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Form favours Australia
March 27, 2007
Let the real battles commence! The main event has now arrived, with most teams who were expected to qualify for the Super 8's stage of the tournament through to the next round.
Australia must be the hot favourites to win their fourth World Cup title (and third in a row) based on their demolition of South Africa, the number one rated team in the world.
Bangladesh and Ireland qualifying for the Super 8's will please not only the players and their fans, but also the ICC as this justifies their decision to include so many minnow teams in the mega-event. That has to be good for the global game.
The absence of Pakistan and India from the tournament is a severe blow to all concerned in the two nations. The aftermath of their shock defeats appears to be severe.
I understand the way it is done in Asian countries but does that make it right? Some players may be forced into retirement. Coach, player, and selector sackings are predicted and comments from administrators indicate drastic changes are imminent.
It is very easy and sometimes convenient to pass blame in a manner that is reactionary so soon after the exit of a favoured team from a tournament. Perhaps decisions need to be made after a time of reflection when there has been time to go through a process and listen to what the team managers, coaches, players and administrators have to say. Only then can the right decisions be made that will benefit the future of their game. In New Zealand, we will not review our World Cup performances until mid-May.
All teams in the competition will have prepared well and had high expectations of success going into the tournament. But the nature of sport can sometimes be cruel -- there are winners and losers and there are times when it has to be acknowledged that the opposition played better and deserved to win. Well-played Ireland and Bangladesh!
At this time there are early indications that the four teams to contest the semi-finals will be Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. This is of course based on many assumptions on my part including current form, team rankings, and doesn't allow for too many upset results or teams being affected by injuries!
Prior to the tournament starting, eight teams had a realistic chance of winning the World Cup but that has now been reduced to six.
The four teams who finished top of their group have an added advantage as they carry two points through to the next round which are crucial. The teams who finished second in their groups start the next round on no points and need to win more games to catch up, which creates added pressure. The winner of each group does not play the runner up in their group again but the other six teams from the other groups. This creates a very fair competition with all teams playing each other at some stage of the tournament. It may sound confusing but the concept has been well thought out.
Bangladesh and Ireland have qualified but they may be seen as easy pickings for the bigger teams that could guarantee those teams valuable points. Had Pakistan and India made the Super 8's it would have been harder for all teams to reach the semis. To qualify for the semi-finals it appears that a minimum of eight and certainly 10 points will be enough to guarantee a place.
Form would suggest that Australia would go through the next six matches undefeated giving them 14 points. South Africa look very competitive and strong enough to win their six matches and collect 12 points. New Zealand should beat Bangladesh and Ireland and need two other wins from four games to give them 10 points. The other teams would be battling for enough points and wins from their six matches to reach the semi-final.
All this means that the next four weeks will surely see some wonderful cricket played. Hopefully the crowds will increase in size especially as the preliminary rounds have seen near-empty stadiums. Players need big crowds at grounds to create atmosphere and help lift their performances.
The pitches have performed better than expected and we should see some large totals posted. Some contests are likely to be close but other games unfortunately will be one- sided. Teams need to be ready to turn up on the day to play well otherwise their dream of being a World Cup champion will drift away very quickly.
The points table to contest the semi-finals could look something like this -- Australia 14; South Africa 12; New Zealand 10; Sri Lanka 8; West Indies 6, England 4; Bangladesh 2; Ireland 0.
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