24 March 2007

The 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup, and the Tragic Events That Overshadow It

I must admit that my interest in this year's World Cup has not been maintained. I was very excited by the prospects heading into the tournament when Australia's status as runaway favourites was knocked by events in the CB series loss to England, and the subsequent 3-0 thrashing they received from the Kiwis. But whilst individual games have lightened up this tournament (Bangladesh beating India soundly, Ireland pulling out a thrilling tie off the last ball against Zimbabwe) the general feeling for me has been one of apathy. I suspect a large part of this is the time zone difference and the lack of significant TV coverage on free-to-air stations. I have been following live scorecards for every match on Cricinfo every afternoon whilst at work (if only to break the tedium of playing about with XML in Wordpad all day; publishing is very dull!), and when I get home I will, depending on the match, hook up to the BBC's radio commentary - either via their webfeed or by tuning to Sports Extra through digital TV but I don't feel excited by the competition. I understand why the TV highlights are so late - the games have to finish first and the package be put together - but now that I'm working again I'm often too tired to sit and watch highlights that stretch past midnight. Besides which, I've never been that enamoured of TV highlights packages for cricket - its not the individual shots or wickets that intrigue me about the game but the whole passages of play, which is never adequately conveyed by cramming a whole day's play into 30 minutes of "key moments". It all means the competition just isn't leaving much of an impression. I hope, from the sporting side of things, that will change, either today with England's crunch match against Kenya or with the progression to the second phase - the super eights - where finally the big teams will play each other. Oh, and Ireland and Bangladesh who produced the shocks to scrape through (assuming the latter overturn Bermuda tomorrow, which they really should).

However, since the news of Bob Woolmer's death (now known or believed to be murder) my interest has gone through the floor; the competition goes on but it all seems very hollow now. Woolmer, the Pakistan coach, was a much loved figure, an innovator in coaching and was even being touted as one potential candidate to replace Duncan Fletcher coaching the England side after the World Cup (his contract was up with Pakistan after the tournament). There are all kinds of rumours flying around regarding the events that lead to his death but I'm not about to dip into them. I cheered Ireland's victory over Pakistan last week as the unbelievable result it was, but the St Patrick's day magic washed away when news broke the next day first that Woolmer had been hospitalised, then that he had died. His loss is a tragedy for the sport he gave his life to; the folks that knew Bob Woolmer are convinced he would have wanted the World Cup to continue - and continue it shall, by all signs - but despite that (and I think continuing is the right thing to do, anyway - at least until more of what really happened is firmly established) I doubt I am alone in having all enthusiasm for the event swept from me by this dark and saddening surprise.

Whomever wins, it will be overshadowed by Bob Woolmer's loss; I just hope that one of the two sides still in it that Woolmer had strong ties to - South Africa, whom he coached, or England, whom he played for - can win it, and pay him fitting tribute.


Garry G said...

You know I've been thinking about this post and can't agree with you about hoping England or SA will win in memory of Woolmer. The best team winning, even if it's Australia, is a much more fitting tribute to somebody who gave so much to cricket.

Graham said...

On the one hand you're right.

On the other, how else does a side prove they're the best other than by winning it? Otherwise we may as well give the trophy away now - either to SA (ranked #1) or Australia (recognised as the best side all the same) and cancel the rest of the tourney.

Garry G said...

You know that's not what I meant because Australian may not be the best team on the day and New Zealand are going to win it.

Or choke in the semis as usual. ;)

Graham said...

The point I was making was more that England or SA winning - as tribute or not - would also mean they were best on the day. It probably won't happen, but I'd like it to.