Sunday, 29 April 2007

The A-Z of the 2007 World Cup

Now that the World Cup is finally over, here is an AFP copy that tries to encapsulate the entire event in the alphabetical order:

A is for Australians, everywhere. As well as the champion team, there were Australian players in the Ireland and Scotland squads while India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and West Indies all started with Australian coaches.

B is for biceps, particularly those of Australia all-rounder Andrew Symonds whose participation in the tournament had been put in doubt because of arm surgery.

C is for crying and the tears of Bermuda's 17-year-old seamer Malachi Jones who wept and wept and wept after taking the wicket of India opener Robin Uthappa with his fourth ball. However, he would have blubbed even more when he finished with 1-74 off seven overs.

D is for drinking with a group of England players, and Andrew Flintoff to the fore, exercising their right arms with so much vigour that the all-rounder was dropped for one match while others were fined. South Africe were also at the centre of 'late-night booze shame' tabloid frenzy but, unlike England, they made progress in the tournament.

E is for empty stadiums which became a constant, depressing sight throughout the tournament as locals stayed away in protest at the price of tickets. It got worse when India and Pakistan failed to reach the second round.

F is for four wickets in four balls. The unique feat was achieved by Sri Lanka seamer Lasith Malinga in Guyana although his efforts were not enough to prevent South Africa from securing a one-wicket win. F is also for Ferret, as in the bizarre dance performed by Ireland seamer Dave Langford-Smith every time he took a wicket.

G is for Gibbs. South Africa batsman Herschelle Gibbs made history by becoming the first man to hit sixes in an over in a one-day international, achieving the landmark against hapless Netherlands in St Kitts. G is also for Adam Gilchrist who hit a record 149 in the final to see his team to victory.

H is for Hayden with the Australian opener hitting the fastest ever World Cup 100 in just 66 balls and going on to dominate the scoring charts. H is also for humour as illustrated by Dutch skipper Luke van Troost after seeing his slow bowler Daan van Bunge pulverised by Gibbs' record-setting hitting. "I told him to bowl a slower one," said the captain to his teammate. "'I just did'," was the bemused reply.

I is for Inzamam-ul-Haq. The proud Pakistan skipper saw his team humiliated by Ireland and devastated by the death of coach Bob Woolmer. Inzamam won the hearts of the Kingston crowd and millions watching around the world when he made a tearful exit at Sabina Park after announcing his one-day international retirement.

J is for Johnston. Ireland's Trent Johnston danced as close to an Irish jig as his ageing Aussie bones could manage every time he claimed a wicket. His teammates likened it to a chicken. J is also for Ed Joyce who helped Ireland qualify for the World Cup before switching allegiance to England. His reward? He was promptly dropped when the runs dried up.

K is for kids. In a trademark sign that a tournament is failing to woo the locals, World Cup organisers were reduced to busing in thousands of bemused school pupils to fill acres of empty seats. In Barbados, 4,000 of them added their shrill voices to the proceedings. K is also for South African all-rounder Kallis who, despite his critics, plays the game his way.

L is for Lara. The West Indies batting great, whose career was peppered with a host of records and runs, wept as he bowed out of international cricket unable to stem the decline of a once-feared team. L is also for Dwayne Leverock, the 255-pound (116kg) Bermuda spinner whose ungainliness perfectly illustrated the team's problems on their debut appearance.

M is for Mir. Pervez Mir was the Pakistan team spokesman who was a constant feature on TV screens and in newspapers mounting a dignified response to the Woolmer tragedy. M is also for Malinga, the bleach-blond Sri Lanka seamer with the slingshot action which befuddled South Africa. M is also for McGrath, the veteran Aussie bowler who claimed the all-time World Cup wickets record.

N is for no-hopers. Hang your heads in shame Bermuda, Scotland and Canada who played nine games and failed to muster a point between them.

O is for over-rated. Step forward India, the financial powerhouse of the international game who lost to Bangladesh and beat a hasty retreat home. O is also for over-priced as in tickets, 90 dollars in St Kitts for example where the average weekly wage is 100 dollars, and hotels who thought it fun to triple their rates.

P is for the Pegasus Jamaica which briefly became one of the most famous hotels in the world. It was where the Pakistan team stayed and where Bob Woolmer was murdered on March 18. On a lighter note, P is also for pedalo, Flintoff's transport of choice on his infamous night out.

Q is for quit and plenty of people were doing it at the Caribbean - Lara, Inzamam, Greg Chappell, Dav Whatmore, Duncan Fletcher and Clive Lloyd amongst others.

R is for resting. Sri Lanka caused controversy when they gave Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan a breather for the Super Eights match against Australia. The Aussies said it was something they would never do while Lanka wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara accused critics of double standards.

S is for Shields. Jamaica police's deputy commissioner Mark Shields was the urbane and articulate detective leading the hunt for Woolmer's killers.

T is for teenagers. Bangladesh's young side, which defeated mighty India and South Africa, was packed with fearless talent and made such an impression that they are already being considered as a potential threat when the 2011 World Cup takes place on the sub-continent.

U is for unsung heroes. The pre-tournament hype and publicity revolved around the marquee names but it was the likes of Andrew Hall, Scott Styris and Brad Hogg who were manning the barricades.

V is for Lou Vincent. The New Zealand opener made two noughts and then a century. But just when he thought his World Cup was up and running, he was ruled out with a broken wrist inflicted upon him by teammate Shane Bond in the nets.

W is for Woolmer. Former England Test batsman Bob Woolmer was a well-liked and hugely-respected coach admired for his even-handed relationship with players and for his innovative methods. Deeply depressed by Pakistan's shock loss to Ireland on March 17, he died the following day. His death is being treated as murder and the hunt for the killers is ongoing.

X is for X-factor and X-rated. Bangladesh had both, the former with their stunning wins over India and South Africa, the latter for their tame, lame defeat to Ireland.

Y is for youth. Just 20 years old but fresh-freshed enough to suggest mid-teens, Stuart Broad held his nerve in his first World Cup match to hit the runs which give England a one-wicket win over West Indies. It also sent Brian Lara into retirement on a losing note.

Z is for Zimbabwe. A team in turmoil, they mamanged a tie with Ireland and very little else. Disenchanted on their return home, two of their most promising players, Vusi Sibanda and Anthony Ireland, left to take up lucrative club contracts in Australia and England respectively.


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