Monday, March 21, 2011

The Quarters

It has taken 15 years, or in world cup time units – 4 world cups – to have all the eight major test playing nations finally getting drawn up in quarter final lineups.

The lineup for 2011 ICC WC has India, Australia, Pakistan, West Indies, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, England and South Africa. No minnows in sight – Zimbabwe has never managed to shrug off that tag.

The earlier editions had ‘super six’ or ‘super eight’ stages before the knockout stages begun. One may look at these ‘super’ matches as a round robin quarter final – basically designed to give hope to the best teams if and when they had a bad day.

But if one were to take a look at the past World Cups, especially since the time the top qualifiers of the ICC Trophy were made a part of the World Cup editions, these minnows have managed to spring a surprise every now and then.

In 2007, the format had the top two teams from each group advancing to form the ‘Super Eights’, which was followed by semis. The Super Eight lineup had - Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South Africa, England, West Indies, Bangladesh and Ireland.

Again in 2003, where prior to semis we had ‘Super Sixes’, the lineup was - India, Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

The 1999 edition too saw one bottom ranked team of Zimbabwe making it to the pre-semi stage. Here the lineup was - Pakistan, Australia, India, South Africa, New Zealand and Zimbabwe.

It’s only in the 1996 edition that the lineup for quarter-finals, and this was the last time the World Cup saw a knock-out pre-semis and no ‘super’ matches, had all the top nations drawn up against each other. The lineup looked like this - England, Pakistan, Australia, India, Sri Lanka, West Indies, New Zealand and South Africa.

The 1996 edition was played in the sub-continent with India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka being the hosts, something that was originally planned for 2011 too. One may also find some other similarities. The one which immediately springs to my mind is that Sachin was the top scorer in the 1996 edition and this time too is looking all set to claim that spot.

Let’s hope the similarities end there (India had a tragic loss in their semis against Sri Lanka) and India lifts the cup at Wankhade.