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Cricket World Cup – Part 5: Tumbling to the bottom

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It has been all downhill for the once-mighty West Indies since the shock defeat in the 1983 Final. Things have become so bad that the Caribbean team enters the 2011 version as the LOWEST-RANKED of all the Test-playing countries, behind even Bangladesh. It is an ignominy that their fans have to bear, hoping that at least, though no one expects them to win, the West Indians will be able to salvage some pride and engender hope for the future.{{more}}

The West Indies’ record since 1992, when, incidentally, cricket officials spurned the offer of Viv Richards to come out of retirement, is a dismal one, judged by its previous standards. Before then, the proud Caribbeans had won 18 and lost only 5 matches, three of them in 1987/88. But from the fifth World Cup onwards, the record is barely even, 17 wins as against 16 losses. Only once(1996), have they reached the semi-final stages, and on two occasions, 1999 and 2003, failed to progress beyond the first round. Even when they hosted the tournament in 2007, the West Indies only got to the Super 8 stage.

Two features have characterised the last five tournaments-Australia’s supremacy (1999-present), and the spectacular victories of Pakistan (1992) and Sri Lanka (1996). Rivalry is very strong in South Asia and, as if motivated by India’s triumph in 1983, both of these teams overcame all odds to emerge victorious. Sri Lanka’s victory, on the back of a superlative all-round effort from Aarvinda da Silva (107 and 3 for 42), remains still the only instance of a host team winning the Cup. Sri Lanka had been joint host with India and Pakistan.

TOP PERFORMERS

There have been many fine performances in the World Cup over the years. India’s Sachin Tendulkar, who enjoys almost God-like status in his homeland, will be expecting to become the first batsman to chalk up more than 2000 World Cup runs in his sixth tournament. He currently heads the list of run-getters, with1796 runs at an average of 57.93. Another veteran, Australian skipper Ricky Ponting, more than 200 runs below Tendulkar, also has an outside chance of reaching the magical 2000. He needs 463 more runs to do so. In all, 12 batsmen, two of them ( Lara and Richards of course) from the Caribbean have passed the 1000-run mark . Richards heads the averages for batsmen who have scored over 1000 runs in total, averaging 63.31, with an impressive strike rate of over 85 runs per 100 balls. Among the dozen highest scorers, his strike rate is eclipsed by that of the big-hitting Australian keeper/batsman Adam Gilchrist, whose rate is almost 100 (98.01).

There have been big disappointments with the bat, though. Take Australia’s Allan Border, for instance. A virtual Goliath at Test level, Border could only average 18 plus from his 452 World Cup runs. A similar average lies next to the names of the stylish West Indian Carl Hooper and England’s dynamic Ian Botham. The big Pakistani ex-captain Inzaman-ul-Haq could only average 23 and another big-hitter, Chris Gayle, will be hoping to improve on his measly average of under 29.

In the bowling department, Australia’s miserly paceman, Glen McGrath, stands above all. He is the World Cup’s leading wicket-taker with 71 wickets, has the lowest average of 18.19 runs per wicket, and for bowlers who have taken more than 25 wickets, has the best strike rate ( a wicket every 27.5 balls). Other leading bowlers include Pakistan’s former captain Wasim Akram (55 wickets) and the veteran Sri Lankan spinner Muralitharan, who is making his farewell appearance and hoping to go past Wasim, his tally being 53 wickets.

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