“With just about every player in Australia, his whole goal and ambition is to play for Australia. That’s why they’re playing first class cricket. It’s just a different attitude”
Shane Warne, arguably one of the greatest bowlers of all time, successfully describes a player’s perspective toward the game of cricket. Cricket is one of the few sports that is continually played at an international level. Sure soccer has tournaments and qualifiers, but it’s cricket that has regular season matches at the most elite playing field.
There is something about international sports that brings out a different mindset in a player and/or fan (watch one of the greatest reactions for American sports during our generation). It has a way of elevating an individual’s play at just the right time in the game (The Miracle…or Kobe’s 4 point shot at the end of the Beijing Olympics). And the best part: only the top athletes from your country can compete.
Representing a country not only illustrates great achievement, but is also coupled with a large amount of pressure. The entire population is watching your every move and expecting you to be better than you actually are (imagine the 1.2 billion people of India continually expecting 100 runs from Sachin Tendulkar on a match by match basis). However, if the athlete can perform at the highest level of competition, it just makes the play/catch/hit all the sweeter…and of course vice versa.
Like baseball, cricket is a match of strategy and statistics from both a batting and bowling perspective. I mean, just check out a cricket score card. Strategies include understanding when is the most opportune time to use a spinner rather than a fast bowler (usually when the pitch is older and choppier) or when it is best to start creating ‘fireworks/home runs’ (usually near the end of the over count of a one day match). It can be an extremely complicated game. But, again similar baseball, once the sport is understood it becomes much more interesting to watch.
This year’s World Cup includes the following squads: Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, England, India, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies, and Zimbabwe. Of the above, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, and the Netherlands are the four teams that usually do not play in the international arena outside of the World Cup (and are usually the most favored to lose out first). India are the current favorites, but are known for never living up to the hype. South Africa, Australia, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka can easily grab the cup as well.
Although the current World Cup in India/Sri Lanka does not include my beloved Yanks, it is still providing much excitement through the centuries (scoring 100+ runs) of Strauss, Sehwag, and of course, Tendulkar.