The ICC World Cup 2011 is now in uncharted territory. Now that the Cricket World Cup schedule no longer includes Australia, the cricket championships have entered a new era. The Aussies had dominated cricket’s biggest event by winning the last three Cups and looked poised to do it again until last week. Yet they showed their first signs of vulnerability by losing to Pakistan in the first round finale, and then finished the job against India in the quarterfinals yesterday.
The second quarterfinal was destined to be a harder one than usual for the Aussies. When they suffered their first defeat in 34 Cup matches to Pakistan, it dropped them to the third seed in Group A. As such, they had to face Group B second seed India, which is one of the co-hosts of this event.
Playing a virtual road game, the Australians started off well, with captain Ricky Ponting making an early century. But after the Pakistanis showed the champions could be beaten, India took that message to heart and pulled away at the end to win by 5 wickets.
Cricket hasn’t seen anything like this in 12 years when Australia began their string of championships. The last team other than the Aussies to win was Sri Lanka in 1996 – and the Sri Lankans are still alive this year. Now either they, England, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, or South Africa will be the brand new champions next week.
The last of the cricket quarterfinals have New Zealand vs South Africa today and Sri Lanka vs England tomorrow. The winners have a high bar to set since India and Pakistan have already made their cases for the title by overthrowing Australia.
Pakistan got the ball rolling by beating the Aussies last week and rode that momentum to an easy quarterfinal win over the West Indies. Now in the semifinals, they get to face India – the next team that upset Australia. Although the Pakistanis will have to play a virtual road game themselves, they have already defied the odds before. And will try to do the same with their Pakistan tour of England 2020.
Whoever wins it all could be the leaders of a new era in cricket. Australia no longer has major championships like the Ashes and Border-Gavaskar Trophy, and now they won’t have a fourth straight Cup to boot. With Ponting’s captainship likely over, the Aussies have to start over in many aspects.
In the meantime, the World Cup must go on, as the second semifinal match will be set over the next two days, while India and Pakistan wait to meet on March 30.