Having totally dominated the league stage, India will have to start from scratch in the semi-final against New Zealand in the ODI Cricket World Cup. It has already established itself as the front runner for the trophy but, at this crucial stage, all the skills displayed thus far will have to be put to use with nerves of steel. This will not be the time to falter. It must be recalled that New Zealand has always been a tricky team to beat for India, often pulling off surprises against the trend of play. So, nothing is to be taken for granted and a winning strategy crafted and implemented with the professional excellence witnessed so far.
At the same time, the performances by some of the traditional greats of the game, such as England, Pakistan, etc., have been a severe disappointment. The West Indies could not even qualify for the tournament, a major cause for worry. Till Glen Maxwell’s superb show, even Australia was facing possible defeat against Afghanistan. The outcomes for Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have been close to nothing short of tragic. At the same time, the creditable show by Afghanistan and the Netherlands has received praise from all. It signifies the beginnings of the old order changing, giving way to the new. This has encouraged the cricket pundits to propose further expansion of the game to other parts of the world.
There is also no doubt that holding the tournament in India had a significant role to play in the outcomes. In contests where very little sets teams apart, the general conditions, the weather, the large crowds and vociferous support do play on the player’s mind. Leave alone India, the support for Afghanistan will undoubtedly have played a part in their creditable performance.
At the same time, it must not be forgotten that it is just a game and, despite the results, great performances are to be lauded. The Indian spectators have been more than generous in this regard, appreciating fully the heroic deeds, even those of arch-rivals Pakistan. Is it not better that national acrimony be resolved in the field of play, where each gets the chance to return and try another day, than be involved in the kind of horror that is presently playing out in Gaza? Is it not a wonderful sight to see children happily cheering on their teams, enjoying a day of top class cricket, rather than see them bloodied by the bullets and bombs of war?