Form book no guide in crunch contest
March 25, 2011
The last time West Indies were in Dhaka, they couldn't have been in more of a rush to get away - in every sense. First there was their on-field performance, as clinical as anything ever witnessed in a World Cup encounter, as a potentially awkward tussle with Bangladesh was done and dusted in barely 30 overs of one-sided action.
Then, however, came the darker aspect of the day's events. As the West Indies team bus pulled out of the Shere Bangla stadium, it was pelted with rocks by an irate section of the Bangladeshi support - in the mistaken belief, it was later reported, that their own defeated countrymen were on board. Chris Gayle's alarmed tweet buzzed around the world in minutes, and though the team was later garlanded with flowers by an apologetic supporters' group, the lack of amusement was tangible. "Is it ok for me to say thank god I left bangladesh???!!!" added Sulieman Benn once the team had departed for India.
But now they are back, amid drum-tight security, and while the venue may not be to their liking, the opportunity could hardly be more alluring. Of all the teams in a tricky Group B, arguably no-one had a smoother on-field run to the quarter-finals than West Indies. Unlike England, whose struggles against the lesser teams turned every one of their subsequent games into nailbiters, the Windies took the polar opposite approach. They won the games in which they were favourites with such ease - with only the Irish coming close to giving them a scare in a 44-run defeat - that back-to-back defeats against England and India couldn't rattle their rock-solid Net Run Rate.
As a consequence they may start as underdogs in the knock-outs, but West Indies have landed the opponents that most suit their hot-and-cold style. Pakistan surpassed expectations to finish top of Group A, and in doing so they bookended the single most remarkable statistic in World Cup history - Australia's 34-match unbeaten run that began in the wake of a Moin Khan-inspired 10-run defeat at Headingley in 1999, and came to an end at the hands of Umar Akmal in Colombo on Saturday. But as their remarkable defeat against the apparent weaklings of New Zealand demonstrated, there's never any point in predicting predictability from Pakistan.
The other three quarter-finals involve clear favourites, and it would be a shock if any of India, South Africa and Sri Lanka failed to advance to the semis. This one, however, is anyone's game. On form, Pakistan should shade it, and a potential semi-final date with India in Mohali will ensure their resolve is at its sharpest. But as West Indies showed on their last trip to Mirpur, when they get on a roll they have players who can prove unstoppable.