Ok, for the Americans out there … have you ever tried to explain NASCAR to someone from a different culture? [Probably not, but just imagine.]
It seems utterly ridiculous and boring. Cars going around the same circle 200 times for three hours? Yawn-fest, right? If you had no idea what was going on and you stumbled across a race on TV, you would change the channel immediately.
…unless you knew the stories, the rivalries, the legends, the rookies, and the leaders in the points tables.
The same goes for cricket. Even if you understand what’s going on in the match, you would likely change the channel if you didn’t know the story going on behind the scenes.
Equally important to understanding the rules of cricket, is understanding cricket from a cultural perspective.
Here are the current rankings of the top nations for ODI cricket.
Australia is hosting the 2015 World Cup and is coming in as a heavy favorite to win it all.
As you look at this list, you’ll notice that there is a huge gap after the West Indies. The eight teams above the line are considered serious cricket-playing nations, while the others are referred to as ‘the minnows’. Should any of those teams (including Scotland and the UAE) make it past the group stage, it will be a huge upset.
Here some quick commentary on the top teams:
Australia – dominant, arrogant, Aussie
India – reigning champions, young, unpredictable
South Africa – solid, but never win the big one
Sri Lanka – skilled, aggressive, potential to win (2011 runners-up)
England – skilled, arrogant like Australia, but not as dominant
New Zealand – everyone’s second favorite team, very likable
Pakistan – do not bring their name up in front of your Indian friends
West Indies – Chris Gayle
Two of the biggest rival matchups have already happened, but here are some to keep an eye out for:
India v. Pakistan – Tension and emotions run deep anytime these two teams play. This is about much more than cricket. Update: India won their group stage match against Pakistan and are now 6-0 against their archrivals in World Cup matches.
Australia v. England – Although their primary rivalry is in the Test format of cricket, there is never any love lost when these two teams compete. Update: Australia beat England fairly easily in their group stage match.
India v. Australia – Not as strong as the other ones, but India always has a point to prove when they play Australia, and the Aussies love to thump the Indians. No scheduled match yet, likely to be in the knockout rounds.
New Zealand v. Australia – The world of cricket would explode should the beloved Kiwis find a way to get the better of the Aussies. Scheduled for the 28th of Feb.
The Indian Team
India won the World Cup in 2011, but in that tournament all the matches were in India and they relied heavily on some of their legacy players who are not on the team this year. Most notable is the one-and-only Sachin Tendulkar (the record holder for all major cricket batting records in the world).
Lately, India has not been playing well and many Indian fans are tempering their expectations, hoping merely for a semifinal appearance. One of their main weaknesses is their bowling which hasn’t had a lot of success, particularly in Australia. But their early win against Pakistan has fans thinking about a potential repeat.
Here are the current stars of the Indian team:
MS Dhoni – Captain cool. He is the most successful captain India has ever had. He bats a little down the order, and is often called upon to calm the team down and provide a good foundation.
Virat Kohli – Currently one of the top 3 batsmen in the world. He is young, but has played a lot of international cricket already and India will need to see some good scores from him.
Rohit Sharma – He recently set the record for the most runs scored in ODI (264).
Questions to ask your Indian colleagues:
- Who do you think will win the World Cup?
- What are India’s chances of winning?
- Who would you love to see lose?
- Which of the minnows do you think has a chance to reach the knockout round?
- Who are India’s best batsmen?
- Who are India’s best bowlers?