World Cup Semi-Finals: What is truly at stake for Team India

In terms of cricketing history, Team India will be guarding Asia's legacy in the match against Australia on Thursday. Since 1992, there has not been a single World Cup final without an Asian team. And with Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh out of the picture, Team India will representing the whole of Asia. (Image: Getty Images)

In terms of cricketing history, Team India will be guarding Asia’s legacy in the match against Australia on Thursday. Since 1992, there has not been a single World Cup final without an Asian team. And with Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh out of the picture, Team India will representing the whole of Asia. (Image: Getty Images)

The one feeling which dominates India as a nation is cynical pessimism. And why shouldn’t it be so? The country has been repeatedly let down by its political leaders, whether it’s the anti-minority speeches made by members of the BJP, or the infighting in the Aam Aadmi Party.

But there is one thing that defuses the negativity that permeates us most of the time. This colossal force is called cricket. When Team India won the ICC World Cup in 2011, the streets of Mumbai came to a standstill as the world conquerors celebrated from the top of a bus. This time too we are witnessing a similar feeling, even if only in anticipation.

The World Cup semi-final against Australia offers Team India the opportunity to accomplish far more than just another win for the country.

The mood of a nation

Team India’s performance during the last one month has brought a smile on the face of Indians. It has altered the mood of the nation. For a moment we seem to have forgotten the outrageous comments made by two Indian lawyers in a BBC documentary about sexual assault. For a moment we seem to have chosen to ignore everything that is going wrong, and all of this is because we are expecting to see our country emerge victorious at an international sports tournament. If Team India manages to win yet another World Cup, it will certainly create a shift towards optimism and positivity.

Team Asia

In terms of cricketing history, Team India will be guarding Asia’s legacy in the match against Australia on Thursday. Since 1992, there has not been a single World Cup final without an Asian team. And with Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh out of the picture, Team India will representing the whole of Asia.

An old rivalry

Another thing which we cannot overlook is that India and Australia share a nail-biting rivalry on the cricket field. Can any Indian forget the humiliation that India faced at the finals of the 2003 ICC World Cup when Australia posted a mammoth total of 359 in Johannesburg? Can any Indian forget the manner in which India edged past Australia in the quarterfinals of the previous World Cup with five wickets to spare and ended Australia’s 12-year reign at the top of the cricketing world? The cricketing history between these two great sides is too immense and intense to be ignored. Hence, the match at Sydney is bound to be a cracker of a contest.

The overseas factor

However, the principle reason why this match is being projected as the ultimate opportunity for Team India to prove its ability is because of the overseas factor. Remember that Asian teams are known for roaring as lions while playing at home but they fail to make an impact when they travel abroad. India for one has never won a test match series in South Africa.

Besides India, the other three contenders are Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. The Proteas and Kiwis, despite not making it to a single World Cup final, have always been forces to reckon with. This is because these two teams have produced world-class seam bowlers like Shane Bond and Dale Steyn who never failed to make an impact on the fast pitches outside of the Indian subcontinent. Surely these teams do not possess the mental conditioning to break past the semi-final barrier. Lack of mental preparation is the only reason why somebody like Lance Klusener failed to score that winning run against Australia during the semi-final in 1999. But this time around, things have changed. New Zealand topped their group and convincingly marched past West Indies. South Africa also commands one of its strongest sides ever and very soon, one of these teams will be playing in their first World Cup final.

India has an opportunity to prove that they are no minnows or pushovers when it comes to playing overseas. During the last World Cup, India had the home advantage against Australia. This time the Kangaroos have it. Team India is bound to reach the pinnacle of cricketing glory if they are able to best the “baggy green” in their own backyard.

If India wins, it would pave the way for a truly unexpected final, with the reigning world champions pitted against World Cup finals rookies and in a venue neutral to both.

http://www.huffingtonpost.in/saif-ahmad-khan/the-opportunity-that-worl_b_6921962.html

(This article was originally published in The Huffington Post.)

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Bangladesh continue Asian nations’ proud World Cup record

Bangladeshi players celebrate after knocking England out of the 2015 Cricket World Cup. (Image: Getty Images)

Bangladeshi players celebrate after knocking England out of the 2015 Cricket World Cup. (Image: Getty Images)

The 1992 ICC Cricket World Cup is best remembered for two things: the emergence of Imran Khan-led Pakistan as world conquerors and the introduction of coloured clothing on the cricketing world’s biggest stage.

But the ‘Benson and Hedges World Cup’ also started a trend which has so far lasted over two decades and six different editions of the World Cup.

Beginning 1992, every World Cup final has witnessed an Asian team in action.

In 1992 Pakistan took on England at the MCG, in 1996 Sri Lanka’s claimed their first World Cup title by defeating Australia in the final held at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore.

Australia then won three consecutive world titles, starting in 1999, under the leadership of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting. During those days the Aussies were an unstoppable lot comprising an ably balanced squad with Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Michael Bevan, Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee.

As the ICC World Cup travelled across three continents between 1999 and 2007, two things remained constant. The first one was obviously the Aussies’ winning streak, the second was Asian opposition in the final.

At Lord’s in 1999, Australia registered a convincing eight-wicket victory over Pakistan. India were defeated by 125 runs in the final at Wanderers in Johannesburg in 2003, and Sri Lanka lost in 2007 by 35 runs, enabling Australia to grab the first World Cup held in the West Indies.

These victories will forever remind us of the greatness of the Australian players of that era. Their legacy stands as strong as those who brought pride to the Caribbean by bagging the two inaugural World Cup trophies in 1975 and 1979.

What went unnoticed amidst these triumphs was the manner in which the Asians continued to challenge Australian hegemony despite the three continental giants failing to even put forth a fierce contest in the finals.

But when the World Cup came to the Indian sub-continent in 2011, it was truly Asia’s time. The final, held at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, not only led to the fulfilment of the boyhood dream of cricketing great Sachin Tendulkar but for the first time ever, the cricket world saw an All-Asian final – India versus Sri Lanka!

The previous six World Cups are testimony to the fact that cricket has become an Asian sport, so it does not come as a surprise that an Asian team knocked out the very pioneers of the ‘gentleman’s game’.

By defeating England in the crucial World Cup tie at Adelaide, Bangladesh proved that cricket has truly emerged as an egalitarian sport. A game which is viewed by many as a colonial legacy of the imperial times is being dominated not by the colonialists but by the colonies – Australia included.

Three Asian teams have already booked their place in the quarter-finals, but what remains to be seen is whether another Asian team will make the final.

More importantly, will an Asian squad lift the trophy as India did four years? Will Australia register a record-breaking fifth title, or will the Kiwis or Proteas get a shot at their first?

http://www.theroar.com.au/2015/03/10/bangladesh-continue-asian-nations-proud-world-cup-record/

(This article was originally published in The Roar.)