The Cricket World Cup began today, as hosts West Indies convincingly blasted a pretty-darn-good Pakistan team 242-187 (I realize that may seem sort of close, but much like college basketball, cricket matches tend to be really close or not close at all â€“ this game was among the latter).
Of the 16 teams in the tournament, there are only eight that have any chance at all of winning.Â Â Pakistan is pretty clearly the 8th-best team in the tournament, but they are much closer to #1 than to #9.Â They are 14-1 odds to win the tournament.Â The #9 team (Bangladesh) is 300-1.Â Accordingly, this was actually a very nice win for the â€œWindies.â€
Much like Olympic basketball is the United States vs. Everyone Else (Everyone Else having done pretty well lately), the Cricket World Cup is Australia vs. Everyone Else.Â After going nearly five years without losing a single game, the Australians have played terribly lately (getting beaten three games in a row by a New Zealand team that no one thought was any good, which, confirming those suspicions, subsequently lost to Bangla-frickin-desh).Â As a result, Australia has gone from less than even-money to 9-4 as the favorites of the tournament.Â Everyone knows their quality and expects them to sort things out in the tournament.Â If I were a betting man, Iâ€™d take Australia at 9-4.Â Iâ€™m heavily rooting against them (as I do in every sport in which Australia is involved), but they are clearly the most talented team.
Since I brought it up, here are the current approximate betting odds (all rounded off â€œto 1â€):
(1) Australia â€“ 2.25-1
(2) South Africa â€“ 4.5-1
(t3) India â€“ 7-1
(t3) Sri Lanka â€“ 7-1
(t3) West Indies â€“ 7-1
(t6) New Zealand â€“ 9-1
(t6) England â€“ 9-1
(8) Pakistan â€“ 14-1
Weâ€™re thrilled to be in the right part of the world at the right time with a chance to see at least two games (and with good tickets to four) of the tournament.Â Am I a big cricket fan?Â No, but I almost completely understand and greatly appreciate the game, and Iâ€™ll be thrilled to be there in person to see it played at such a high level.Â
This is one-day cricket, also known as pajama cricket (for the colorful uniforms), as opposed to test cricketÂ (with white uniforms), which would be near-impossible to contest in a World Cup format despite it being â€œproper cricket.â€Â There will be Yorkers, doosras and googlies aplenty (but probably very few Chinamen) as we watch England play New Zealand on Friday, March 16Â and then head to Trinidad for Sri Lanka vs. India on March 23.
Where do our loyalties lie?Â We are rooting hard for Sri Lanka.Â Not only are they a loveable team, but we have very close friends that are Sri Lankan, and we hope to be adopted Sri Lankans for the tournament and beyond.
It is easy to make baseball comparisons regarding Muralitharan (â€œMuraliâ€) â€“ he is the Greg Maddux of Cricket — simply the greatest off-speed bowler of all time.Â Under the rules of one-day cricket, he will be limited to 60 balls (20%) of the pitches thrown by Sri Lanka each game, but he remains Sri Lankaâ€™s big advantage â€“ he is the odds-on favorite to win â€œBest Bowlerâ€ honors for the tournament (this is largely because Australiaâ€™s Shane Warne â€“ for whom Iâ€™ve been mistaken more than once â€“ retired before the tournament).
Jayasuriya was the MVP of the 1996 Cricket World Cup, won under controversial circumstances by Sri Lanka.Â Now 37, he is the elder statesman of a team that is full of young players.Â If he and Murali play well, Sri Lanka can beat anyone.