Settling in for the world cup

The dogs got me up early this morning, eager for attention, then eager for a feed. Outside the quiet road was awash with rain. It had rained most of the night, and for part of it a spectacular electrical storm, and continued to fall in a steady downpour.

After feeding the dogs I took Rigby with me in the car to visit the local shopping centre. The clock on the dashboard said 8.03, it was grey, everyone bundled up in their homes still but for the odd car passing by with their headlights on. I parked behind the shops and made a dash for shelter. At the newsagents I picked up The Saturday Paper, my regular reading fare on a weekend, and then on impulse collected the Saturday Age too – once a must read, but now a shadow of what it was. On the weekend at least there is some substance to it, and with the World Cup beginning today, some sporting news to read of.

I picked up some tomato passata from the local deli for the home-made pizzas tonight, a take-away coffee, then an escargot for breakfast as well as some bread for lunch. Rigby was waiting for me in the car patiently, but expectantly, for my return, his tail wagging as usual, curious about the fares I returned to the car with.

For the last hour and a bit I’ve read the newspaper while rage played in the background. The rain has eased, but the sky is full still of low, fluffy clouds, dark with rain.

I like weather like this, but the hope is that it clears. Today the 2015 Cricket World Cup kicks off in Melbourne in a match between Australia and England. It should be a full-house, weather permitting, 90,000 plus fans hoping to see Oz smash the Poms again on the way to another tournament victory.

This is my plan for the day. I’ve been out, I’ve purchased my victuals, I’ll knock off the newspapers this morning, and come 1.30 when the telecast begins I’ll be sitting in front of the TV.

Australia should be comfortable victors today. England have a middling team lacking in explosiveness, or any real cutting edge. For some reason there seems a shortage of power cricketers playing in English cricket – perhaps it’s the nature of the game there, lots of teams and lots of cricket spread over a long season, making the cricket there pragmatic and professional, and often stodgy. All the same the English selectors have maintained a long tradition of picking boring teams. They do themselves no favours. The few explosive cricketers they have, bar a couple, have been left out; and they really should be looking at their batting order. That they don’t seems to me both ignorant and ridiculous, as if they refuse to pander to the requirements of the 50 over game from a conservative and superior pigheadedness.

Having said that, they’ll probably roll us today – though it’s a while since they’ve beaten us at anything.

Though we come from the same stock Australia and England seem always to have very different teams in personality, composition and attitude, as if we’re on separate threads of the evolutionary path.

Australia go into the tournament as rightful favourites. They’re just about the opposite of England. It’s a team chock-full of explosive hitters, more than anyone else, and a cutting edge sharper and more fearsome than any other team. The fielding is top-notch too, it’s a home tournament, and Oz is in dominant form. It’s those combination of things that worry me, almost as if we’re due to fail.

It’s not a fear I’ve had much. On paper it’s as near as good as any of the stellar World Cup winning sides of the past. Those teams were firmly entrenched at the top, and their success was part of a long and consistent run. You never doubted the team would succeed. Even when it looked bad you knew they would find a way. They had champion players and immense self belief.

This team has shown the same capacity to win from all situations, and it comes amid a surprisingly successful re-building phase. This is not the legendary Australian team of yore, though it may become another in time.

Still, it’s hard not to see us making the final, although with the sudden-death format of the finals an upset is always possible. Equally Australia could go through the tournament unbeaten, and perhaps unchallenged, as the 2003 and 2007 teams did. Who knows? That’s the beauty of a tournament like this – anything is possible.

For the record I think Oz will play off against either New Zealand – co-hosts, and in great form – or perennial (and often losing) finalists South Africa. I suspect that the Kiwi’s might ultimately be found out on Australian pitches if and when they play here. In which case South Africa are the more likely finalist, and capable winners on their day even if they don’t have the depth of Australia, nor the same attacking flair. Dark horses are Pakistan. As just about always.

There’s a long way to go, and bound to be some surprises, but Australia is a past master at tournament play, and know how to win the big games. The world may be sick of Oz winning, but I’m hoping for another trophy to add to the 197, 1999, 2003, and 2007 trophy’s. Suck it up world.

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