Cricket World Cup update

The T20 World Cup now entering its final stages has seen some major surprises. One of the biggest was the rank outsider US team beating perennial powerhouse Pakistan in its group game. That proved pivotal in taking the US to the second round of just eight teams of the 20 that started out, with Pakistan not making it. Then we saw another powerhouse New Zealand get completely routed by Afghanistan in their group game, enabling the latter to make it into the final eight while eliminating the former.

In the games involving the final eight teams, Afghanistan pulled off another shocker by beating Australia, the team that, along with India, were favored to win the tournament. They then went on to beat Bangladesh, propelling them into the semi-finals where they will play South Africa. The other semi-final will be between India and England.

It is clear that Afghanistan is the Cinderella team of this tournament and one hopes that they can keep pulling off these upsets and beat South Africa and then whoever they meet in the finals.

US beats Pakistan in World Cup cricket shocker

In their Group A game, the US pulled off a sensational win against Pakistan in a thrilling match in which the score was tied at 159 runs each after the regular 20 overs but then won 18-13 in the ‘super over’ tie-breaker. It is hard to think of a good comparison that would give those who do not follow cricket a sense of how big an upset this was. It is like a college football team beating an NFL team, since the US team consists of amateurs who have regular jobs while the Pakistanis are seasoned professionals who do this for a living.

The US is participating in the World Cup for the first time and only because it got an automatic entry because it is a co-host. Pakistan, on the other hand, is a perennial powerhouse that made it to the finals of the last World Cup and its match next week against favorites India is expected to draw a viewership that is five times that of the Super Bowl, while this is the just the second game ever for the US. In their first Group A match the US defeated Canada and they still have to play India and Ireland in their group. For them to defeat India would be for lightning to strike twice but defeating Ireland is not unrealistic and if they do so, they would likely end up second in their group next to India and thus qualify for the next round. Part of the reason that the US was chosen to co-host this World Cup with West Indies was to help popularize the sport in this country and this win will undoubtedly help in that effort. This win has already created considerable media coverage.
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International cricket matches return to the US

The T20 Cricket World Cup is currently taking place at various venues in the US and West Indies, marking a return of the game to the US. On Monday, Sri Lanka played South Africa in New York City, with South Africa winning easily. A temporary stadium was built for the occasion and there were enthusiastic fans who attended. Other US locations are Dallas and Florida.

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Politics, race, and class in West Indies cricket

The game of cricket was invented in England and exported by them to their colonies so that expatriates could continue to play it. But the game fascinated the locals who took to it with such enthusiasm that many of those countries now routinely field stronger teams than England. One of the first colonies where people of color became serious challengers was the West Indies, which is not a single country but a collection of many independent island nations in the Caribbean that banded together to field a single team. For a long time, the administration of the game was in the hands of English expatriates who retained control and appointed the captain of the team and made the selections, even as the dominant players were people of the islands.
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Sri Lanka are surprise winners of Asia Cup cricket

In the final game that just ended, Sri Lanka beat Pakistan to win the Asia Cup trophy. Why was this a surprise? Because Sri Lanka was fielding a relatively young and inexperienced team, especially when it came to bowling, and they got off to a bad start when in the preliminary round they were trounced in the first game by Afghanistan. Afghanistan has come a long away in the short time it has been playing international cricket but it still had to be considered the weaker team. If Sri Lanka lost its second game against Bangladesh, it would have been eliminated from the tournament but they managed to win and then proceeded to win every single subsequent game, beating the more highly favored Indian and Pakistan teams along the way (the latter twice) as well as a repeat match against Afghanistan. This was definitely a team where the whole was more than the sum of its parts, punching above its weight, with different players stepping up at crucial moments.
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Meanwhile, cricket goes on in Sri Lanka

Despite the massive shortages of most essential items and the political unrest that have resulted in the overthrow of the current political leadership and the president and prime minister driven from office and in hiding, Sri Lanka continues to have cricket matches, with the current tour of the country by the visiting Australian team continuing before large and enthusiastic crowds.

After the Australians won the 20-over series 2-1, Sri Lanka won the 50-over series 3-2. They then played two five-day Test matches, the oldest and most prestigious form of the game. In the first one Australia beat Sri Lanka by an innings while in the second that ended yesterday, the tables were turned and Sri Lanka beat the Australians by an innings. So the two teams ended the tour even, which is good for Sri Lanka since Australia is always a tough team to beat.

For those who are unfamiliar with the intricacies of cricket (that I have heard described as ‘like Calvinball but with more rules’), find it unfathomable, and have no desire to learn more, all you have to know is that when a team wins a five-day Test match ‘by an innings’, it means that it well and truly trounced its opponents. For those more curious about the game, I provided a basic tutorial some years ago.

The people in the subcontinent of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are particularly cricket mad and as evidence one needs to look no further than how the current tour by Australia went off smoothly as if nothing was going on in the country.

This is how sports fans should behave

I wrote yesterday about my astonishment at the huge crowds that were attending the cricket matches between Australia and Sri Lanka despite the devastating economic crisis in Sri Lanka that has resulted in a chaotic and tragic situation with massive shortages that has brought the country to a halt.

After the final game of the five one-day matches, the local crowd gave the visiting Australian team rousing expressions of gratitude for coming despite the problems . Many wore yellow shirts, the color of the Australian team, carried banners saying “Thank you Australia”, and chanted “Australia! Australia!” as the visitors took a lap of honor around the stadium.

I have rarely seen such a display of affection for a visiting team by home team fans. One that comes to mind is back in 1961 when half a million people turned out in Melbourne to give Frank Worrell’s visiting West Indian team a ticker tape parade. I hope there is more of this.

Australian player Glenn Maxwell expressed his surprise and appreciation.

Cricket success boosts Sri Lankan morale

The economic crisis in Sri Lanka shows no sigs of ending soon. That is not surprising since the immediate cause of the current crisis is the severe lack of foreign exchange reserves to import even the most basic goods such as fuel, medicines, and food, and only other nations and foreign agencies can ameliorate the situation by giving loans and grants but that takes time to negotiate and then implement.

Meanwhile the government has issued desperate appeals to the population and ordered government employees to work just four days a week and to use the fifth day to grow food in their backyards in order to help with the food crisis. They have asked all workers to work from home as much as possible so as to reduce the need for transportation. But that has not been enough to stop protestors from marching to demand that the president and prime minister resign immediately.
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How no-decisions can be exciting in cricket

As part of my effort to get people who do not know much about cricket and who think that it is boring to better appreciate the subtle features that die-hard fans appreciate, a recent match between Australia and England illustrates one feature that often baffles those new to the game, that a no-decision can be every exciting.

The international Test cricket matches between nations is a time-limited game, though people unfamiliar with the game may marvel about how a contest that is spread over five days for six hours a day could possibly be considered ‘time-limited’ and end in a no-decision. But that can indeed happen because to win a game, one team has to get the opposing team out twice for a total score less than their own within that five-day limit. Otherwise, the game is a no-decision, called a ‘draw’ in cricket. The fourth Test match between Australia and England recently completed gives a good example of how a no-decision can be as exciting as one in which there is a decision.
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Irrational sports fans

In the T20 cricket World Cup currently being played in the United Arab Emirates, India (a dominant force in all forms of the game) has suffered a shock, losing its first two games to Pakistan and New Zealand and in danger of not qualifying for the playoff round. I mentioned in an earlier post that after their loss to Pakistan, some of the Indian team’s supporters, some of whose devotion border on fanaticism, vented their anger at people who had been cheering for the opposing team. While sports fans turning violent against supporters of opposing teams is sadly only too common in many sports, in India things went even further.
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