Richly Deserved: Cricket World Cup Report, A preview

“You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side thats been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay all out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!”

When I first read this on a decorative plaque at a cricket club while covering a match in 2001, I came really close to laughing up my lunch. It was an Englishman’s creation in the 1970s, a way of explaining the game to an American.

Hopefully most of our audience has a little better understanding of the sport because we are on the eve of the pinnacle of the One Day International game, the ninth Cricket World Cup, being played in the West Indies.

16 nations will take to the field in eight Caribbean nations over the next two months. Of course fans in cricket’s hotbeds will follow the matches closely. Television audiences for some of the matches will be 10 times the viewership that saw Peyton Manning lead the Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl early last month. India, for example, which now has over a billion inhabitants, will come to a standstill when their boys take the pitch.

Most Americans (unless you’re buying a pay-per-view package) probably will see a few seconds of coverage on SportsCenter or read a small Associated Press write-up in the sports flashes. (Canada may get a bit more coverage, since, after all, we’re in the tournament).

What we’d like to do with this tournament that begins on Tuesday, is give the savvy international reader an honest account of each day’s play while helping out the cricket novice with some of the language. Along the way, we’ll focus on the teams in the tournament and the stars of the game.

Just a bit of history, the World Cup began in 1975 in England, not long after the recognition of international limited-overs cricket. Many of you have heard of the Test match. Those are the games between the top countries that take five days to play. The one-day limited-overs game takes roughly eight hours to play if both sides bat the full 50 overs (six balls constitute an over).

The first round of the tournament basically has one purpose, so Canada, Bermuda, Netherlands, Scotland and Ireland can say they played World Cup matches. I’m not including Kenya, Bangladesh, or Zimbabwe because there’s a chance one of them might upset the teams that really matter in this tournament.

The second phase is the “Super Eights”, which in all likelihood will be Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, India, England, New Zealand, Pakistan, and the host West Indies.

The tough part will be predicting who will go to the semi-finals and who will win.

For my money, Australia, the two-time defending champion, should make it to the semi-final along with South Africa. India, which is quite strong coming into the tournament should also make it. I’m also looking for a good tournament from Sri Lanka, a side which features three players from their 1996 World Cup-winning team.

New Zealand might surprise, but normally they end up being a cut below. England has a younger team and the lack of experience might cost them. Pakistan would be my pick to win, hands down if many their or top players weren’t missing the tournament due to injury. And the West Indies do not have enough outside of their captain Brian Lara to be considered serious contenders for the crown.

However it goes, it will be fun. So let’s convene regularly to enjoy the greatest show between the wickets.


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