World Cup worries

World Cup worries
Searching for a solution... South Africa have the best top six in the tournament and say they will strategise on a game-by-game basis.

INDIA are away from the limelight, enjoying the relative isolation of Perth and aware of the fact that, unless they did something very daft, they would top their table.

I am not sure such comfort is always a good thing and so, a tough match against the West Indies might just be welcome.

Elsewhere at the World Cup though, teams have a few worries; Pakistan with their batting, South Africa with their balance, West Indies with their consistency and England with their approach.

Rarely has Pakistan presented as bare a cupboard.

The talent in Ahmad Shahzad and Umar Akmal only flutters occasionally, the newer players are taking time to look like they belong, Younis Khan for all his pedigree is a bit lost and Misbah-ul-haq?

Well, Misbah scores all the runs and cops all the blame. He is the sole breadwinner in the family, the others are lazing around and the neighbours and by-standers say he isn't doing enough.

It is extraordinary and unfair. Without him they would be a team in a shambles. With him, they probably are too except that this is Pakistan and you never know with them; the dawn could well follow the darkest night.

South Africa have the best top six in the tournament and even the reserve batsman Rilee Roussow walks in and plays like he can never be left out.

They could pick all of Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, A.B. de Villiers, J.P. Duminy, David Miller and Roussow actually if they could only find 10 overs between them.

Or they could pick Farhaan Behardien and try and get a few dibbly-dobbly overs out of him. Against India they were more aggressive and played the bowling all-rounder in Wayne Parnell but that backfired spectacularly.

De Villiers says they will look at it on a game-by-game basis but you can't help thinking that it is because he doesn't yet have a solution. But at least it is only 10 overs to fill for there is much pedigree in the other 40.

The West Indies are blowing hot occasionally and blowing cold more often. They need batsmen to cover up for the inconsistency of the top three but that means they leave themselves with very few bowling options.

It has got to a stage where their most effective strikers, unless of course Chris Gayle has his batting day, are Lendl Simmons, Darren Sammy and Andre Russell and so the rest have to hang around long enough so those three are free to shoot from their hips.

But the bowling is meagre and only the wonderful resurgence of Jerome Taylor provides it some teeth.

Perth is their best chance to make an impact in the tournament and, as things stand, it is only the topsy-turvy nature of the group they are in that gives them hope for tomorrow.

And what of England? That group of players cannot produce such ordinary performances.

England look like pianists in a rock show, like middle-aged bankers in a group of young entrepreneurs.

There are players there, Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Eoin Morgan crying out to be liberated, waiting to cast aside their jackets, put on their headbands and belt out powerful lyrics.

But I get the feeling, and I am only watching from afar, that England need a revolt.

On paper, and dare I say on ability, this is a perfectly fine England team but the air they seem to breathe has lain stagnant there for too long.

They will make the quarter-finals - the format pampers established teams - and they might go further but their players are much better than they are being allowed to be.

Now, if only there were only three qualifiers instead of four! It would spice up this tournament, give the seemingly-dreary matches an edge.

Look at Pool B where India and South Africa are set to go through but two among the West Indies, Pakistan and Ireland can make it. If only one of those could have made the cut, it could have provided a thrilling finale.

Would England have been forced to embrace desperation and release the ability that lies captive within them? Would they have come out firing? Could Australia's washout against Bangladesh and slip-up against New Zealand have come back to haunt them?

To be fair it has been a decent World Cup but shorn of the comfort of four qualifiers, it might have acquired another dimension.

We might still have a cracking qualifying process, especially in Pool B, and who knows, England might have their hands full against Bangladesh, but the thought of England and Pakistan having to play out of their skins to qualify is delicious.

But, maybe, another day. For now, we need to enjoy what we have.

tabla@sph.com.sg


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