The World Cup league matches are played out and done.
The results are in. England are out.
Bangladesh are surprisingly still standing tall.
Team India have made the quarters without a blemish despite lackluster performances in the run-up to the tournament.
Trust MS Dhoni to come up trumps when it matters. And the World Cup matters, especially when you are the defending champs.
The quarter-final line-up is as follows:
1st Quarter-Final – South Africa v Sri Lanka
Sydney Cricket Ground
2nd Quarter-Final – Bangladesh v India
Melbourne Cricket Ground
3rd Quarter-Final – Australia v Pakistan
4th Quarter-Final – New Zealand v West Indies
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
South Africa have always choked in the knock-out phases. Will they do an encore? Perhaps, perhaps not. But their build-up to this point has not been smooth. They lost to sub-continental giants, India and Pakistan. Can Sri Lanka make it a hat-trick? Sangakarra can tell.
My pick: Sri Lanka. They have been finalists at the last two World Cups. Be surprised if they do not make the semis.
Bangladesh have celebrated as though they have the World Cup in their pockets. India have been ruthlessly efficient till now. Dhoni has foregone chopping and changing; it helps his cause that the team keeps winning. Indian journos and fans would not have been as forgiving otherwise.
My pick: India. I do not foresee any changes to the squad barring injuries. Each match could be the last of the tourney from now on.
Australia are favorites against Pakistan and they are playing on familiar ground. Pakistan could spring a surprise. Misbah may be no Imran Khan but he is no slouch either when it comes to inspiring his side.
My pick: Australia. Watch out for Mitchell Starc. How Wasim would love to have him bowling for Pak instead.
New Zealand have an unbeaten record and are firmly installed as bookie’s darlings.
West Indies have great batters but it’s their bowlers that have let them down. In that sense, they are much like Ireland; capable of springing surprises but inconsistent.
My pick: New Zealand.
Prospective semi-final line-up:
New Zealand versus Sri Lanka. (60/40)
India versus Australia (50/50)
New Zealand versus Australia.
Disclaimer: Cricket is a funny game. And all it needs is a stand-out performer on a single day to turn things around especially in ODI and T20 cricket. Test cricket? Now, that’s a different cup of tea, altogether.