Friday, March 23, 2007

I love this World Cup

For the first time, we have 16 countries vying for the cricket world cup… or is it just 8? Somebody would have asked till last week. However, the kind of upheavals that we have witnessed over last few days has made even leagues an ‘interesting affair’. Like mentioned in my last post, most of us were made to believe that the real competition starts only once Super 8 begins. But not anymore.

Many of us follow soccer as well. And more often than not, the leagues as keenly contested as knock-outs. You hardly see the score-line of 5-0 in any soccer world cup match. As a matter of fact, we always have some big team losing in the initial rounds. Who had expected Czech Republic losing to Ghana in the leagues? Who had expected Brazil not reaching even the semis? Such stories were unthinkable in cricket for there always was a huge void between top 8 teams and the bottom 8.

However, this world cup has seen some inspired performances – that has already pushed one team out of the tourney and the other is very nervous at the very possibility of it. What it means for the game is certainly good times ahead. More the competition, better it is for the game. I just hope that more such new teams come up the curve.

One more thing that ICC can learn from FIFA is about scheduling of matches. The world has come to such a stage that no sport where the stakes are high is devoid of lobbying, fixing, whatever you wish to call. It especially happens when future of a particular team is heavily hinging upon the outcome of some other match that it is not part of. FIFA, in world cup games, ensures that last game of all the countries in a particular group takes place simultaneously and thereby obviates possibility of any fixing. Something ICC should strongly consider implementing in the times to come.

All said and done, the cricket world cup has come alive sooner than expected. And India being alive in the tournament means a treat for 3/4th of the world’s cricket watching population!


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It's down to NRR

The cricket world cup has truly come alive. And certainly earlier than expected. Hardly anybody had expected the leagues to throw any surprises and we all were conditioned to believe that the ‘real’ world cup starts only on March 27th.

But last week has turned the things on its head. If India losing to Bangladesh was a shock, Pakistan’s loss to Ireland was a disaster.

India now finds itself in a familiar territory. The territory that’s ruled by NRR - Net Run Rate. On so many occasions, especially in triangular formats, has India found itself with its back to the wall and remarkably escaped as well. This is one of those occasions, when Indians are badly praying for a stellar performance to find the team’s way to Super 8.

These are the times when mathematicians in cricketers come alive. The game is now in the realm of permutations & combinations – about margin of victory, about result of matches when India has no active role to play. But one thing’s for sure – that mammoth score of 413 is certainly going to come handy. Why? Read on…

The NRR is calculated based on cumulative of runs scored and runs conceded. Thus larger the absolute margin of victory, it carries more weight when accumulation is done. Hence, assuming the group will not throw any more surprises – read, SL beating BD and BD beating Bermuda – Indian are praying for a repeat of Taunton – a la ’99 – when Dravid & Ganguly went on a rampage. It’s just that with the above results, BD, SL & India would be tied at 4 points and a larger margin for India against SL could actually mean SL being edged out of the t0urnament. And believe me, that’s not a good news for India because entering into Super 8, BD would carry forward 2 points with India carrying forward nil.

Hence, it’s necessary that in today’s match SL scores ~275 runs and beats BD by a good margin, say upwards of 50 runs. India beats SL by ~25 runs or 2 overs. Icing on the cake would be Bermuda batting first in their match against BD and getting some 150 odd runs. That’s all we are expecting for India’s safe passage into the Super 8 with SL being the other team :-)