Not merely making up the numbers
World Cup 2011 -
World Cup 2011
Sunday, 06 March 2011 00:54
Contributed by Yogesh Gandhi
It’s no mean feat I say!
I should thank myself for waiting till Kevin O’Brien had a good crack at the English to chase down one of the biggest run chases in the history of World Cups at Bangalore yesterday. On one hand one applauded the audacity with which he launched into the English attack, while on another you wished it wasn’t just one of those flash in the pan moments that we witness every four years.
When I started to follow Cricket back in ‘90s, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe were the whipping boys of World Cricket, an opportunity for mightier opponents to have an easy day on the field. The world of Cricket revolved around a small coterie of Test playing nations, with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe at the mercy of other Test nations, who chose to play or not to play these small teams depending on whether they wanted to rest or not to rest their tired limbs. Even then, it wasn’t surprising to see the team like Zimbabwe surprising England in the ’92 world cup, who ultimately went on to reach the finals. Glorious uncertainties of the game one concluded.
England v Zimbabwe - March 18, 1992 at Albury
Zimbabwe won by 9 runs.
Zimbabwe 134 (46.1 ov); England 125 (49.1 ov).
While Zimbabwe could manage a win or two in the interim, the other minnow of ’92 world cup surprised all and sundry when they unleashed Sanath and Kalu on the opposition, right at the front. So savage was their attack that most teams were beaten well before they could find their bearings. In exactly four years, Sri Lanka emerged the champions, beating India in semis and Australia in finals. Sri Lanka’s progress was a result of their passion, some neat exposure to top quality Cricket (they played a lot against sub-continent teams then) and a lot of faith in their own abilities, irrespective of whether Hair agreed or not. ;)
From minnows to Champions: It’s all in the mind
It was ’96 when the world of Cricket got to experience a moment of magic. Coincidentally that moment also signified the fall of the erstwhile champions- West Indies. A team with the likes of Lara, Richardson, Ambrose, and Walsh went down to a bunch of newbies who played their hearts out in front of a sparring crowd in a tony town of Pune. It is hard to put everything down to the glorious uncertainties, isn’t it?
Kenya v West Indies - February 29, 1996 at Poona
Kenya won by 73 runs.
Kenya 166 (49.3 ov); West Indies 93 (35.2 ov).
By this time, upsets had lost a bit of aura around themselves and the reaction to such results was more of a smirk than the intense scrutiny and debate that followed earlier. But Cup of ’99 was different. Minnows were growing into confidence and were catching more teams than one by surprise. The casualties this time were India, South Africa and Pakistan with Zimbabwe causing the maximum damage to India’s chances of progressing into Super Sixes. Minnows were gaining a reputation. Of giant killers.
India v Zimbabwe - May 19, 1999 at Leicester
Zimbabwe won by 3 runs.
Zimbabwe 252-9 (50 ov); India 249 (45 ov).
South Africa v Zimbabwe - May 29, 1999 at Chelmsford
Zimbabwe won by 48 runs.
Zimbabwe 233-6 (50 ov); South Africa 185 (47.2 ov).
Bangladesh v Pakistan - May 31, 1999 at Northampton
Bangladesh won by 62 runs.
Bangladesh 223-9 (50 ov); Pakistan 161 (44.3 ov).
A bit of luck and a lot of pluck
Sri Lanka’s ascent in ’96, though rapid, was much less surprising than that of Kenya in 2003. Riding on some turmoil, where teams refused to play in Zimbabwe, and inspired coaching by the Sandip Patil, Kenyans created their own luck to march into the semis, not without inflicting damage on the champions of ’96 Sri Lanka at Nairobi. When fortune meets bravery, a fairytale is never too far. Kenyans gave a new hope to the world- that we could finally look beyond the eight test playing nations.
Kenya v Sri Lanka - February 24, 2003 at Nairobi
Kenya won by 53 runs.
Kenya 210-9 (50 ov); Sri Lanka 157 (45 ov)
The giant killing acts
Unfortunately, these teams from smaller Cricket playing nations had to contend with playing against each other to polish their skills. The emergence of T20 Cricket was helping their cause though. Teams like Netherlands and Ireland could look into the eyes of English and Pakistanis and make them blink, in odd ODIs and T20s that they could get to play against them. Most of the players from these teams ply their wares in county and Australian or South African local leagues. The individuals were getting better and we saw the glimpses of the same when John Davison got a whirlwind hundred or when inspired Bangladeshis throttled Indian batting till it choked in ’03.
India v Bangladesh – March 17, 2007 at Trinidad and Tobago
Bangladesh won by 5 wickets
India 191-all out(49.3 ov); Bangladesh 192-5(48.3 ov)
Ireland v Pakistan – March 17, 2007 at Jamaica
Ireland won by 3 wickets.
Pakistan 132-all out (45.4 ov); Ireland 133-7(41.4ov).
So far so good.
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