Sunday, 1 March 2015

Most Definitely Not Peaking Too Soon

There are world cups and there are world cups. The football version is obviously tops, and should speak for itself, though we are asked these days to call it the FIFA World Cup in case anyone should confuse it with the Subbuteo version.

Rugby union’s seems to be taking off, and I hear there’s another one this year, though this is ‘world’ as in ‘the usual few countries in which rugby is played’ plus a handful of dots in the Pacific Ocean and some far-flung amateurs with thick necks, who will lose 87-0 and earn gushing praise for showing how rugby is spreading across the globe. Ditto rugby league, except this time it’s world as in M62 corridor vs a small bit of Australia. Almost as international an event as the World Series.  
Then there’s the cricket world cup, the one currently unfolding behind the splayed fingers of everyone even casually interested in the England team. And we thought that Brazil 2014 was bad – at least our footballers managed to keep the margins respectable. The cricketers should be grateful that the sport is no longer on terrestrial TV - some of them may be able to slip back into the country unrecognised, when we are finally eliminated after a further mauling or three.  
Who knew we would be this bad? After all, we had only lost the previous 17 ODI series, sacked the one player who would probably get into any other team (until he fell out with them too), dumped the captain because he couldn’t buy a run, and rejected all that modern nonsense about picking one day specialists. Who needs an ironman hulk who can smash 70 in six overs when we’ve got chaps who have shown they’ve got what it takes to see off the new ball and get through safely to lunch.    
The bizarre structure of the tournament means that despite three huge defeats, we’re still in it – thanks to the one win, when England, led by an Irishman with a Welsh sounding name, beat Scotland - though it’s just as well that the Scots got their minority sports confused and sent the curling team instead. Beat Bangladesh and it will all come down to the last group match against Afghanistan.

Because cricket wasn’t that big under the Taliban (lawn tennis was more their thing), the Afghans are very new to the game, and have no players with big match experience. However, some optimists are still predicting England could be competitive against them.     
After all, apart from when it's England against anyone who hasn’t had to get time off work to take part, there are no easy games in international cricket any more.

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