The ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 being played in the Indian sub continent is just past its league stages and the quarter final line up has been framed. The stage is set for the knockout matches to begin.
The mood across the world is of sombre and anger. The terrible Tsunami in Japan has resulted in immense loss of life and property. On the other side, a war is being fought in Libya - wherein an internal civilian conflict has snowballed into a war between Libya and Coalition forces, comprising more than 10 nations.
The World Cup matches in India too are said to be under threats from terrorists. The players of various nations are showing great character in playing under such trying circumstances.
The last few matches of the group stages made an upset quarter final lookup quite possible. However, the top teams managed to pull it off and will now be battling it in the quarter finals.
At the quarter final stages, two matches are scheduled to be played in Bangladesh and one each in India and Sri Lanka. The semi finals are in India and Sri Lanka, with the final scheduled in Bombay.
The first quarter final is between the Asian giants Pakistan and the erstwhile champions of the world cricket - West Indies.
Even though West Indies figured lower than Bangladesh in the ICC Cricket rankings, they have made it to the knockout stages with a good show of cricket. Pakistan were tagged as the underdogs and they have lived upto the billing, by topping their Group A. In my opinion, if Pakistan play the way they have been till now in the Cup, they should emerge as winners.
The next match is the one which is being most looked forward too. After all, it is the hosts India taking up the winners of the last three Cups - Australia.
There is a lot at stake here. It will be the World Cup swan song for many a great players. Sachin, Ricky Ponting, Brett Lee come to my mind right away. And all of them would want to finish their careers with a high and this match stands between them and World Cup glory.
India were deemed as the favorites, but have choked in crucial moments. Australia too have wilted under pressure, as can be seen in their last match against Pakistan.
It will be difficult to predict the winners of this match. If you have to go by the form book, Australia can win. But the hopes of an entire nation - India - will rest on Dhoni and his men to take them through the quarter final, only to setup a battle royale against Pakistan a week later in Chandigarh.
The next one is between South Africa and New Zealand. Both teams have done well in the league stages. But they have a historic reputation of being chokers in the elimination round matches. Whoever manages to keep their cool in this match will come forth as the winners. My money is on South Africa to win this one.
The last of the quarter finals is between the other hosts - Sri Lanka - against the men from England.
England were virtually knocked out from the Cup. Yet Andrew Strauss promised his country men that they could still win this Cup. Amazing confidence, I would say. Sri Lanka too have been looking weak and strong, in waves.
While Sri Lanka look to be the favorites to win the match, a resurgent England might just pull it off. And if things go the way in the next match too, they will be on the way to Bombay to play the finals.
The next 10 days promise to be exciting for cricket lovers across the world.
Just as with any Indian, who has been with - eat cricket, sleep cricket - I too strongly hope that India win the cup. And if they have too, they have to play like champions in the next three matches.
Sachin has to the ruthless batsman he has been over the past two decades. Zaheer Khan has to bowl with the heart of a lion and lead the weak Indian bowling attack. Sehwag has to be the swash-buckling batsmen, ripping apart the opposition bowling attacks.
Harbhajan has to bowl his best for the next thirty overs - using all the tricks in his bag. As for the rest, they have to play the role they have been given.
Most importantly, MS Dhoni has to be the super cool captain which has bought him this glory in the past five years.
And finally, if "All goes well", it will be party time across India on April 2. Until then, its fingers crossed.
Cricket World Cup Knockout Reviewed by Vyankatesh on Monday, March 21, 2011 Rating: