Thursday, March 22, 2007

The World Cup has become complicated, even without the cricket

I am sure that my readers have noticed that my coverage of matches has dropped over the last few days. I have got home from work, sat down at the computer, and then felt like watching television, or have simply fallen asleep. It is not so much that the cricket has not been interesting - thanks to last Saturday's upsets the first section of the tournament has been rather more interesting that I had expected as the consequences filter through. It is more the Bob Woolmer affair. As a casually watching blogger, there is really nothing I can add in terms of what is happening.

On the actual cricket, well, I can follow what is going on from a desk and a sofa in London, and I can even lend a bit of insight. With respect to the Woolmer thing, I don't know anybody involved, and I have no idea what is being said in hotel breakfast rooms and bars and police stations in the Carribean. I can say that I am sorry to hear of Woolmer's death, but beyond that what is there to say?

Well, actually, I did say something on it in the Samzidata comments yesterday, so I suppose I can cut and paste that here. Pakistan cricket is a horrendous cesspool of corruption, cheating, bribery, and lord knows what else. Still, when I heard that Woolmer had died, I was expecting an announcement a couple of hours later that he had died of a heart attack, and that would be the end of it. It appears now that he was also diabetic, and although one can certainly die fairly suddenly as a consequence of this, when it happens there is again little mysterious and I would have expected a quick annoucement. The fact that nobody is saying anything makes me think the worst at this point. There is clearly a thorough investigation going on that the police are not talking about until they know more. And if the description of the death scene in one of Brian's links is accurate, that does not sound like a heart attack or a diabetic attack. I also find the timing of it - immediately after one of the bigger upsets in recent times - to be most peculiar. We all want to celebrate unexpected upsets, but there have been so many times in which odd tactics and unexpected results have in recent years turned out to have been fixed matches or the result of other intrigues, that one is sceptical. When the coach is possibly murdered a few hours after an upset, one wonders whether the upset and the death are connected. A few years ago I would not have comprehended that cricket would lead to speculation like this, but sadly it has.

I have always been very suspicous about the death of former South African captain Hansie Cronje in a plane crash in 2003. When someone as mixed up with gangsters as Cronje dies mysteriously, one tends to think the worst. I wouldn't have thought that Woolmer was mixed up with gangsters. However, nobody would have believed it of Cronje (who had a reputation for being honest, upstanding, and God-fearing) until he was caught red handed. Secondly, perhaps the situation is that to enter the Pakistan dressing room is to be mixed up with gangsters.

If this turns out to be murder, I think that Pakistan should be thrown out of international cricket. Given the nature of the ICC, I cannot believe it would actually happen, but it would be appropriate. If that is so, I would almost prefer that the World Cup not be proceeded with either. I get a sense that many of the players have rather lost their enthusiam for it, and rather want to go home.

Pakistan are going home, and I think that is fortunate. They apparently did not want to play their last game yesterday, but the organisers insisted that they did. This was good, because the integrity of the competition would have been further damaged by such a happening. The integrity of the last World Cup was badly damaged by defaults against Kenya and Zimbabwe, and we did not want that here. A default yesterday would have possibly sent Zimbabwe through to the Super 8 instead of Ireland, although it would have depended on the net run rate after Ireland had played the West Indies. As it was Ireland who had earned the place by beating Pakistan (regardless of any suspicions of mine), it was and is best that they go through rather than Zimbabwe going through on default. As it happened, once Pakistan were on the field they played better than they had in the earlier games that mattered. Thanks to 160 from Imran Nazir, Pakistan scored 349, being bowled out off the second last scheduled ball of the innings. At one point it looked like Nazir was on target to break the individual scoring record in one day internationals, for fortunately this did not happen. The holy grail of a one day international double century will some day come, and I do not want it to happen in a meaningless match against weak opposition when nobody wanted to be there. (If Adam Gilchrist or Matthew Hayden could do it in the World Cup final, that would be perfect). Zimbabwe were never in it, and were 3/30 off 10.2 overs when there was a rain delay. The target was reduced to 193 from 20 overs on the Duckworth-Lewis rule, but Zimbabwe managed to get bowled out for 99 off 19.1 overs, for an easy Pakistan victory. West Indies and Ireland go through from that group. The winner of the forthcoming West Indies v Ireland match will take two points through to the next round. One has to assume that will be the West indies.

In the other match, Sri Lanka took on Bangladesh, and there was interest in whether Bangladesh could challenge a prepared and wary Sri Lankan team. The answer: no. Sri Lanka got off to a flier, scoring 1/137 off the first 25 overs. Jayasuriya is enjoying his last World Cup, and scored 82 off 77 balls, before having to retire hurt with a leg injury. Although Jayasuriya later came back to complete his century (ending up with 109), he had been on target for something bigger before the injury. Sri Lanka ended up with 4/318, with scores around 50 to Jayawardene, Sangakkara, and Silva. Bangladesh were then not impressive with the bat, being bowled out for 112 after the target was reduced to 311 from 46 overs. Both the Sri Lankan and Indian run rates have now been boosted to such a point that it is not going to matter by how much Bangladesh can beat Bermuda if India beat Sri Lanka. Bangladesh't only hope now is for Sri Lanka to beat India.

Sri Lanka beating India is not a terribly unlikely outcome, but it is a terrible outcome for the organisers and TV networks. The whole tournament is being bankrolled by Indian money. To see this, just look at the ground advertising, which is virtually all for Indian companies. Interestingly enough, one of the biggest advertisers is "Hutch", which is Hutchison Essar, the Indian mobile phone company that has just been sold by Hong Kong comglomerage Hutchison Whampoa to Vodafone, and is about to be rebranded as "Vodafone". If they had already rebranded it, then they might even get something from the advertising after India get knocked out.

No comments:

Blog Archive