After 45 matches, and into the third calendar month of the competition, we finally reach the semi-finals. Three games to go, the secret tournament gets to the business end amid a frenzy of indifference in the host country.
The semi-final stage really ought to be the one where the anticipation is huge, and where the wider audience is tuning in far in advance ready to view a showpiece occasion. In New Zealand, Australia and India, that could well be the case.
This has been repeated in numerous quarters ad nauseam, but it doesn’t make it any less true, or less concerning, nor is it a dig as Sky Sports, no matter how sensitive their employees are or how “outrageous” they consider articles on a blog lamenting the invisibility of the game to be. That they are so touchy tends to re-inforce the truth of the complaints – no one gets so irate unless it has touched a nerve.
Still, while the viewing figures for today will be as miserable in this country as they usually are, it is a World Cup, it is a semi-final, and a big event for the cricketing world. And the two teams involved today have had sufficiently contrasting recent form to make India overwhelming favourites. Despite their defeat to England, they have looked every inch potential winners of the competition, whereas the Black Caps three successive defeats have resulted in them stumbling into the knockout stage on net run rate. The outcome of this one ought to be obvious.
But underdogs though they might be, New Zealand’s malfunctioning batting order do have enough to cause problems, and have the bowling attack to make any opponent queasy. Their slump has been a rather surprising one given the quality on offer, even if player for player, the Indian team would be reckoned superior overall. New Zealand embrace their underdog status at the best of times, and with this one, when someone as notable as Sachin Tendulkar wishes MS Dhoni all the best for “the next two games” it will certainly provoke a wry smile in the Kiwi camp.
India should win. New Zealand have been poor. But it could be fun if they decide to show up for it.