The long days of predictably over-hyped waiting are nearly done. The opening ceremony and first match are only hours away.
So, Third Man thinks it would be a good idea in advance to put together a list of ten criteria by which the success of the Tournament can be judged.
Looking down from the vantage point of his World Cup Blimp, as it drifts towards the Wankhede Stadium on the night of 2nd April these will be Third Man’s yardsticks by which to gauge the significance and true value of the World Cup in 2011.
- It may be too much to ask for a ‘great’ and closely fought final. Finals are nervous affairs. They sort the greats out from the very goods and often the greats are disproportionately found in one side or another. The greats have enormous will power which comes to the fore on the big day. Let’s say that to be a successful Final at least one of the greats of the game plays a memorable innings or rips out some key batsmen in a match turning spell.
- It is in the semi-finals that we often get the best matches. Players are freer to express themselves. More players play above their potential and fewer circum to ‘Big Day’ nerves. We want two really close semi-final matches. Perhaps we should ask for one to be dominated by the ball and one by the bat.
- In the quarter finals a good Tournament would produce four contests between well matched sides. One might be dominated by the bat and one by the ball, but wouldn’t it be good if two were tussles between great bowling sides against great batting sides.
- In terms of individual performance, cricket lovers revel in both nostalgia and change. We love to see those playing their last big tournament to give us one last sight of their greatness, where the sense of occasion – ‘my last World Cup’ produces a final flowering of their unique talent and unique style. But we also love to see the ‘new boy on the block’ breaking through – our next heroes arriving on the scene – the David slaying a few Goliaths. Something we can tell our grandchildren. “I saw him in his first World Cup; you would not believe the impact he made, like a storm coming out of a blue sky.’
- We will want to see strategic innovation by at least one team. A new approach, probably an extension of what is happening in the 120 ball/T20 game into the 50 over/ 300 ball game. Perhaps the Total Cricket of permanent attack from a batting side. The playing surfaces will obviously dictate the general level of scoring, but let’s hope at least one team takes the ‘par’ 50 over score for a ground and increases it by 25% producing a real step-change, the first glimpse of a new normal.
- We will want to see tactical innovation from captains and managements. We want to say to ourselves, ‘Why did nobody think of doing that before?’
- We will want to see technical innovation. Perhaps a perfection of some of the shots and disguised bowling being developed in the T20 laboratories. The new Dilshan.
- Recoveries and counterattacks bring thrilling cricket. Performance through pain, the shrugging off of injury. The determination that comes from bravery. We must have three or four of these ‘stories’, these new myths. Well, great matches are great stories, aren’t they? And cricket is creation of myth, yes?
- Great rivalries are also the stuff of the best cricket. We need to see the conclusive confrontation of bowlers and batsmen who have gone head to head in all forms of the international game under the lights of this tournament. We want the head to head and toe to toe contests that take place within this marvellous team game to be settled. We want winners and losers
- But we also want these great confrontations to end in good grace with acts of humanity and mutual appreciation. We want magnanimity, generosity, mutual regard and respect.
This is how Third Man will notch the score.
P.S. Can we have some fresh and imaginative commentary too, please – let the cricket do the talking.