Cricket Champions Trophy – Pakistan the favorites?

ICC Champions TrophyAnother major ICC tournament is up for grabs and yet again, Pakistan is ranked among the favorites to lift it.

Since crashing out of the World Cup 2007 in the first round, Pakistan has shown remarkable consistency by reaching at least the semi-final stages of all the six major ICC tournaments to date. On their way, they were able to make it to the final of two (winning one of them, World T20 2009 in England) and semi-finalist in the other four. This is remarkable, considering they are the only team to have played so many semi-finals or finals so far. The other team that comes close is Sri Lanka with 5 such appearances since 2007 World Cup Final. However, Sri Lanka, on the other hand, has not won anything yet, even though they were in the finals four times.

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Can Australia, England or India lift the Cup?

It is worth a thought. But can Australia, England, India or South Africa succeed in lifting the cup? Based on the cricket played in the past one year it is clear that these teams are well placed above the rest to lift the coveted cup. Australia, having soundly beaten England in a recent one day series, while India and South Africa have triumphed over opponents have made their case for lifting the trophy very strong.

Pakistan has not shined in a worldcup since their final appearance in 1999. In fact, since that time, they have had spectacular exists in 2003 and 2007 worldcups. Making the worldcup campaign moot. This time round, they are without the services of some of their best fast bowlers (Asif and Aamir) who are sadly banned for at least two worldcups (including this one) and therefore, are limping into the tournament with not a strong bowling attack. Their openers are beginning to score runs, which is rare, but can they last the form in the tournament only time will tell. Without the top order firing, Pakistan will have a hard time even winning the quarter final.

New Zealand have had a torrid time in the recent past and therefore their chances of even making to quarterfinals are remote. While Bangladesh cannot get their act together for more than a game to even scare any of their opponents. They might win an odd game here and there but that’s where their World Cup campaign will wither away.

West Indies have not really fired since the 1983 World Cup Tournament in England. Heck, they have not made even the semi finals since that time. And that is almost 30 years. Their chances of winning quarterfinals are very remote considering that they have hardly won any matches in recent past.

Sri Lanka, is probably the only team capable of breaking into the semi final lineup by causing an upset between our favourite four (India, Australia, England and South Africa). However, it is only an outside chance. They are the finalists of the 2007 worldcup so they do have some match winners among them, but time will tell if their campaign will go beyond Quarter finals.

The teams that make it to the semi-final are going to be India, Australia, South Africa and England. All these teams have tasted victory at all levels of the game and know what it takes to win. They will be pushing each opponent to their limit and will make it harder for the rest to win this tournament. If I had a choice of a winner among them, I choose a final between England and South Africa with South Africa finally lifting the Worldcup.

But in cricket, one never knows what is going to happen till it happens. So we shall have to wait, watch and see who finally lifts the coveted trophy.

Ball Tampering – The accusers are the accused!

For decades, British cricketers and their press has been trying to implicate (quite unsuccessfully) Pakistani great fast bowlers like Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis into ball tampering. These and other such great fast bowlers were able to mesmerize their batsmen for decades. Match after match, the English batsmen would fail miserably against their style of attacking fast bowling.

However, a revelation by Marcus Trescothic (a former English batsmen) in his recently published autobiography reveals that he used mint induced sliva to shine the cricket ball so that it would swing ominously. This “tampered” ball was able to let England win back the Ashes after over 21 years from Australia in a tightly fought battle in 2005. Now, however, we know, it was not all fair play.

Angus Fraser reacted this revelation saying,

“To me it is a total hypocrisy on what is deemed to be ball tampering. When Pakistan were accused of ball tampering it was built into something that was abhorrent. Ball tampering is ball tampering whether you scratch the ball or whether you deliberately put in sugary saliva on it to aid its shine so I don’t see any difference between one and the either.

Somehow, it does not feel right. When Pakistan is blamed for ball tampering, a whole match gets awarded to England and players get banned. The press cries foul and blames everyone in Pakistan. And when Englishmen do the same and admit to the guilt, nothing happens.

The Australians were asked of their opinion of Englismen using illegal methods to defeat them during the Ashes battle, they simply brushed it away. Which is quite odd, as they were up in arms against Pakistan when the same thing was accused on them.

If English Cricket Board choses not to take action against its players who were involved in ball tampering then it would be a clear message to the cricketing world.

It is ok for us, the Englishmen to cheat, as long as we can win.