Will history go against England again?

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If you look closely at England’s performance in Cricket  World Cups (T20s or otherwise) over the last 8-9 years, there is one pattern which is quite peculiar and which Afghanistan would be keen to see repeated. The pattern shows us that England -when they have not self-destructed their campaigns otherwise –  have consistently ensured that they either lost a match against an associate team in each edition of the World Cup or lost so many to associate teams over the last six editions that a team like Afghanistan could not have prayed to face any other full member more than England.

Let’s start in the reverse order, shall we? In the 2015 Cricket World Cup, they lost to Bangladesh. Now, I know you might call Bangladesh a nearly-full-member, but did you really expect England to lose to them? Let’s move on. In the 2014 T20 World cup, they lost a crucial match to Netherlands. In 2012 World T20, though they beat Afghanistan by 116 runs, they did lose to West Indies and Sri Lanka in the same round. England is surely a much better team that this. You Think?

In the 2011 Edition of the World Cup, though they beat teams like South Africa and West Indies and tied a thirller against India, England did go on to lose to both Ireland and Bangladesh before they were finally knocked out by Sri Lanka in the quarter-finals.

The pain hadn’t started there, with England already having lost to West Indies and Netherlands in the 2009 Edition of the T20 World Cup, just two years after they were knocked out of the Super 8s after having lost half their matches in that stage of the 2007 World Cup.

All this happened despite England having won the T20 World Cup in 2010 and, though that year might sound like an aberration, what is interesting is that England did concende one point to Ireland in that tournament as well when their match in the first round itself got washed out due to rain. Until then England had lost the opening match to West Indies.

So, what do we deduce from this data? Though I am no statistician, I can quite comfortably argue that patterns show that England either self-destructs and gets knocked out early or makes sure to hand over some points to the associates almost every World Cup. Hate me and my analysis as much as you like for this conclusion, call it irrational and driven by prejudice, but you cannot deny that England are, historically, the most favourable team – if there is such a team other than them – to lose to an associate nation in World Cups. Given that they have done really well against South Africa and lost to a highly competent West Indies in this year’s WT20 campaign, I would look at today’s match as that moment in this tournament when England continue to hand over another associate team some points.

Will England keep up playing Santa? Or will they show this year to be another aberration? Will they, or won’t they?

Edit: I started Writing this post just Before England was about to start their batting and it took me some time to get my data together and I did not get the opportunity to look at the score card until I published this post. At that time, I had to immediately come back and say that the score right now is England batting at 65/6 between 10-11 overs.

Vote Now: Who will win the Cricket T20 World Cup 2016?

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Let the Games.. Begin!

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So, after 12 matches – almost half of which affected by rain, and almost all of which nobody really cared about unless you were a Bangladesh team supporter – today is when the T20 World Cup finally begins. And the tournament is back in India, truly it’s rightful home.

Yes, it might be the third consecutive year cricket is seeing yet another World Cup – after the T20 World Cup in 2014 and the ‘real’ 50-over World Cup 2015 – and the fifth  in the last six years, but don’t let it fool you into believing it is going to be just-another-world-cup. This year, a lot is at stake and heads are about to roll depending on who wins and who loses.

The stage is already set with Australia and South Africa already having had a ruthless go at each other in their own corner away from the glare while the first stage of this tournament was already in progress. Australia will be looking to assert their domination over South Africa in World Cups once again, whereas South Africa would be aiming for their first win of any ICC World tournament and overcome the “chokers” tag they so despise. Will SA finally realize their dream of a coveted trophy or will Australia add the missing T20 feather to their cap which is already overcrowded with so many other world cup triumphs?

India have just shown their complete T20 dominance over their continent in the Asia Cup, and of Australia in Australia, and feel confident that they have their death-bowling woes finally sorted out. With their Captain Cool recently showing sparks of thunder in his ultra-short-super-fast innings in the Asia Cup, along with the top order batting being in the form of their lives, and Yuvraj Singh finally looking like he is coming back into his flamboyant best, team India are firmly set as favourites to win the high stakes tournament.

With Bangladesh having shown  what a magically improved side they have become since last year’s world cup, having beaten India last year and Sri Lanka and Pakistan this year, no team can afford to take them lightly anymore. But the pressure will still be upon them to perform up to expectations they have managed to create. England are just as dangerous as any other side though, historically, they always managed to create problems for themselves in World Cups. Will England be able to stamp their authority on the game and win the T20 World Cup a second time?

New Zealand have always been a terrific team on paper and proved their mettle by progressing to the final of last year’s World Cup, but to emulate their success in the sub-continent, in the absence of McCullum – arguably their fiercest leader till date – will be a big challenge which NZ might have a hard time overcoming.

Of the dark horses in the tournament, defending champions Sri Lanka are probably the team with the most problems in this tournament – yes, I mean more than even Pakistan. Pakistan have already had their usual share of pre-tournament problems, from the uncertainty over their participation in the tournament until quite recently, to their top players such as Afridi recently coming under fire for saying they felt more loved by the Indian audiences than their own home country – something that might hammer the final nail into the coffin carrying Pakistan’s chances at the World Cup, considering their poor showing at the Asia Cup. It is starting to feel a little bit like how their own media had vilified them at the start of last year’s World Cup after they lost to India, but then they did turn things around and came back with much better performances. So Pakistan have this much to be said about them that they are an unpredictable team which can play the most passionate game or the most lacklusture one; who can beat, and lose to, any team imaginable. It will all depend on whether the Good Pakistan or the Bad Pakistan turns up on match day. On the other hand, Sri Lanka themselves are known to upp their game in such tournaments and might turn up as far more clinical a side than we have seen them to be in recent times. It will be interesting to see if either of these teams beats expectations and manages to even progress to the next round. Will Pakistan continue to be dominated by India in the World Cups or will they be able to break the jinx? Have Sri Lanka finally dipped so low that they will no longer remain the feared opponent in world cricket as they used to be?

West Indies, have continued to have their own share of problems for decades now, but only the shortest format of the game gives them any chance to making a mark. You don’t really need eleven big-match players. A few big hits by their power-hitters and a few good wicket-taking overs – and who knows? After all, it is the only format in nearly four decades which they have managed to win a World Cup.

Afghanistan is the only team one needs to spare the comparisons. They have played well and beaten their opponents in the phase one and even much before that. It was sad they could not qualify for Asia Cup but even though no one really expects them to do very well facing the big teams, one might just want to watch them cause an upset or two by beating a regular team from their group and throwing open the nominations for the next round open to others.

Having said all that I could for the tournament, we know two things for sure. One is that the result of each match would be like flip of a coin – each team equally likely to win – but the one which does only a few things better, and faster, than the other will finally take the match. The most talented team will not necessarily win each time. And second, it is going to be a hard competition. India are definitely the team to beat, but there are hungry vultures circling overhead. Who will draw first blood?

What will happen? We will see!

What Dhoni’s 104m Six probably did to Bangladesh

Despite all the criticism by the Indian media over his form in recent times, MS Dhoni, during the Asia Cup 2016, has shown exactly why he is the world’s most dangerous cricketer, and India’s Captain Cool at the same time.

What stood out the most for me was the first sixer Dhoni hit off the bowling of Al-Amin in the supposedly penultimate (and which invariably become the last) over of India’s chase. Until that ball (ov. 12.1), Bangladesh had sneaked in a tiny toe before the door to the Trophy was about to shut on them, and based on their own recent good form and a deservedly improved level of confidence, they did believe that they could give India a shock. This was a belief that they carried for months after beating India in their previous tour to Bangladesh and it somewhat overshadowed the fact that Bangladesh were never really in control of the match, even after the untimely dismissal of Shikhar Dhawan just a few deliveries ago. Bangladesh, their spectators more than the players, were upbeat and for a moment imagined a future where their bowlers would be able to restrict the battering ram of Indian middle order within 20 runs of the target. And so they brought their best bowler of the day in the 19th over to bowl one good over and choke India.

But they forgot who they were going to bowl against. What followed can only be termed as cruel. Even if Dhoni had hit him for 5 boundaries in a row, Al-Amin and Bangladesh might still have had some fight left in them, but the power of the six showed a cruel and utter disrespect for the confidence of an emerging team and seemed to have opened the eyes of 160 million Bangladeshis to the utter domination this Indian team, and their captain in particular, has enjoyed over them in this tournament. The metaphorical door slammed shut and took the Bangladeshi toe with it. Being such a master of the game, what Dhoni’s super-hit did to Bangladesh and their fans can’t really be explained any more than this. You need to be a Bangladesh fan to be able to feel it’s impact. If I had been a Bangladesh supporter, I would have cried in my sleep. Thankfully, I slept well.

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