For the past fortnight in India every newspaper is full of speculation on the Cricket World Cup, and whether the current World Champions can retain their trophy. Turn on the television and there are replays of previous tournaments, interviews with former World Champions, it has been wall to wall cricket as the country works itself up into a frenzy.
There are however some who feel that Australia may well have exposed fans to simply too much cricket prior to the World Cup, with the Test Series with India, The Big Bash League and then the Tri-nation series. Some believe that despite losing to Australia, India should have taken a break from playing ‘down under,’ and the players should have returned home for a couple of weeks break with their families before looking to defend their title.
This brings into question what is the perfect preparation for a tournament such as this. It has now become the norm that all the competing nations have warm up games against each other, games attended usually in the main by those unable to get tickets to the actual world cup games. Games in which neither side wants to reveal too much, saving their best for the tournament itself.
If India is under pressure how must South Africa feel having been warned by their Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula that they better not fail, and forbidding them to ‘become a bunch of losers.’ This comment was made during their official send off.
“we don’t want you in the World Cup to add numbers and just become a bunch of losers.” he was quoted as saying. He went on to say “You are not going to be playing with robots. You are playing with people. You are the special ones. You are the chosen ones. It does not mean you are irreplaceable but all of you are capable of doing the duty for us.”
Not happy with these inspiring words he continued by reminding the team of previous losses at previous World Cups. Proving that he is no Nelson Mandela when it comes to stirring inspirational oratory.
Having already labelled the national football team a bunch of losers a year ago, no doubt his words were water off a duck’s back to the players, but they can hardly have helped their preparation.
One team not expected to win a game is Afghanistan, competing in their first World Cup. Cricket has miraculously skyrocketed in popularity since the Taliban permitted the game to be played in 2000. A year later the ICC welcomed them to international cricket as an affiliate member.
Their preparation has faced a different set of problems as coach Andy Moles, who played for Warwickshire explained. ” I spoke to one of the players who was late to our late camp. I asked him the reason why he and he turned around and told me that he had to go to the funeral of his cousin who was shot dead by a drone.”
It would appear that many teams this time around are having their own set of problems when it comes to preparation for the World Cup, but for the sake of the players and everyone back in war-torn Afghanistan it would be great if sport can show just who wonderful it can be, and they could record a famous and unlikely victory to help the game grow and lift the spirits of the people back home. If they can that will be the equivalent of them winning the cup itself, and will hopefully give the tournament and certain politicians some perspective.