The group stages of World Cup 2015 have finally drawn to a close. It was a long-winded affair, but we already knew it would be from before. The 8 quarter-finalists have been identified (7 of them being the usual suspects). There were upsets but not as many as we would have liked. There were mismatches, many more than we wanted – with the team batting first generally knocking the stuffing out of the bowling.
India won all their games (a pleasant surprise), as did New Zealand; Pakistan stumbled along as did the West Indies but in the end both made it; England were punched out by Bangladesh; Australia, Sri Lanka and South Africa duly made it into the knock-outs, while the Associates won hearts but not many games – except for the Irish who won a few games.
And now we are at the business end of the tournament. 7 matches, 7 teams knocked out, 1 winner. Here is a look back at the performances of the teams that won't be making any further progress in the tournament.
A team made up of people who hold regular jobs (like you and me) but have the passion to play the game (unlike most of you and me). Their approach to the games was simple – try to bat out as many overs as possible, getting the runs which came along; regardless of how many the other team has got.
Only against fellow associate Ireland did they provide a serious challenge.
May not play at the World Cup ever again and probably will not be missed at all. Which would be quite ironical given that ICC has a global academy in UAE and they also play home country to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
This was Scotland's 3rd appearance in World Cup cricket and it is the third time they are going home winless. Another team which has been regularly found wanting at the top level.
They never challenged the big teams though they did have a very close game with fellow associate Afghanistan. The team ran out of steam by the end of its run. Worse, it ran out of team spirit, with Majid Haq having to be sent home on disciplinary grounds.
They have been the fairytale story of the cricketing world in recent years. Their rise is well documented. The players are icons in their own right. And they can actually play cricket.
They won a game against Scotland and gave Sri Lanka a mighty scare. They might have been well beaten by the others but they provided the heart-warming story well enough. There are not many more impressive sights in cricket than Shapoor Zadran running down to bowl.
This is a team with the potential to be competitive. And ICC better make sure that they stay so and not drift away like Kenya.
Zimbabwe had provided the template for successful growth of a modern cricket nation, by repeatedly qualifying for the World Cup, winning the occasional big game and subsequently getting Test status. The wins then start coming more frequently. They reached the knock-outs of the World Cup.
And then the story changes. However it wasn't cricket itself at fault, it was the country itself imploding. Cricket bore the collateral damage and they have been a mere shadow of their former self ever since. For the last ten years, they have been trying to make the best out of limited resources – resources which keep ever depleting.
Brendan Taylor joins a long list of cricketers who couldn't carry on any further due to the various constraints in Zimbabwe cricket. In the Cup, Zimbabwe weren't outclassed and were far more competitive than expected.
Can we expect better days for them? Perhaps, or perhaps not. They might miss out if ICC does implement its 10-team format in 2019.
On the Irish shoulders fall the responsibility of not just carrying the hopes of their own nation but also those of the entire Associate cricketing world. A responsibility which they have carried gamely but would certainly wish would be shared around a bit more.
They played well, won three games – adding two more full nation scalps to their World Cup collection. They had to lose out to West Indies only on net run rate.
This is a team which deserves more chances to improve. Should they be the 11th Test playing country? Certainly. Should ICC amend laws to prevent England poaching their players? Definitely. Imagine Eoin Morgan and Boyd Rankin in their ranks. Well played Ireland, you deserve better.
The butt of all jokes. In a format designed to ensure that the big boys are through to the quarter-finals, somehow England have contrived to not do so. Last World Cup, they were the entertainers, losing to Ireland & Bangladesh while beating South Africa, West Indies and tying with India.
This time there was no such roller-coaster ride. They beat Scotland and lost to everybody else (heavily). So heavily that Malaysia, Singapore & Japan are trolling them with challenges.
Yet England will be there lining up as hosts in 2019. Important question - Are England still the best limited overs team in Europe? Probably yes, though many would disagree, most certainly Ireland. Or if you were Peter Moores, you would first be looking into the data.
Wins against Test Playing Nations in ODI World Cup
Ireland (since 2007) - 5 wins - 2007 (Pakistan & Bangladesh), 2011 (England), 2015 (West Indies & Zimbabwe)
England (since 2007) - 4 wins - 2007 (Bangladesh & West Indies), 2011 (South Africa & West Indies), 2015 (0)
Head-to-Head - 1-1
The data, clearly says, Ireland are the best cricket team in Europe.
Now awaiting the knock-outs where the real action begins.Published 16 Mar 2015, 01:19 IST