The Year of the West Indies

‘6 6 6 6! Carlos Braithwaite! Remember that name’

Just can’t get over the emotion with which Ian Bishop was commentating when in a 4 balls West Indies turned the nail biter final of the World T20 2016 on its head. It was quite literally amazing. The young all rounder in question made the 19 required off the last over seem like a paltry sum. 4 hits and done. It was actually more or less done in the first 2 hits but he chose to hit 2 more of the same for good measure.

As a Pakistani fan and for a majority of the other Pakistani fans our World T20 triumph pretty much came when India were defeated in the semi-finals. That West Indies went on to beat England as well and clinch the title was more of a brotherly (in cricketing terms) happiness for the Caribbean team.

There is always something likeable, at least for me, when it comes to two teams – the West Indies and the Kiwis. So personally I am happy they won. And they deserved every bit of it. Starting from uncertainty and a complete lack of support from their cricket board this team literally scrapped everything together, every member of it to achieve the success they did. They triumphed against unbelievable odds off the field. On the field they banded together and played as a unit. They tried their best to cover whatever they were lacking. And they triumphed. It will make for an unbelievable story for years to come – h–w the West Indies won the 2016 World T20. And it was not just a one man show throughout the tournament. Everyone delivered in different games. There was a different hero in each game. And there were contributions here and there by everyone.

It was Gayle in the group game against England with a hammering century. It was Simmons, Charles and Russel against India in the semi-final. It was mostly Samuels against England in the final and of course the 4 ball demolition from Braithwaite.

Darren Sammy’s men also capped off with their title an overall great year for the West Indies. As it stands they are the Under 19 World ODI champions (January), the Women’s World T20 champions and the Men’s World T20 Champions. The men’s team also became the first country to lift a second World T20 title. England, SL, India and Pakistan have 1 each.

They played like a united team from a situation where the cricket board’s actions and relationship with the players would be deemed anything other than unity. They played with heart. They played with spirit. They played in a way where no one can say they didn’t deserve it. I think every neutral would have been supporting them.

The world as it is in this day and age has moved on from that euphoria on to the more current happenings of the IPL and the post world cup soul searching of certain countries’ performance at the tournament. Pakistan for one has gone into full gear of heads rolling and overhauls and calls for change. Afridi has resigned from captaincy but not opted for retirement just yet. Waqar Younis after much love hate drama with the PCB has resigned as coach. Aaqib Javed has refused to become the coach after what he deemed was the PCB going back on their word and their handling of Waqar Younis and much more. Oh and Inzi is our new head selector.

So yes all this will go on and much more. However we must not easily take away from this being the year of the Caribbean’s cricketers. Youngsters, Women and Men. The Calypso kings have truly marked 2016 as their year and in style. 6,6,6,6.

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ICC World Cup 2015 – Knockout Predictions

As a nation of 180 Million Pakistanis breathed a huge sigh of relief on Sunday, the World Cup 2015 bid farewell to the group stages of the tournament.

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A couple of surprises, some strong performances and late inspirational starters have all been part and parcel so far. Runs have been a plenty, in fact I would say by the end of this tournament it would probably rank as perhaps the highest in terms of total runs scored in the history of the competition. The par scores have been beyond 300 with 3 instances of the 400 mark being reached already. Twice by the Proteas and once by the Aussies although only one of those instances was against a test playing nation (South Africa versus West Indies). It has actually been ridiculous and mundane in some instances the ease with which run  s have been pummeled so far. A little too much of the T20 nature combined with smaller grounds and new age rules to make the ODI format more fast and happening is the main reasoning for this.

However it has not been batting traffic all the way. We have seen some exceptional bowling as well especially from the pace batteries of New Zealand, Australia and Pakistan. While the attacks of the co-hosts have successfully destroyed lineups front up, the late party joiners of Pakistan have shown a separate class altogether when it comes to the batting power play and death overs bowling. Where the likes of Boult, Southee, Starc and Johnson have ripped up the batting the bowlers from Pakistan have induced a slower death – much in line with the resources they have had after losing key bowlers to injuries and suspensions. Where the hosts have been clinical, the mercurial boys in green have been surgical. In short the attacks of these three teams have kept the bowlers in this tournament.

England is not part of the quarter finals and Bangladesh successfully usurped them in Group A. The English will no doubt be gutted, distraught and left reeling from this. Their performance overall had been dismal with the bat and ball and hence this was coming their way. They lacked that edge and didn’t seem at all inspired. Pakistan started in the same fashion but thankfully rallied themselves in time to reach the quarterfinals.

The Quarterfinals:

South Africa vs Sri Lanka – Prediction: Whoever bats first will win

If South Africa Bat first I would pick them to make it to the semis ahead of the Sri Lankans. While Sangakarra has been outstanding (4 consecutive tons) along with the good form of Dilshan and Mathews I feel their bowling lacks the required cutting edge. The Proteas are suspect to a chase but if they bat first they can very well dominate the Sri Lankan attack and post a total maybe just slightly out of the reach of Sanga and company. The toss will be important and may decide the tie.Sanga DE Vil ICC

India vs Bangladesh – Prediction: India to win with perhaps a good fight from Bangladesh

India should by all counts get through this getting the easiest of the quarter final ties. However given that Bangladesh defended against England to qualify instead of them and also almost carved out a win against the Kiwis will give them a lot of confidence coming into this tie. They will play with nothing to lose and then you never know! I would still say the Indians will win thou. But wouldn’t that be something if they went out against Bangladesh. Would love to see the fireworks ads on Star Sports after that!!

Australia vs Pakistan – Prediction: Depends on which Pakistan side shows up

The clinical aggression of a somewhat efficient Australian Unit vs the quintessential art of the mercurial Pakistanis. You will hear a lot of optimism buzzing about amongst Pakistanis these days of how ‘it is quite possible for us to beat Australia’ ‘The game is in Adelaide which will help us more than the Australian bowling attack’ ‘Pakistan has the universe conspiring for it now’. While all that is great the fact of the matter is that it may very well be evenly poised or it may very well be a one sided show. It all depends really on which Pakistani side shows up. The one that choked South Africa to defend a low total or the one that capitulated against the West Indies to be 4 down on 1 run.

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New Zealand vs West Indies – Prediction: New Zealand to win

While New Zealand’s batting is not impenetrable it is at the moment hard for me to see West Indies manage a fight against their lethal attack. The likes of Boult, Southee and Vettori all being in top form should ensure a Kiwi victory and a spot in the semis. The Gayle factor is always there but of late I feel it has been less frequent. And also there is an injury concern which could keep him out of the tie altogether.

The Semis:

New Zealand vs South Africa / Sri Lanka – New Zealand to win if it’s South Africa otherwise Sri Lanka to go through to their 3rd Consecutive final. South Africa have a habit of choking on the big stage and I feel it will be against the Kiwis (has happened before) and since it will be the semis. The Kiwis would show more mental strength then the Proteas during the crunch time. However the same will not be the case if Sri Lanka are their opponents. Sri Lanka’s start was poor against the Kiwis however the same will not be the case if the two sides meet again and I would pick Sri Lanka’s batting to see off the Kiwi attack.

India vs Australia / Pakistan – Just on principle I would say in either case India will lose. My gut says this is not going to be their cup. My brain says it might. But let’s stick to the gut as we have been doing so far. Australia will be efficient and a much more difficult test for India then they have had so far in the tournament. An imploded South African performance in their match granted a somewhat easy life for the Indians during the group stages. Even with Pakistan they will face a more confident side which has gotten into its groove and would be on a high after beating South Africa in the group and then Australia in the quarters should they make it till here. Hard to call but again on principle I would say India to lose.

The final would then be an open book as per the above permutations! My gut says it will be an all Tasman Clash – Australia vs New Zealand. And unfortunately Australia will win the 5th. However that’s just my gut and it could all go quite differently from all that I am saying. It is an open tournament with no clear all out favorite. Fantastic and exciting stuff ahead!

So happy viewing to all cricket fans! Go Team Green! Pakistan all the way! 😀

The Caribbean Kings! WorldT20, 2012 Champs

They had two incomplete games in the group stages. After a 5 run win over the English, a one sided loss to Sri Lanka and a super over victory over the Kiwis their fate was in the result of the Lanka-England match with a poor net run rate. But come the semis the Caribbean kings rose.

A complete annihilation of the Aussies in the semi finals was a treat to watch. 205 runs with the bat and a ‘Gayle’-storm of sixes!

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Of course Gayle wasn’t the only one hitting them, but given his name and his contribution being 75 it seems fitting. And then with the ball, my lord, it seemed like the Australians were out of sorts with that daunting total in sight. Kudos to Bailey for going down like a fighting captain.

Then came the final. The first 10 overs seemed very predictable of a modern and recent West Indies team. 32 in 10 overs. They were after all playing Sri Lanka at their home ground. The pitch was made to favor the Lankan’s strengths. I had literally written off the final by that time saying there was no chance in hell that they will win it. Samuels had other ideas. A splendid match winning knock of 77 meant that he gave his side a slightly decent total, if not the best. It was impressive but I still wasn’t convinced. It was only when Dilshan went on the first ball, an absolute beauty from Ravi Rampaul that I started thinking there could be the other possibility. That was an unplayable delivery especially if it is the first ball of the innings. The best batsmen would find themselves getting bowled or hand a nice edge towards slip on that delivery. From there on the party had already started. The West Indians had sensed victory and it spurred them on. They threw themselves in the field. They bowled tight. They had energy. They had the vibe with them. And as Bravo took Malinga’s catch the Caribbean King’s had returned to be crowned World Champions after 33 years.

Prior to the 1999 world cup I had always enjoyed watching the Windies because of three players: Lara, Ambrose and Walsh. Since then, I have always longed for West Indian success because of some unexplainable sympathy for them. They are a fun side to watch especially if they are winning. I think it is because of the genuine happiness that one sees on the field. Or maybe it is because they were the first dominant side of the game. Clive Lloyd’s side that won the inaugural and second world cup. Or maybe this time because of their celebrations! I don’t know. But After Pakistan I have always found myself siding the Windies in world tournaments. And it was truly fun to see them win and then celebrate.

Congratulations West Indies, you are the 2012 World T20 champions. You deserve it!

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