and we have been left breathless by the run scoring that has been on show. We have also been amused by the relentless trolling of the ICC Chief Executive by associate nations, and been bored to tears by one sided contests between the big boys. It has been quite a show.
Runs have been the big feature so far. The average runs scored in the last 10 overs when sides are batting first is over 100, and in some cases that figure has been more than 150. We have seen the fastest ever 150, the fastest ever 200 and the highest innings total ever made in Australia. Chris Gayle flayed Zimbabwe to all corners as he made his way to 215, and in doing so became the first man to score a T20 international hundred, an ODI double hundred and a Test match triple hundred.
Gayle’s double off 147 balls was made to look sedate by Abraham Benjamin De Villiers. The South African captain is as close as cricket has to a true genius right now, and like all miraculously talented people you get the impression that he isn’t really sure what all the fuss is about. After making a 66 ball 162 (more runs than the West Indies managed in a whole innings that lasted three times as long) he just shrugged off the effusive praise. This is just what he does.
There has been some handwringing about all of this. There is talk of bat over taking ball, of cricket no longer being an even contest. The thing is, it never was an even contest, and has been becoming less of a fair fight for the last 30 years. Pitches are covered, boundaries are smaller, batsmen are stronger, no balls are called on the front not the back. Cricket is about entertainment, and runs are entertaining. Bowlers are still in the game, of course they are, but switch hits and ramp shots are here to stay. If you don’t like that then I am sure there are highlights of a Test match where they scored at two runs an over on YouTube that you can watch.
New Zealand continues to bowl teams out for not very much. In their four matches so far they have taken all 10 opposition wickets every time, and the average score made against the Black Caps so far is 163. Perhaps more remarkable than the fact they keep bowling sides out, including tournament favourites Australia, is the way they have gone about chasing. They have got the runs needed in their last three games in fewer than half the available overs. Against England they made 125 runs they needed in 12.1 overs.
This approach has got them in trouble a couple of times: against Scotland they lost seven wickets, against Australia they lost nine. It made the games look a lot closer than they were. McCullum’s relentless aggression is brilliant to watch, but it may well get his side in trouble at the business end of the tournament.
The West Indies remain the enigma of this tournament. They began with a loss to Ireland, followed that up with a win over Pakistan, and absolutely destroyed Zimbabwe, only to be defeated by nearly 300 runs against South Africa. Quite what is going on inside the camp is anyone’s guess, but their next game is against India who are undefeated and in great form. They might win, though they probably won’t. It will be fun to watch.
India really have been great so far. They are now three wins from three and looking very strong. Ahead of this tournament they had put in some really lacklustre performances, but since the World Cup got underway they have been unstoppable. It’s like an ICC event switch gets flicked inside their heads and they start to perform.
Dave Richardson has got a lot of press coverage during this event, and some have expressed some sympathy as his public pronouncements defending the indefensible have left him looking a bit silly. Even as the UAE were destroyed by India, it could be pointed out that England lost to New Zealand with even more balls to spare. Now, this reminded me of a scene in Kevin Smith’s debut film, Clerks. The two main characters, Dante and Randal, discuss the ending of Return of the Jedi where an under construction Death Star is destroyed. Randal points out that government contractors would have died in the attack along with Imperial soldiers. He suggested that the rebels did something wrong in taking out so many civilians.
Their discussion was interrupted by a roofing contractor who relates a story: he was offered a highly paid job working for a local gangster. He turned it down. He later found out that the man who had taken on the job was gunned down in a mob related hit while he worked on the house.
The moral of the story is that you chose who you work for. Richardson made his choice to be the public face of his employers’ decisions.