After more than a month of formalities, we have reached the state of the tournament which is termed by Mr. Tracer Bullet as the business end of the tournament and you can take no half measures now. Although till now it has been one of the best world cups, all we can hope is that every “sudden death” will be painfully slow for any team which dies in the tournament from here on. So ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelt, switch off your cell phones, and get set for the knock out round –
QF1, Pakistan Vs West Indies – This is a contest between the extremes of two different kinds. Pakistanis have lived up to its expectations of being unpredictable. In their group matches, they won comprehensively against Australia but lost hopelessly against New Zealand. On the other hand, West Indies have been completely predictable - every time they are 100/2 in 15 overs, you can trust them to collapse to 150/8 by the time 30th over starts. If Pakistan can explode with miraculous brilliance, West Indies can implode with stupid mediocrity. West Indies relies heavily on their top order batsmen to fire. Pakistan’s batting fire power is in their late middle order. Pakistan’s leading spinner is one of the most aggressive spinners in the world. West Indies’s leading spinner looks to be the most reluctant looking cricketer ever. When Pakistan plays in QF1, there can be only one thing predictable – you will get loads of “Kamran Akmal” jokes to hear. When West Indies plays tomorrow, only unpredictability will be in their final XI – you never know when one of their key players will develop an injury which can be healed just in time to play “you know what.”
QF2, Australia Vs India – Indians have been like a young boy in love who takes out his girl on his first date. Everything goes fine and just when they are about to kiss – with lips less than a touching distance away, the boy sneezes on the girl’s face. The love story ends then and there. Australia has looked like an old man nearing his retirement. While everyone shows his respect to the old man, not many mean it. Every now and then, the old man is reminded that his end is just around the corner. He bites back on every reminder but often loses his dentures in the process. Strange thing about dentures is, it doesn’t matter if they are inside the mouth or not. Bite is often the same. It will be a match between “I know how to dig my own grave” and “I am just about to enter my grave.” Let’s see who gets to the coffin first.
QF3, South Africa Vs New Zealand – The word that irks South Africans most is “choking.” New Zealand has hardly choked in the recent past. They have lost heavily. But the contest between these two will be a treat to watch for their fielding. Trust New Zealand’s inability to win against a quality opposition. May be they have run out of their WC11’s quota of winning in the match against Pakistan. Trust South Africa to find a new way out of a world cup. May be they have already devised one. One thing is sure, New Zealand’s opening batsman and South Africa’s opening bowler, both will be watching DVD of one particular match – first match of IPL2008 between KKR and RCB. The former will watch it to massage his ego whereas the later will watch it to hurt his ego. Let’s see if it’s the massage that hurts or the hurt needs a massage.
QF4, Sri Lanka Vs England – England say that they are the Pakistan of 1992 – doing their worst in the league stage and hoping that the best is saved for the knock-out round. I say Sri Lanka are the New Zealand of 1992 – as long as possible, we will play at home. Pakistan and New Zealand met in the semi final in 1992 and Pakistan broke New Zealand’s myth that they were invincible at home. England might do the same. In the group stage, haven’t they have won when they were supposed to lose or lost when they were supposed to win or tied when they got confused? I just don’t want Sri Lanka to win. If there is even a remote chance of another India – SL encounter, I might start puking. Please, no more India – SL matches. No more.
Let the show begin.