The writer, Avijit Das Patnaik, reflects on the unbelievable set of results which have taken place in the current (2011-2012) cricket season and wonders whether bookies are the only species making hay in the sun.
The ICC world cup was the last tournament, where the pre-tournament favourites, the hosts, India won the event. The final was played between two sub-continental teams and hence, was believable. But what has followed since then, is simply beyond belief. Here’s a list of all key series/tournaments played in the current (2011-2012) season and how they all went against the grain, shockingly.
India in West Indies
The world number one team was expected to steam roll the minnows in all formats, despite carrying a team with few notable absentees. Yet, India struggled in the tests facing huge collapses and finally got a narrow 1-0 win, which included a farcical draw where, India refused to chase 86 runs off 90 balls for a win with seven wickets at hand. It was a series where India managed to cross 300 only once in six innings. UNBELIEVABLE!
In the ODIs, the world champions cruised to a 3-0 lead and later lost the last two games. Since the intensity drops after a series is in the bag, and few new players are tried out, the 3-2 scoreline was BELIEVABLE!
India in England
4-0, 1-0, 3-0: Much has been written about England at home, injuries, rain and DRS horrors. Still, all factors considered, the bottomline was ridiculous. India were in the contest for two tests but you had to go back to Australia 1999 when India had a series as bad as this. And that 1999 series result was expected, as India weren’t a top four side then. This one was simply UNBELIEVABLE!
India in Australia
4-0, 1-1, 4-1-3: Despite the horror English summer, this series was touted as India’s best chance to beat Australia at Australia. Predictions ranged from an India win to a drawn series to a narrow Aussie win. Yet, in the games, India was in the contest for barely 1.5 tests, after that, it was all downhill. The final score line - completely UNBELIEVABLE!
Everyone expected India to find their feet in ODIs, Aus to do well and SL to be out before the final. Still looking at the tight games, while SL beating Aus thrice in qualifying is tough to digest, the overall tournament is still BELIEVABLE!
Srilanka in ODIs
The world cup finalists lose to Pakistan 4-1 at UAE earlier this season and then lose all three games, including to Bangladesh, in the Asia cup. Going by that theory, their two losses to India at Australia is BELIEVABLE. But here is the catch, in between all these losses, they beat South Africa in SA twice and Australia in Australia four times. UNBELIEVABLE!
Pakistan in ODIs
The world cup semifinalists beat Sri Lanka 4-1, but lose to England 3-0 at the same venue - UAE. UNBELIEVABLE since at any point in time, in the past 15 years, SL have been a far better ODI outfit than England. The same Pakistan come to Asia cup, and lift the trophy. UNBELIEVABLE.
Their decision to bat first against India in the Asia cup game, was as dicey as it could be. Pakistan have a superior bowling attack, which, you would think, will prefer coming first up and exploit whatever the pitch has to offer. India were in a must win game and had they batted first would have been under solid pressure to score 350 vs a good attack. Besides, all experts agreed, batting second was easier in the tournament. Yet, Pakistan, knowing that India have a strong batting allow them to bat second, in easier conditions. UNBELIEVABLE!
Who would ever think that India will beat Pakistan and Sri Lanka and yet not qualify for the Asia cup Final? UNBELIEVABLE!
That the Asia cup final won’t feature either of world cup finalists India or SriLanka, but will feature the sixth and ninth ranked ICC ODI teams!
England in UAE
They arrive at UAE with the world number one test team tag, and determined to prove they can win in all conditions. Pakistan were in a roll and a tight series was predicted. But it finished 3-0, something which at start of the series was UNBELIEVABLE!
So it was expected that Pakistan will dominate in the following ODI series. Particularly with the background that England had been blanked out 0-5 in India by India, while Pakistan had beaten SL 4-1 at UAE, not so long ago. An easy Pakistan victory was in cards, vs an English team deflated after the test series whitewash. It turned out to be 3-0 in favour of England. UNBELIEVABLE!
My list could go on. On Australia’s batting collapses vs South Africa and New Zealand in tests, only to brownwash the world number two side India. They follow that up with a Tri series win featuring the world cup finalists. On, Sri Lanka and New Zealand unexpectedly winning test matches, at South Africa and Australia, respectively; As a matter of fact, any random match you pick this year, and you will find the results much unexpected.
Who benefits from such uncertain results, where the results turn out against the odds. Surely the punters have lost great money this season, and if anyone has gained its only the bookies.
Anyone giving the lame phrase “game of glorious uncertainties” is just trying to sweep muck, right under the carpet! For the two formats discussed, the game is being played between 100 overs to 450 overs, between seven hours to 30 hours! It’s not a game played over 90 minutes(football), nor in 40 overs (T20s)!
The shorter the time frame, the more chances of an upset result. Blackburn Rovers beating Manchester United at Old Trafford in a football league game has more probability than Bangladesh beating Australia in Melbourne cricket ground over a test match. Yet football has thrown much less shock results this year. The best teams are winning, the not so best teams, aren’t winning.
I just hope, the game’s guardians are doing their job and scrutinizing more than their share of routine investigations. We are already living in an environment, where certain cricketers got jail terms and a World Cup semi final game is under the cloud. No one disbelieves the charge, either. One team, unbelievably, kept dropping chances and dragging themselves down from winning positions. No one disbelieves that with the increasing amount of money involved, anything is possible.
Not too long ago, 2006 to be precise, the “Calciopoli” scandal found all the top teams in the Italian football league involved in fixing and rigging games. But, football survived, due to its magnanimous and unmatchable appeal.
Cricket isn’t a global game by any stretch of imagination. Hell, just seven countries play it with some degree of seriousness. Hence, cricket cannot afford a repeat of the 2000 scandal, cannot afford another captain crying inside the courtroom, cannot afford a few legends of the game, being branded and banned as cheats.