Enthralling, Entertaining and Brilliant. Those are three words you can use to describe this years Cricket World Cup.
The six week marathon came to an end on Saturday and if I am brutally honest the 2011 tournament was one of the best World Cups I have seen for some time. This years World Cup has certainly put 50 over cricket back on the map. Who said it was dead?
The pre-tournament favourites India lived up to expectations and won their second World Cup after beating Sri Lanka by six wickets. It was thoroughly deserved and no doubt the Indians will have dedicated their Cup triumph to Sachin Tendulkar.
From Ireland beating England to England being involved in a cracking tie match against India to Pakistan ending Australia’s unbeaten 34 run, it has been a World Cup to remember for all the right reasons.
The final on Saturday did not disappoint and neither were billions of Indian fans. After a controversial toss, Sri Lanka won the toss second time round and decided to bat.
Kumar Sangakkara’s side made a competitive 274-6 from 50 overs with Mahela Jayawardena scoring a brilliant World Cup century. Jayawardena did make a slow start but once he got going, there was no stopping him.
The ex-Sri Lanka skipper made an unbeaten 103 and he is without doubt one of the most elegant batsman in the game. Jayawardena received good support from Sangakkara and Nuwan Kulasekera to post a challenging total for the Indians to chase.
But with the likes of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and co, you know the Indians were in with a chance. However things did not go to plan early in their innings.
Sehwag was out lbw to Lasith Malinga after facing only two balls. Not the way India wanted to start their 50 overs. Things were about to get a whole lot worse.
Home boy Tendulkar was playing well until he was dismissed for 18 and India were 31-2. All the headlines were in the pipeline if the ‘Little Master’ was to have scored his 100th one day century in the Final. But it wasn’t to be.
Step forward Gautam Gambhir and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Gambhir did have one or two lucky escapes but sometimes in life you need luck. Gambhir played brilliantly until he was bowled all ends up. He will have been frustrated not to have made a century but it was a vital innings from the Kolkata Knight Riders batsman.
Virat Kohli also played his part with a useful knock of 35. Nonetheless it was Dhoni along with Gambhir who took the limelight. The Indian skipper made the decision to move up the order and in the end it proved to be the right decision. Dhoni played a captains innings and he guided India to the finish line along with Yuvraj.
India did do it the hard way throughout the World Cup but the Indian fans will not care one bit now their team have triumphed. There were many stand out performances from many of the Indian players but Yuvraj was the one player who stood out and he deserved to be player of the tournament.
He performed well on a consistent basis with both bat and ball. Yuvraj took vital wickets at vital times and he also played crucial innings throughout this years World Cup. There were one or two questions asked about his performances going into the tournament but he certainly answered his critics. Zaheer Khan was also instrumental with the ball and he always delivered when called upon.
It was not the dream end for Muttiah Muralitharan but he has had a long glittering career in the game. Despite the controversy surrounding his action, Murali along with Shane Warne will go down as one of the best spin bowlers in cricketing history.
Sri Lanka lost their second consecutive World Cup final but there are so many positives they can take from the tournament. After having India 31-2, Sri Lanka will have fancied their chances but they were unable to capitalise after getting Sehwag and Tendulkar out.
In Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Mahela Jayawardena, Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka are a force to be reckoned with and I would not be surprised if they do give India a run for their money in the future.
There are two other teams who can hold their heads high after what they achieved in the World Cup. Firstly Pakistan defied the odds and made the Semi-Finals before losing to fierce rivals India.
Shahid Afridi’s side were a breath of fresh air to the World Cup and Pakistan made the headlines for all the right reasons. Despite struggling against India, Umar Gul had a decent tournament and he remains one of the most dangerous bowlers in the world. Umar Akmal is one of Pakistan’s new brightest talents and I’m sure he will go on to bigger and better things.
The off-field turmoil appeared not to have had an affect on the Pakistan players and they certainly delivered on the field. Lets not forget they also ended Australia’s long unbeaten run. Pakistan will take many positives from this years World Cup and like Sri Lanka they could be a team to watch out for in the future.
Another team who had a decent World Cup were New Zealand. Without doubt the Black Caps exceeded expectations and similarly to Pakistan they will take confidence from the way they performed in the World Cup.
New Zealand pulled off a memorable win against South Africa in the Quarter-Finals against all the odds. The likes of Ross Taylor, Tim Southee and Kane Williamson are players for the future so perhaps the future is bright for New Zealand.
Many people will not have expected New Zealand to get to the Semis but the Kiwis certainly surprised one or two people including myself. Even though they lost to Australia and Sri Lanka in the Group stages, New Zealand thrashed Pakistan convincingly and played some great cricket.
Just a word on England. They will have been disappointed not to have gone further in the competition but they were too inconsistent. England produced fantastic performances against India and South Africa.
But they were not at their best against Ireland and Bangladesh. There were mistakes galore and they got hammered in the Quarter-Finals against Sri Lanka. Graeme Swann was probably one of England’s best players along with Jonathan Trott.
Overall it was a fantastic World Cup and this tournament proved that 50 over cricket does have a future. Congratulations to India and well done to Sri Lanka for reaching the Final and giving it a right go.