It was better than everyone expected We were hardly alone in writing the obituaries for the World Cup, and for 50 over cricket in general. And we were probably wrong. The tournament confounded expectations by proving rather more absorbing than we feared. With no one team dominating, and just enough close matches to satisfy neutrals, there was at least some sense of unpredictability and surprise. This World Cup captured our imagination far more than either its 2003 or 2007 predecessors.
There were still far too many mis-matches Group A – which comprised Kenya, Canada and Zimbabwe – was the main culprit. For the likes of Australia and Pakistan, the tournament didn’t begin in earnest till the quarter-finals. Come 2015, the probable absence of any associate nations (although the ICC are rethinking this) could give the entire event a different feel. Will we miss the minnows more than we expect? And isn’t this a bit harsh on Ireland, who were far more competitive than Zimbabwe.
The atmosphere was superb Or at least it looked that way from our perspective in front of the TV. What a contrast from the disaster of 2007, a competition seemingly staged in a particularly lacklustre morgue. This time around, we had full houses, appreciative crowds, loads of noise, and lashings of colour. Unusually at a World Cup, everyone really enjoyed themselves. It helped that both the main host nations reached the final. Had England and New Zealand faced off in Mumbai on Saturday, the atmosphere may have been a little flatter.
The right team won It’s hard to list India’s lustrous batting line-up without coming over all Ron Manager. Sehwag. Tendulkar. The little master. Isn’t he? Yuvraj. Dhoni? Hmm! Despite repeatedly messing up their Powerplays, India’s batting was simply too strong for them to lose – as proved on Saturday, when they refused to be suffocated, like everyone else had been, by Sri Lanka’s niggardliness. Some of Dhoni’s shots were unbelievable. Why can’t our lot bat with such authority and elan? Their bowling was none too shabby either – Zaheer Khan’s opening spell in the final was a masterpiece.
Is there a downside? India are already the richest and most confident cricketing nation – is this victory wasted on them? Will their ego and hubris now go through the roof? It would have been more value to world cricket if an embattled side – such as Pakistan – had claimed the trophy.
Players of the tournament? In no particular order: Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Shahid Afridi, Tim Southee, Kumar Sangakkara, Umar Gul and Jonathan Trott. And is the brilliant Lasith Malinga still the most under-rated bowler around? He will be quite a handful over here this summer.
Commentator soup The quirkiest joy of any World Cup is the random combinations thrown up by the rotating international pool of commentators. You can’t help wondering what Sanjay Manjrekar does all the rest of the time. Simon Doull was oddly prominent, Australians almost entirely absent, while Paul Allott – mercifully – was nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, it was good to see England represented in the final. David Lloyd and Nasser proudly flew the flag for Sky Sports – although to my ear, the Bumble/Ravi Shastri/Russel “one L” Arnold triple-act may need time to bed in. Despite our entreaty on this blog five weeks ago, we never found out who Alan Wilkins is.
Where do England go from here? If I had a pound for every time that question’s arisen after a world cup, I’d have five pounds. The answer is – god knows. Start again, again. Strauss to move on. Swann or Broad to captain. More specialists. Fewer bits and pieces journeymen. No injuries.