After 31 days of intense hard-fought cricket 8 teams reached to the Quarter-Finals of the ICC World Cup 2011. Now Quarter-Final scenario is as under:
|23/03/2011||Pakistan v/s West Indies||Mirpur||IST 14.00|
|24/03/2011||India v/s Australia||Ahmedabad||IST 14.30|
|25/03/2011||South Africa v/s New Zealand||Mirpur||IST 14.00|
|26/03/2011||Sri Lanka v/s England||Colombo||IST 14.30|
Now let’s go through the journey of these 8 teams from Group Stage to Quarter Finals and find out what advantages and disadvantages they carry with them from Group Stage to Quarter-Finals.
Pakistan: Team that topped its Group against all expectations. Before the start of tournament Pakistan was written off by many experts and nobody given them chance because of the controversies related with this team, like match-fixing, delay in name of captain, ban on 3 best players,etc. but Pakistan once again proved their unpredictability by topping the group and beating two of the top teams in the World Cricket who are strong contenders of the title as well. They beat Australia, Sri Lanka, Canada, Kenya and Zimbabwe. They lost to New Zealand which was also not expected.
They played as a unit under the captaincy of Shahid Afridi who lead them from the front and emerged as leading wicket-taker from Group Stage with 17 wickets. Lot of eyebrows raised when Afridi was announced captain of the team but this guy proved every cricket pundit wrong. Shahid Afridi was considered weakest link of this team before the start of tournament but at the end of Group Stage he emerged as Pakistan’s major strength. Pakistan’s bowling was always considered their asset and tournament so far has also confirmed that.
Pakistan’s weakest link is their batting and their top order failed miserably in the Group Stage. Their experienced batsmen in Younis Khan and Misbah Ul Haq performed but in patches. So batting is not at all consistent. Umar Akmal showed his talent but he also failed to do full justice to his talent. Pakistan were lucky enough that their bowling came good and saved them but batting is very big concern ahead of the knockout stages I think Afridi and Razzak have to consider themselves all-rounders and shoulder more responsibility with the bat. Wicket–Keeper Kamran Akmal’s performance with bat and gloves was also not good during the group stages as he dropped too many catches and didn’t score runs either. So Pakistan have to rectify these problems because now one mistake will throw them out of the tournament. Its good that they will be playing depleted West Indies side in quarter-finals.
Sri Lanka: Considered strong contenders for the title before the tournament. Advantage of playing in home conditions. But Sri Lanka had tarnished their reputation a bit during the group stage and no longer looks strong favourites especially after their defeat against Pakistan. They were not tested enough during group stage as match against Australia got washed out. But against Pakistan they faltered badly which nobody expected. they are also responsible for giving hopes to Pakistan. They beat, Kenya, Canada, Zimbabwe and New Zealand. They lost to Pakistan and match against Australia got washed out.
They are one of the most balanced side after South Africa. But somehow their batting did not remain consistent during the tournament except captain Sangakkara who is leading run-scorer in the tournament so far. Jayawardene, Dilshan, Tharanga all performed in patches but did not remain consistent enough to give confidence to the team management. So Sri Lanka have to work out their batting problem before their match against England and they have plenty of time to do so. Although they are favourites to win against England but they can’t take that for granted. Lankan fielding was always considered their strong point but somehow they did not live upto the expectations, so they have to improve in that area as well if they want to go far in the tournament.
Australia: 4 time champions and defending champions since 1999. Playing the tournament to defend the title. They were unbeaten for 34 matches in World Cup since 1999 and finally Pakistan broke their winning streak which left them with lot of unanswered questions.Remember this is not the team which possess greats like Hayden, Gilchrist, McGrath, Shane Warne, Damien Martyn, Michael Bevan who were part of their earlier successful World Cup campaigns. But still they are good enough team to beat anybody and they are No.1 ranked team in ICC rankings. Their bowling looked good in patches and with Lee firing from the top they looks to pick up early wickets but they don’t have good spinner in their ranks which is needed badly in the suub-continent conditions. Tait and Johnson also failed to impress. Spinners in Krezja and Smith are also very ordinary. So with one bowler you can’t win tournaments.
During the Group Stage they beat Kenya, Canada, New Zealand and Zimbabwe, lost to Pakistan and match against Lanka was washed out. They would have lost the match against Lanka looking at the conditions in that match but to their good fortunes match washed out. Form of captain Ricky Ponting is also major concern. Ponting’s poor form is continuing since last six months and that is very big concern for Aussies. If captain don’t fire then team looks down and out even before entering the field and that is what happening with the Australia, so Ponting have to hit the form at any cost because his batting form is very important in terms of Australia’s performance in knockout stages. If Ponting forget about strike-rate, quick singles.strokes,etc. and concentrate only on spending time in the middle till the 45th over then he will definitely hit the form. Fielding is their asset.
They ended with 3rd spot in their group which was not expected from them and they must be disappointed over this.
New Zealand: Completely written-off by cricket pundits after their losses against Bangladesh, India and Pakistan prior to the World Cup. They beat Kenya, Canada, Pakistan and Zimbabwe. Lost to Sri Lanka and Australia and made it to the QFs. They have talent but that talent is not turning into the performances but the match against Pakistan showed what Kiwi team is capable of . They completely outplayed Pakistan team in Group Stage. New Zealand is very talented side and have to perform as a unit. Batsmen like Guptill, McCullum, Taylor have to shoulder responsibility of getting team to the good total which their bowlers can defend. They have very good coach in John Wright which is an asset. They performed well in patches but consistency still lacks and have to work hard to achieve that.
New Zealand is always considered as a very good fielding unit. At the moment they are not considered favourites to reach the semis but they are good enough side to reach the semis but remember they have to beat giants like South Africa in order to reach the semis.
South Africa: Played like a champion throughout the group stage. They won against India, Netherlands, Ireland, Bangladesh and West Indies. Lost to England but that was also very close match. Strong contenders of the title simply because of the balance of their side. They have every variation in their bowling and their top-order batting also looks good. However form of captain Greame Smith is a matter of concern for them.They rely heavily on Amla, Kallis and DeViliers to give them good score. They have two lethal bowlers in Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel who can run through any side with their sheer pace and accuracy. Their bench strength is also very good. Imran Tahir, the leg-spinner is the find of tournament and bowled superbly so far.
South Africa don’t have any weakness except their tendency of choking under-pressure but that also has been rectified too an extent during the match against India where they won the game from hopeless position. Fielding is their biggest asset and they bat deep. South Africa is the strong contender of winning the title.
India: Considered as strongest contender of the tournament, failed to live upto the expectations. They failed to play their entire quota of 50 overs in all the matches they played during the group stage. Captain MS Dhoni turned the World Cup in laboratory and experimented with new combination in every match and never allowed the team to settle down. Some of his decision were completely brainless including shuffling of batting-order. India won against Ireland, Bangladesh, Netherlands and West Indies but none of these victories were convincing enough. Team lost to South Africa after getting into strong position and tied the match with England after scoring 338 runs.
India’s batting considered as one of the best in World but they failed to live upto the expectations so far. Yuvraj, Sehwag and Tendulkar were consistent but apart from these three everybody else looked patchy. Virat Kohli looked in good touch with century under his belt in the first game against Bangladesh but constant shuffling in his batting order affected his batting. Yusuf Pathan and MS Dhoni are the big disappointment of the tournament so far.
Bowling is the weak link of India and except Zaheer Khan none of the bowlers looked impressive. Harbhajan Singh emphasised heavily on containing the batsmen so his economy looks good but he failed to pick up wickets according to the expectations. India is no more favourites for the title and their journey will end after the match against Australia. So all the fans who are hoping of India winning the trophy have to erase those hopes from their minds and heart because this team is good for nothing and man who is responsible for this situation is MS Dhoni, The Captain. Team which lose 7 wickets for 33 runs, 9 wickets for 29 runs and 7 wickets for 50 runs are not expected to win the trophy and many cricket pundits has already written off Team India.
England: This team was almost out of the tournament but came back strongly in their last match and saved their place of quarter-finals. They beat, Netherlands, West Indies, South Africa and tied with India. They lost to Ireland and Bangladesh. England is the only team which involved in four unexpected results during the Group Stage. They were expected to lose against India, they tied. There were expected to lose against South Africa they won. The were expected to win against Ireland and Bangladesh they lost. It was up and down tournament for England so far. They also plagued with injuries to their major players which hampered their performance. But somehow they managed to reach the quarter-finals and they are dark horse in the knockout stages.
England had its moments in the tournament. They played like champions in few matches and played like novices in few. They have big problems in every department and they are not clicking as a unit which is biggest problem for them. Sometime their batting comes good, sometimes their bowling but both are not clicking together and thats where England’s problem lies. They have to play Sri Lanka next in QFs and that too in Sri Lanka which is very uphill task but they can take clue from Pakistan’s victory over Sri Lanka. Their biggest asset is their captain Andrew Strauss who is leading from the front.
West Indies: Very vulnerable team. They lost to India, South Africa and England. Reached the quarter-final on the basis of better run-rate as Bangladesh was also having same points. West Indies although can pull out surprise because they will be playing Pakistan which is very mercurial side but I think West Indies don’t have the team which can make much impact. Gayle spent more time in dressing room than ground because of fitness issue. Roach also got injured before the match against India. So West Indies have their issues. Sarwan and Darren Bravo looked completely out of sorts. Form of Sulieman Benn is also big worry as he failed to make any impression in the spin friendly conditions. They also failed to utilse the full batting potential of Keiron Pollard by keeping him in lower-order.
West Indies is in hopeless position but they have few match-winners who can turn things around. Ravi Rampaul’s performance and Bishoo’s form will certainly give them some some confidence going into the next match.
Team which didn't qualify for the quarter-finals are Canada, Kenya and Zimbabwe from Group A and Bangladesh, Ireland and Netherlands from Group B.