By: Chinmay Vaidya
After the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009 in Pakistan, the latter's future as a major player on the international circuit looked bleak. Criticism about security arrangements and general playing conditions in Pakistan came from anyone and everyone, resulting in the country losing its 2011 World Cup hosting rights and being boycotted by every other cricket board for home series. Pakistan was forced to "host" series in U.A.E., although an occasional match has been played in the country since the attacks.
A year ago, I noted how much Pakistan cricket has changed since 2009. The country, and more importantly the Pakistan Cricket Board, appears to have made the necessary reparations over the course of a decade to deserve tours once again. Zimbabwe came to Pakistan for a short ODI series in 2015. The West Indies took part in a T20 series. The Pakistan Super League, the country's domestic T20 franchise league, will potentially play a full season in Pakistan in 2020. However, it was going to take an extended tour to get the country back on the international calendar.
Enter Sri Lanka.
A decade after the initial attack, Sri Lanka will return to Pakistan for three ODIs and three T20s. This is the first extended tour of Pakistan since the fateful day in March, giving real hope for an eventual return on the international scene for PCB.
“The upcoming matches will end the long await of the Pakistan cricket fans and supporters to watch modern day stars from both sides live in action," PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani said in a statement. "This is something that will contribute immensely to our revamped domestic cricket structure."
Sri Lanka has undergone its own domestic problems in recent years with a "Golden Generation" disappearing and young players failing to step up. But in returning to Pakistan for what is essentially a trial run, it has shown more willpower and guts than any other board in the world.
This tour is replacing the two teams' scheduled Test fixtures, which were originally going to held as part of the inaugural World Test Championship. That series has now been shifted to December, but both countries saw an opportunity to make a different statement with the opening. Cricket has finally come full circle for Pakistan on the international stage.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
With the rise of T20 leagues around the globe, Canada wasn't going to be left behind. The Global T20 Canada wrapped up its second season with the Winnipeg Hawks taking down the Vancouver Knights to win the title. Winnipeg was led by Shaiman Anwar, who put up 90 runs in 45 balls. Although Andre Russell and Shoaib Malik forced a super over, Chris Lynn and Anwar were able to finish the job for Winnipeg.
GT20 Canada, according to the tournament's website, has 1.5 million subscribers across its social media platforms. It's not on the level of the IPL or BBL, but that's a significant figure. More important, 85% of app users are interacting daily. Retention rates are important for leagues to grow and there's enough traction to here to see GT20 as an annual edition to the cricket calendar. Throw in big names like Yuvraj Singh, Brendon McCullum and Chris Gayle and you'll get fans in the stadium. However, those big names come with some big paychecks and that's where the chaos comes in.
According to ESPNCricinfo's Peter Della Penna, the Toronto Nationals and Montreal Tigers refused to take the field for a match due to unpaid wages. Della Penna reported the protest extended beyond those two squads, with several other teams also making it known they would protest until the checks cleared.
Wage protests can be a death nail for a T20 league. Get enough players to protest and it turns off future competitors from joining. According to Della Penna's report, some players hadn't been paid from their participation in GT20 2018 either. It's quite stunning how the league actually came together this year given players likely had knowledge of these problems.
The wage protest added to the overall chaos of the organization of GT20. Fans weren't able to park at CAA Centre and had to use a shuttle service to get to the ground. The ground itself was, obviously, designed for maximum boundary damage and therefore smaller than a standard field. GT20 lasted 18 days in total. Compare that to some of the other established leagues which span several months.
There is promise for the league to grow. Once the official numbers come through, GT20 will likely surpass its projected 150 million viewers from the beginning of the tournament. A final going to the "super over" will help the cause. However, the infrastructure behind the scenes needs to be cleaned up and the tournament as a whole needs to operate like a legitimate league rather than something seemingly hastily thrown together.
There is always a cost to becoming a regular event on the global cricket calendar. Two seasons in, it's unclear whether GT20 is willing to pay it.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
Shortly after the 2019 World Cup, which was a drag through most of the group stage before erupting on an international level in the knockout round and the final, it was back to business as usual for the ICC. Global celebrations of sport rightfully overshadow the people running the show, but reality eventually rears its head.
This time, it's full member Zimbabwe suffering the penalties. On July 18, the ICC suspended Zimbabwe with immediate effect from international cricket for violation of the ICC constitution, which doesn't allow government intervention. Zimbabwe's economy is in chaos and the ICC rightfully feared the government was diverting money from funds intended for the development of the sport into other sectors.
"We do not take the decision to suspend a Member lightly, but we must keep our sport free from political interference," ICC Chairman Shashank Manohar said in a statement. "What has happened in Zimbabwe is a serious breach of the ICC Constitution and we cannot allow it to continue unchecked."
This is the first time a full member has been affected. Nepal and the United States have been suspended for the same reason and Sri Lanka was dangerously close to getting the same punishment. The ICC rightfully wants governments and the boards to be their own entities.
However, this suspension doesn't actually solve the problem. Zimbabwe board members will likely be reinstated and the situation, according to media reports, is going to re-examined in the coming months. However, the funding eventually has to get back to Zimbabwe cricket to grow the game. The structure of the board isn't likely to change. So how can the ICC ensure the situation will be any better at the next checkpoint?
Another somewhat important note; Zimbabwe's economy has been unstable for a long time. There was never fear of the government reaching into Zimbabwe cricket's coffers to divert funds. So what changed now? As Grant Flower details here, Zimbabwe cricket has had operational issues for years. So why take action now?
The problem now is coaches and players are now out of job for the foreseeable future. The best ones will be able to latch on in one of the many T20 leagues around the world, but this could be the end of the line for a lot of others. There is a human aspect of this decision many people won't realize. These coaches and players are the ones truly affected by the decision, both emotionally and financially. If the ICC was so worried about government intervention in Zimbabwe's revenue share, why not deliver the amounts to the players individually?
Here's the part where it gets really stupid. Shortly before the World Cup, BCCI was considering sending a letter to the ICC to ban Pakistan from the tournament due to a recent terrorist attack. You think that wasn't politically motivated? When MS Dhoni sported gloves with an Indian military symbol, Prime Minister Narendra Modi got involved. Pakistan still can't host a tour because of an incident from a decade ago. You think all the world's cricket boards are throwing away decades of significant revenue to take some moral stand against Pakistan entirely on their own? If the ICC wants to keep the government out of sports, it's up to the boards to keep sports out of government agendas.
BCCI isn't getting suspended. We know that. But if the governing body for the sport wants to keep cricket "free from political interference", it can't be selective in its approach. The solution is to provide Zimbabwe with a structure the ICC wants to see. Meet with the members tasked with running the organization. Ensure they're adequately funded and dedicated to the game. Zimbabwe being suspended, as mentioned above, doesn't actually solve the problem at hand. This is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. Eventually, you have to actually take the bullet out.
Furthermore, the ICC isn't exactly a big proponent of growing the game itself. The most recent World Cup got cut to 10 teams. The 2023 edition is going to be the same. You want to know what it takes for a nation to get involved in the sport? Take a look at this absurdity.
Keep in mind Iceland cricket has zero, and I mean ZERO, incentive to lie about any of this. As the thread states, Iceland wouldn't need help from anyone if it had all those requirements in place to begin with. How does the governing body of an international sport fail to grow the game on this level? If Iceland's government gets involved, the ICC will suspend the team. But if it isn't doing anything to develop the game in the first place, then what's the real difference? Government intervention goes both ways. The ICC has to be capable to differentiating what is and isn't positive government action on behalf of the sport.
If the ICC wants to be taken seriously as a governing body, go after every board for its wrongdoings. Establish real solutions, not meaningless suspensions. Support nations trying to get into the sport from the top down. In short, do more than the bare freaking minimum of putting together a global tournament once a year. Allow a government to be involved in the growth of the sport for the right reasons. At the end of the day, this suspension only affects Zimbabwe coaches and players. They aren't even the intended targets.
The ICC has been backed into a corner over the years and is beginning to fight back. That's encouraging, except it is fighting back at the wrong people.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
The most thrilling match in the history of one-day cricket came down to a tiebreaker; the most number of boundaries hit in the innings. And with that tiebreaker, England has started a potentially historic "Golden Generation" with a World Cup title.
The hosts and New Zealand couldn't be separated after 50 brilliant overs from each team. They couldn't be separated after a "Super Over" each, meaning the final tiebreaker had to be utilized. Should both teams have kept playing "super overs"? Probably. The ICC will have to look at the rules again. Regardless of the final decision, the 2019 World Cup final will be the greatest match in cricket history for a long, long time.
The Blackcaps set up a score of 241, potentially 20-25 runs under par at the start of the day. England got off to a decent start before Matt Henry picked up Jason Roy's crucial wicket. After Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Eoin Morgan perished at crucial stages in the contest, England relied on its two middle-order stars to take the chase deep.
Ben Stokes, the most reliable player for England in the tournament, and Jos Buttler gave the hosts a fighting chance at the end of the innings when wickets continued to fall. New Zealand had some bad luck as well despite some stunning catches and excellent ground fielding.
Trent Boult had the chance to flip a ball caught near the rope to a teammate to end Stokes, but he put his foot on the boundary rope. On the next play, a throw in from the outfield ricocheted off Stokes and went to the boundary, resulting in four overthrows and gave England a chance to win with 3 runs from 2 balls. New Zealand then got two run outs to force a "super over". England got 15 in its one over. New Zealand also finished with 15, with a run-out on the final ball needing 2 from 1 resulting in a tie and England winning the tiebreaker.
At the end of the day, both teams had great chances to win at multiple stages of the game. The tiebreaker is ultimately the rule, but additional "super overs" could've cemented this contest as an all-timer. England now gets to start on its "Golden Generation" with a one-day World Cup. Four years of transformation and work have paid off and England is ready to reap the benefits. The team will be favored in the 2020 and 2021 T20 World Cups and should be a contender in 2023 with the majority of this championship squad back in place. It's potentially four years of dominance after four years of rebuilding for the English. They wouldn't have it any other way.
By: Chinmay Vaidya, Aashay Chavan, Aneesh Tyle and Paarth Joshi
After 47 grueling matches, the 2019 World Cup final is upon us. No matter what happens, one country will be lifting the trophy for the first time ever. England and New Zealand meet in the World Cup final four years after both teams were on drastically different paths. The hosts had bowed out in hilariously disastrous fashion in 2015 while the Blackcaps finally broke the semifinal barrier to appear in a World Cup final.
For the first time since 1992, a World Cup final will not feature either India or Australia. The Aussies lost a semifinal match for the first time in their World Cup history. New Zealand bottled up India to advance to consecutive finals, becoming the fifth country ever to do so.
The Follow On crew breaks down England-New Zealand matchup with seven questions, from who the most important players are to who will get that elusive first World Cup title.
1. Does either team have more momentum heading into the final?
Chinmay Vaidya: As the semifinals showed, momentum doesn’t mean anything. Both teams enter after winning the last game but that doesn’t mean anything. England might feel its players are in better form, but New Zealand’s bowlers will also feel confident.
Aashay Chavan: In spite of New Zealand’s thrilling victory against India, I think England still has more momentum. Lest we forget New Zealand finished off on a steep decline, losing three in a row in the group stages after looking almost unbeatable during the first 5 matches. Although this may be the jump start they so sorely needed, I doubt it will be enough to overcome England’s firepower. They barreled their way against a good Australian team.
Aneesh Tyle: England has the momentum coming off 3 straight dominating wins against Australia, India and then Australia again in the semifinal.
Paarth Joshi: England. Despite an incredible win from New Zealand against India, the Blackcaps still had a rough end to the group stage while England has managed to pull of several impressive wins in a row coming into the final.
2. What is the key matchup?
CV: New Zealand’s pace bowlers against England’s openers. Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow have been killing opponents in this tournament and are keys for England. The Blackcaps blazed through India’s top order to help cement a place in the final. They’ll be looking to repeat that against the hosts.
AC: New Zealand’s opening pace vs England’s openers Roy and Bairstow. When Roy's on, he’s ON. He can be described as fluid big hitter at worst, a destructive match winner at best. New Zealand’s pacers (Boult, Henry, and Lockie) are in for a challenge but they’ve showed they can defend any total (New Zealand has not scored more than 300 once this entire tournament).
AT: Opening Batsmen vs New Ball. Who can get the all-important early inroads?
PJ: Roy vs Boult and Henry. If Roy can get it going early, New Zealand will be in DEEP trouble.
3. Most important player for England?
CV: For England, Roy is key. He’s been on fire in the games he’s played. If Roy gets going, he can singlehandedly take away the game from New Zealand. If he gets out quickly, England will face a slight setback and it could open the door for more wickets.
AC: I'm gonna go with one of two choices here: Stokes or Bairstow. Stokes can have an impact in all three phases of the game and if he dabbles his hand in each of them, he can singlehandedly change the match. Bairstow – who can lead from the front and get a big score quickly in any game, is also a worthy candidate.
AT: The obvious answer is Jason Roy (since his return, the opening partnerships have dominated), but I'm going to Joe with Root ;). He's the glue in their order and can anchor down or accelerate at will.
PJ: Jason Roy. If he can score 75+ the match is over. Not only is his strike rate amazing, but he has an uncanny knack of demoralizing a bowling attack and taking the fire out of 11 men.
4. Most important player for New Zealand?
CV: I think Martin Guptill is the most important player for New Zealand in this final. He’s been complete garbage this tournament after a sublime performance in 2015. If Guptill can click in the final, it’ll redeem an otherwise forgettable tournament run for the Kiwi opener.
AC: Kane Williamson, without a doubt. He does need to score a tad quicker in my opinion if the Blackcaps hope to put up a score of 330+ versus England. Martin Guptill is also someone to watch out for. I know he’s had a poor cup so far but maybe that run-out throw in the semis will give him the confidence he needs to go back to 2015 World Cup batting form right when his team needs it most.
AT: Kane Williamson- DUH. he's been New Zealand's best batsman this entire tournament. He needs to play the innings of his life to propel the batting order. If Williamson gets out early, then England will have a huge advantage.
PJ: Mitchell Santner. It's a slightly wild choice, but the game will come down to his ability to take wickets. Santner will likely be brought on within the first 15 overs and if he can take a couple quick ones as he has done in the past, England will be on the back foot. Plus he can chip in with the bat if needed.
5. England wins if....
CV: The openers click. Roy and Bairstow are so destructive, as India and Australia witnessed. If the openers get going and stay there for a long time, England might top 400.
AC: If the hosts bat first and score 350+ and have a good bowling powerplay. I don’t think New Zealand has quite the firepower down the order to make up for a slow start in a 350+ run chase.
AT: The hosts bat first and put up 300+. With their bowling, New Zealand won't chase that down.
PJ: Jason Roy scores 75 or more runs.
6. New Zealand wins if....
CV: The pace bowlers take early wickets. Trent Boult and Matt Henry have been consistently delivering breakthroughs for the Blackcaps. Lockie Ferguson is an excellent secondary option that can also change the game.
AC: If it gets to bat first and doesn’t face the pressure of a looming 330+ target. The Kiwis can bat freely, getting 300+ themselves. They’ll back their bowlers to defend any total.
AT: If the Blackcaps can get Roy and Bairstow out in the first powerplay and if Williamson and Ross Taylor play like they have been.
PJ: Ross Taylor scores 75+. He often goes unnoticed, but Taylor is the perfect compliment to any top order batsman in New Zealand's lineup. And once he’s set, we all know he can increase the run rate. Is there one more "Ross Taylor game" left in his career?
7. Final Prediction: Which teams wins and who is the Man of the Match?
CV: I picked England at the beginning of the tournament and switched my pick to New Zealand after 30 games. I’ll stick with the Blackcaps to lift their first World Cup trophy with Trent Boult taking Man of the Match honors.
AC: New Zealand bats first, puts up a 300+ score. England starts strong at about 120-1, but a wicket in the middle leads to a small collapse, and then New Zealand bowlers smell blood, finishing off the game by bowling England out.
AT: I think it'll be another one-sided match. England wins and Eoin Morgan is Man of the Match.
PJ: England is the better side. The hosts will win this contest behind a brilliant, unbeaten century from Joe Root, who will also get the Man of the Match honors and likely the Player of the Tournament award.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
The semifinals are officially set with top seed India taking on New Zealand and second seed Australia battling the hosts England.
India captured the top seed on the last day of the group stage, topping Sri Lanka and seeing Australia lose to South Africa. The Men in Blue have a deadly opener in Rohit Sharma, arguably the best batsman in the world in Virat Kohli and plenty of bowling talent.
Sharma is on fire. He's the frontrunner for Player of the Tournament and will almost certainly win the award should India go all the way. Five centuries, including three in a row, is no easy feat. With Shikhar Dhawan out for the tournament, Sharma has carried the mantle as India's opener. New Zealand has to plan for him.
Kohli has flown under the radar, but he's been stellar in the tournament. The captain has 442 runs, but has yet to play the big innings he's known for. Kohli hasn't had to do much this tournament with Sharma's form, but he's more than capable of carrying India all the way to the title. New Zealand is going to throw a lot of pace at Kohli; will he successfully navigate it?
The issue for India is what happens if Sharma and Kohli don't click. It hasn't happened so far, but usually the law of averages catches up to teams at some point. KL Rahul has played a solid hand in the last three games, but India's supporting cast has been very underwhelming. Here's India's run distribution heading into the matchup with New Zealand.
It's pure comedy that Sharma has been worth the rest of the team on his own up to this point. Kohli is contributing his usual weight and Rahul has chipped in a significant percentage of runs, but the rest of the team has been off. MS Dhoni has been criticized for his approach, but that's just who he is at this point. 2011 Dhoni isn't walking through the door. Hardik Pandya has fired at the end of an innings, but can he rescue a situation? Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav haven't shown the ability to step up.
All this leads to the question of whether India should play both its specialist spinners against the Blackcaps. Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav started off the World Cup on fire, but both have struggled of late. Ravindra Jadeja has been utilized in the field, but could India field him in the playing XI to add an additional bat?
Here's what India's spinners have done up to this point. Chahal and Yadav have played every game together except for the final two contests, where India fielded just one specialist spinner. The former has been the more consistent performer, but has also gone for more runs.
Chahal Figures: 4/51, 2/62, 0/53, 2/36, 2/39, 0/88, 1/50
Yadav Figures: 1/46, 0/55, 2/32, 0/39, 1/35, 1/72, 1/58
India will absolutely play one of Chahal and Yadav. The question is whether Jadeja should get a nod as a member of the playing XI. If Jadeja plays, Chahal likely gets the nod.
New Zealand is dealing with its own issues. After storming through the first half of the group stage, the Kiwis looked like a complete wreck in the last three contests. New Zealand got pummeled by Australia and England, which surely put in dent in the team's confidence. But New Zealand did enough in the early stages of the tournament to create a buffer and advance to the semifinals on net run rate.
One positive for New Zealand is the performance of the three all-rounders. James Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme and Mitchell Santner have contributed with both bat and ball, extending New Zealand's batting lineup and giving Kane Williamson additional reliable bowling options. Unfortunately, the contributions with bat and ball haven't all come together in the same games for the all-rounders.
Match 4 was the rained out contest against India. The all-rounders didn't need to bat in Match 1 or 3, resulting in nothing for those contests. If New Zealand can get a complete performance from its three all-rounders, the Blackcaps will be in good shape.
Williamson's form is another thing to watch. New Zealand's openers have been pathetic, failing to create magic after the opening match. Martin Guptill looks washed up and there hasn't been a reliable partner next to him. Colin Munro looked lost after the opening match and Henry Nicholls appears out of his element. If Williamson can't steady the ship in the middle, the Kiwis are doomed. And after a stellar run early, Williamson is struggling.
Scoring in the 40s isn't bad, but it's not helpful either when both your openers are toast in 25-30 runs. Williamson and Ross Taylor (who needs to not try to turn clear singles into impossible 2s) need to re-establish themselves in the middle order. The all-rounders should show up to extend New Zealand's batting lineup, but the captain needs to show why he's a star.
In the second semifinal, Australia will face off with England in a rematch of a thrilling group stage game. England looked like it would chase down Australia with Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler in the middle, but Mitchell Starc struck and the Aussies pulled out the win. Starc has been brilliant and Pat Cummins has been a strong partner from the other end of the pitch, but Australia's supporting bowlers need to step up. Here's the wicket distribution among the Aussies.
If England goes into the game looking to see Starc through, Australia could have a problem on its hands. Starc won't concede runs, but he's Australia's most reliable wicket-taking option. If he can't strike, England could do real damage. Joe Root and Stokes have been anchors in the middle, but the opening pair responsible for much of the host's success is back.
Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow have batted together five times in this tournament, averaging 61.6 runs per stand. In the four other games, England's opening pair (Bairstow-Root once and Bairstow-Vince thrice) averaged 35. Roy and Bairstow have two stands of 100+ runs, while the other pairs have two stands under 2 runs. There's no comparison.
This semifinal could be a big moment for two players who have underwhelmed in this tournament. Buttler, a popular pick to be Player of the Tournament, has had a volatile run. He started off the tournament with some fireworks, but has consistently failed to click at the back half of the group stage. Unless Buttler leads England to the title with two monster innings, he's not coming anywhere near the Player of the Tournament honors.
For Australia, all-rounder Glenn Maxwell needs to step up. With the status of Usman Khawaja and Marcus Stoinis in doubt, Maxwell needs to score runs. He's maintained a supreme strike rate at 163.15, but his average is a paltry 17.22. Australia doesn't need the explosive innings; it just needs a real innings from Maxwell.
Buttler has been the slightly better player with an average of 31.63 (he didn't bat in one contest)and his strike rate of 130.41 is great. England just needs him to play the extended knock rather than a quick-fire 25 or 30, unless the situation calls for it. Maxwell, on the other hand, just needs to score some runs. How these players perform could determine which team comes out on top.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
The 2019 World Cup should be the end of the road for Chris Gayle. He'll likely get an honorary selection as the West Indies get set to defend the T20 World Cup crown next year, but Gayle's playing days are probably over on the international level. He'll still be around in T20 leagues raking in cash and sending balls out of the ground, but Gayle's confusing legacy as an all-timer at the international level has likely come to a close.
Gayle is the only player in cricket to have 10,000 runs in the T20 format of the competition and he's led the West Indies to two T20 World Cup titles. He's taken aggression at the top to the next level and at his peak, Gayle could singlehandedly win a match. Unfortunately, that didn't translate to the one-day format.
The West Indies have gone 118-159 in ODIs with Gayle playing. He's played with the likes of Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Kieron Pollard and Marlon Samuels so it wasn't like his supporting cast wasn't talented. For an all-time great like Gayle, that W-L mark is part of his confusing place among the game's best. In the ODI format, you could argue Gayle isn't one of the best to play the game. He simply didn't lead his team to anything significant in the one-day arena.
In the T20 format, Gayle is significantly better. The West Indies are 28-24 in T20 internationals when the left-handed batsman plays, but those wins include two championships. Gayle is a devastating T20 player and he's been able to benefit from it. Not only has he extended his playing career, but the earnings from leagues around the world have allowed him to set up The Chris Gayle Academy to help underprivileged children. In this format, Gayle is an all-timer. He's likely the best ever. In the format many consider the future of the sport, Gayle helped create the excitement and interest.
Gayle's tenure has not been without controversy. He has had numerous spats with the West Indies Cricket Board (all of which were justified) and his comment about T20 cricket replacing Test cricket sparked an incredibly unnecessary debate. His comments to cricket presenter Mel McLaughlin in an interview during the Big Bash League were obviously wrong and that will remain with Gayle forever. But his cricket-related controversies have been justified and they've paved the way for WICB to operate better.
So after a disappointing 2019 World Cup campaign where the West Indies will likely finish ninth, where does Gayle's international legacy stand? He scored 242 runs for the West Indies in the tournament as his swan song, but the time has come for the big man to step aside and let the team venture into the future. In the ODI format, Gayle doesn't touch the top 10 and potentially the top 25. In the T20 format, the modern standard for cricket, he's at the top of the list. His off-field record is spotty, but his work on behalf of West Indies players and charitable actions outweigh his childish moments. Very few fans will forget his batting style. Everyone has seen at least one great "Chris Gayle innings". Perhaps that's why he'll always be remembered around the world.
Chris Gayle has been a confusing player to critique for his entire career. His legacy is no different.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
We're officially halfway through the 2019 World Cup and a lot has gone as expected. England, India, Australia and New Zealand have started to separate themselves from the rest of the pack and would be the semifinalists as of this writing.
What hasn't gone to plan is South Africa's tournament. The Proteas have been awful in all phases of the game and got their lone win against a demoralized Afghanistan squad. South Africa needs to win out to have a shot at the semifinal, a massive undertaking considering the remaining opponents. It's been a rough go so far for the team and the leaks of AB de Villiers wanting to be part of the squad and being denied by South Africa management couldn't have helped the mood. West Indies and Pakistan have underwhelmed, but there's still time for them to turn things around. Let's dive into the five big takeaways at the halfway point.
1. Bangladesh believed (and the players have backed it up so far)
This was the World Cup Shakib Al Hasan felt his country could win. It was the fourth World Cup for the core group of Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mashrafe Mortaza, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah. If there was any time to make a mark on the world stage, it was with this experienced group leading the way. Sprinkle in the young talent like Soumya Sarkar, Mustafizur Rahman and Liton Das and there was reason to be excited.
Bangladesh got off to a flying start in its first match against South Africa. Al Hasan and Rahim led the way with scores of 75 and 78, respectively. Mahmudullah put together a splendid 46 from 33 to push the team to 330-6. The bowlers did their job in a big win.
In a big win over West Indies, Bangladesh chased down 321 to prove the team can handle pressure. Al Hasan was the star with a century and Das added 90 from 68 to showcase the Tigers' fighting spirit.
With four games left, Bangladesh stands at fifth with 5 points. The Tigers still have to contend with India and Australia, but should be able to handle Pakistan and Afghanistan. Al Hasan leads the tournament with 384 runs and has the confidence to continue his great performance. This is Bangladesh's moment and it has seized the chance.
2. Rohit Sharma has India in contention
The "Hitman" has two centuries and a half-century to carry the Indian top order in Shikhar Dhawan's absence. Sharma has been tempered when he needs to be, but has flipped the switch at the right time. He's putting up a strike rate of 159.5, an unreal rate through three played games.
The opener played his biggest hand in India's rivalry game against Pakistan, scoring 140 to lead the way to a monster total. India is cruising in every game it has played and the rainout against New Zealand might be a blessing in disguise. A potential loss against the upstart Blackcaps could've stopped India's momentum. The schedule eases up now for the Men in Blue. With Sharma leading the way, India is firmly in contention status.
3. The ICC's false narrative has been exposed
The 10-team World Cup was supposed to make games "more competitive" by eliminating teams with less proven talent. The idea was to create great games by eliminating the blowout matches. Little did the ICC realize the result of the game is based on execution, not just talent level.
Halfway through the tournament, we've seen exactly four competitive games. Of course, a week of rained out matches hasn't helped the cause but the matches have been largely predictable at the halfway mark. The real reason the ICC wanted this type of format was nine India games, bolstering the revenue of the Cup. It's all about money at the end of the day.
With the World Cup contracting, it's increasingly hard to see avenues for the game to grow. BCCI doesn't care and it appears the ICC doesn't either, but people have taken notice. It's hardly a "world" tournament with 10 teams. The false narrative of more competitive cricket has been exposed.
4. Mitchell Starc is still the best bowler in the world
Coming into the World Cup, Starc's health was a concern. The left-arm speedster was battling a multitude of injuries and his status was important for Australia's chances. Starc has been healthy, alright.
He's tied for the most wickets in the tournament and his breakthroughs have come at key times. His 5-for performance against the West Indies turned the match in Australia's favor and his demolition of Sri Lanka prevented a potentially embarrassing loss. Starc has been everything we expected and more. There's a reason he was the Player of the Tournament in the 2015 World Cup. He's still, when healthy, the best bowler in the world.
5. England is for real
We knew England was the favorite as the host country, but there's always concerns about whether the squad will live up to expectations or flounder. England doesn't exactly have a great track record in World Cups and the 2015 tournament was particularly disappointing. However, that disappointment has led to the turnaround over the last four years. And it's been on full display so far.
England is averaging 328.2 runs per game, by far the best mark in the tournament. The team nearly chased down 343 against Pakistan despite being seven wickets down. That's the batting power in England's lineup. Joe Root has lived up to his superstar billing, checking in at second right now in the run tally with 367.
Root's exploits aren't the only thing driving England. Captain Eoin Morgan set a record of his own with 17 sixes against Afghanistan in a devastating innings. Morgan had hit 194 sixes in 210 innings prior to his record-setting game. The captain himself is now at 249 runs for the tournament.
England is so balanced as a unit it's hard to find a weak spot. Johnny Bairstow and Jason Roy each have more than 200 runs and Jos Buttler has 187. Even Ben Stokes clicked in the opening game. With this kind of lineup, it's hard to plan for any one batsman. Anybody could do damage.
With 24 games gone, England is 4-1 and at the top of the table. The tough part of schedule comes in now with Australia, New Zealand and India in the fold. Luckily, the hosts have done enough work to this point to likely only need one win from these three games to make the semis.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
"After 25 years in cricket I've decided to move on. Cricket has given me everything I have. Thank you for being a part of this journey” - Yuvraj Singh (via BCCI)
Singh officially announced his retirement from international cricket, finishing his impressive career as an all-rounder with 8,701 ODI runs and 111 ODI wickets. His aggressive batting style embodied his resiliency in a historic career, one that will cement him as a top-10 all-rounder in the history of the game.
He struggled early in his international career, showcasing his inconsistency at the 2003 World Cup. His subsequent seasons were marred by the same swings in form, a product of his batting style. Singh was an effective bowler as a part-time spin option, but didn't make a tremendous impact in that area either. Despite these struggles, Singh was a regular member of India's playing XI. He finished his career with 304 one-day matches.
In the 2007 World Cup, the entire Indian team face-planted out of the group stage. Singh had his share of issues as well. He redeemed himself at the 2007 T20 World Cup, the inaugural competition in that format. And that's where he had his first memorable moment.
In his demolition, Singh made the fastest 50 in T20 cricket history. It was also the fastest in any form of the game and it's a record that still stands today.
Despite India's win at the 2007 World T20, Singh again faced fitness issues and was on the fence for the squad. He was in and out of the team over the next several years, most notably being dropped from the 2010 Asia Cup after the 2010 World T20. These questions about his form and fitness forced Singh to once again prove the naysayers wrong and he did so in absolutely sublime fashion.
The 2011 World Cup was extremely important for India. It was the last World Cup for the country's "golden generation" with prominent players like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan unlikely to play in a World Cup again. Newcomers like Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina were determined to etch their names in history. After a disastrous 2007 campaign, MS Dhoni was looking to prove his mettle as a captain. Singh was selected in the side, but it was unsure how much he would play.
The left-handed all-rounder put together arguably the greatest stretch of cricket in a World Cup, tallying 362 runs and picking up 15 wickets to lead India to the title. He scored a century and four half-centuries and became the first player in history to score a half-century and pick up five wickets in the same match. Singh won four Man of the Match awards and eventually was named Player of the Series. His run in the knockout stage in particular burnished his legacy as an all-time Indian great.
Singh took two wickets and scored an unbeaten 57 to dispatch Australia in the quarterfinal. His final boundary shot and the emotion that followed will forever be in the minds of cricket fans across the world. For the first time since 1992, Australia wouldn't be playing in a World Cup final. Singh had slayed the giant.
Against Pakistan, Singh got out on the first ball in what wound up being a tense match. However, he made contributions in the second inning with two key wickets and a catch. In the final, Singh again took two important wickets to help India limit Sri Lanka to 274. His unbeaten 21 as part of the winning partnership capped off his thunderous comeback on the international stage and India's championship.
Perhaps Singh's greatest comeback came off the cricket field. He was diagnosed with cancer in his lung shortly after the World Cup and there were serious questions whether he would ever step on a cricket field again. However, Singh beat cancer and returned in time for India's 2012 World T20. He continued to showcase his brilliance in the international and domestic arena, but wasn't able to make the 2015 World Cup squad. His 2017 Champions Trophy knock against Pakistan in the group stage was his swan song. 53 runs in 32 balls to push India past 300 in a rivalry game. It was a classic Yuvraj Singh innings at the perfect moment.
"I have never stopped believing in myself...always believe in yourself" - Yuvraj Singh (via BCCI)
Remember him for his brilliance. Remember him for his all-around skill. Remember him for his 2011 World Cup. But most importantly, remember him for his resiliency. Yuvraj Singh never quit, even when everything seemed to be going against him. He rose to the occasion every single time and his playing style embodied his journey. He's an all-time great and an Indian cricket legend. Yuvraj Singh's legacy has been cemented.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
85 from 107 balls in a win over Kenya in 2007. 131 not out from 124 balls in a win over Pakistan in 2011. It never happened in 2015 and it likely won't happen in the upcoming 2019 World Cup in England.
I'm talking, of course, about the infamous "Ross Taylor Game". Taylor has long been dubbed a star in New Zealand's lineup, but he rarely consistently delivered strong performances, especially in World Cups. He would pop off occasionally, usually only for one match. That match would then be called the "Ross Taylor Game".
But in the 2015 World Cup, something strange happened. The "Ross Taylor Game" never showed up. Taylor strung together foundational performances of 56, 42, 30 and then 40 in a loss in the final against Australia. He never exploded to create the magical match-winning innings to keep his streak going. For New Zealand, it obviously wants Taylor to be more consistent and anchor the middle order. The last two years of cricket offer a glimpse into what Taylor can do and how it benefits the Kiwis in the 2019 World Cup.
The methodology is straightforward. Taylor has played 203 career innings and I've taken his career average, century rate, half-century rate and strike rate from those innings. In the last two years, Taylor has been remarkably consistent even as he hits age 35. I've compared his numbers in 41 innings from 2017-2019 (before the World Cup) to his career numbers. Here's what we see. Average and strike rate are up first. The career numbers are on the left and the numbers from the last two years are on the right. The graph for average is on the left and the graph for strike rate is on the right.
As you can see, Taylor's strike rate hasn't changed. His aggressiveness isn't on display, but his average has climbed by almost 15 runs. It's the difference between a solid start and converting that start into something bigger. If Taylor keeps averaging 53.65 runs, that allows the batsmen around him in New Zealand's middle order to fire at will. Taylor used to be the aggressor, but his role as an anchor will be more favorable for the Kiwis this summer. Here are his century and half-century conversion rates from his career and from his last two years. The career numbers are on the left and the numbers from 2017-19 are on the right. The century rate graph is on the left and the half-century rate graph is on the right.
As the data shows, Taylor isn't really converting the big scores. However, he's scoring 50s at a much better rate due to his newfound role as an anchor rather than aggressor. Taylor is not playing the big shots or looking for quick runs in this setting. He's building the foundation for others around him to pick up the run rate. In New Zealand's middle order filled with all-rounders, Taylor provides a great floor and a safety valve. He's learned how to become an anchor and it bodes well for the Blackcaps at the 2019 World Cup.
Unfortunately, this means we likely won't get a "Ross Taylor Game" from the middle-order batsman at the Cup. I'm sure fans would love to see Taylor fire off a blazing century while dusting opposing bowlers in the process. However, that approach usually has come back to bite New Zealand later in the tournament in the past.
This time around, Taylor won't be swinging for the fences recklessly. He's going to be an anchor, supporting the rest of New Zealand's batsmen as they look to go for broke. It won't result in one-game heroics, but it could result in the Blackcaps hoisting the World Cup trophy for the first time in history. And for Taylor, that would be far sweeter than firing in one match.
Note: All statistics as of May 25, 2019
By: Chinmay Vaidya
Many casual cricket fans won't remember Steve Smith's early playing days. I however, as many Australia fans and die-hard cricket fans, do remember. Smith has come a long way from his early matches as a bowling all-rounder.
Yes, you read that right. Steve Smith used to be a bowling all-rounder for Australia. So how did this guy transform from a young legspinner into one of the best top-order batsmen in the world?
Obviously, it took a lot of patience on Smith's part. While he honed his batting skills, legends like Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke held the No. 3 spot down. Even George Bailey got his chances at the position. During a time of confusion about the lineup, the Australians even experimented with Mitchell Marsh and Adam Voges at the spot. But when Smith eventually needed a bigger role, he got the most coveted position in Australia's lineup.
It also took a lot of work from Smith. Players don't just suddenly flip a switch and become good at something they weren't known for, especially on the international level. Smith was an average bowler at best globally. As a batsman, he's one of the four or five best in the world. Let's dive into the numbers illustrating this amazing transformation of one of Australia's best players.
In the first four years of his career, Smith was primarily a bowler. He would often bat at No. 6 as a traditional all-rounder, but he was in the team to make a difference with the ball. Here's his batting and bowling stats from his first four years of ODI cricket.
Steve Smith Statistics (age 20-24)
Batting: 399 runs, 17.35 average, 0 100s, 0 50s
Bowling: 149.5 overs, 22 wickets, 5.2 economy, 35.45 average
So when exactly did Smith flex his batting chops?
The first sign that a change in his playing role was coming happened in August 2014. Australia was involved in a triangular series with South Africa and Zimbabwe, with the latter playing hosts. Smith batted at No. 3 twice in this series, scoring 36 and 10. Not exactly a performance worthy of anointing him at the de facto option at the position, but it was a start. The confirmation happened in Australia's next ODI series.
Smith scored a century in Australia's opening ODI against Pakistan at Sharjah. He faltered in the next match, but went on to make 77 in the third and final ODI of the series. In that three-game set, Smith poured in 190 runs and cemented himself as a true batsman. In Australia's tour of South Africa, Smith scored 254 runs as a middle-order batsman in four matches. His century and two 50s confirmed his batting chops and Australia reacted accordingly. Smith was set as the No. 3 batsman in a Tri-Series with India and England in Australia ahead of the 2015 World Cup. He scored an unbeaten 102 and 40 in two matches against England, giving him a platform to build on for the World Cup.
In the 2015 World Cup, Smith shined. He churned out 402 runs in seven innings with one century and four half-centuries. His 105 in the semifinal against defending champions India was the highlight of the tournament. Smith followed that up with 56 not out to help Australia capture its fifth World Cup title. The transformation was complete with a trophy as icing on the cake.
Here's how Smith has performed with bat and ball after his first four years in one-day cricket. In case you were wondering, he basically doesn't bowl anymore.
Steve Smith (age 25 - present)
Batting: 3,032 runs, 42.70 average, 8 100s, 19 50s
Bowling: 24.3 overs, 5 wickets, 6.16 economy, 30.20 average
Heading into the 2019 World Cup, there's no confusion about Smith's role in the team. This is his first major international competition since the ball-tampering scandal and his IPL campaign left a lot to be desired.
There's questions whether Smith's best days have passed. It'll be up to the Aussie star to prove the doubters wrong in England. He's done it once in his career by switching from ball to bat. This time, it'll be about showing why he's still one of the best batsmen in the world.
Note: All statistics as of May 25, 2019
By: Chinmay Vaidya
In horror or mystery movies, the famous line is usually: "The Butler did it". We may be experiencing a similar situation unfold at the 2019 World Cup and it'll only be a horror movie for the opposition. Jos Buttler, England's explosive finisher, will be expected to deliver big-time results at the end of innings. England is already one of the best run-scoring teams in the tournament, but Buttler's impact goes beyond runs on the board. He's usually the difference in wins and losses.
Most good players play well regardless of the final outcome. This isn't to say they don't impact the game, but they usually don't sway the result singlehandedly. Buttler, on the other hand, is volatile. As a hitter, he either clicks and produces runs in a hurry or gets out quickly trying to. This often determines what England finishes with on the board or how successful a chase is, depending on whether the team batted or bowled first. Here are Buttler's splits in wins and losses. The graphs below show his average and strike rate in wins and losses, with the blue bars representing his numbers in wins and the red bars showcasing the losses. Average is on the left, strike rate is on the right.
We're talking a 40+ run difference on average in wins versus losses for Buttler. Those runs come at significantly faster rate in wins. The conclusion here is simple: if Buttler clicks at the end of an innings, it's curtains for the opposition. This is further supporter by Buttler's century and half-century conversion rates in wins and losses. The blue bars are his conversion rates in wins and the red bars highlight the numbers in losses. The left graph is century rates and the right graph is half-century rates.
Buttler converts centuries and half-centuries at a ridiculously better margin in wins than in losses. But wouldn't these rules hold for every player? Surely everyone plays better in wins.
This is where we get to impact. I looked at the win-loss difference in averages for Jason Roy, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes, the rest of England's true batting lineup. Here are those numbers.
Root W-L: 64.67 vs. 36.44
Stokes W-L: 51.75 vs. 25.36
Morgan W-L: 51.24 vs. 28.1
Roy W-L: 46.81 vs. 29.14
Bairstow W-L: 58.2 vs. 32.11
We've already got Buttler's win-loss splits above and simple math says his differential will be the highest. But how much higher is it?
Oddly enough, the aggressive Roy has the least difference between wins and losses. Root is so brilliant in wins he has a high differential, but the rest of the group is fairly similar. Buttler is in a different conversation entirely with a differential at nearly double of Morgan. This further cements Buttler as England's most impactful player.
Note: All statistics as of May 25, 2019
By: Chinmay Vaidya
Let's face it; things don't exactly go South Africa's way in World Cups. 1992, 1999, 2007 and 2015 will forever be etched in South African fans' memories. A lot of the Proteas' struggles are preventable, but some are sheerly bad luck. For the 2019 campaign, one the team will have to embark on without superstar AB de Villiers, it'll be up to openers Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock to re-discover historically good form.
South Africa's openers are elite when it comes to average opening stands, with a minimum of 50 partnerships. Amla and de Kock are the best active opening pair with the innings limitation, averaging 47.78 runs per partnership. They have had 10 100-run stands and 14 50-run stands in their illustrious career as opening partners. However, the duo's recent form has been lackluster.
In their last 10 opening stands, Amla and de Kock have put together zero 100-run stands. They've got 2 50-run stands and clock in at an average of 36.2 runs per partnership. That is simply not going to cut it for South Africa in the World Cup, especially without de Villiers to provide consistent runs. de Kock had a stellar IPL season and should be able to carry that form into England. Amla has experience, but will he able to handle the top-end pace bowlers in English conditions?
The rest of South Africa's roster features a mix between foundational batsmen and aggressive hitters, meaning the Amla-de Kock duo must routinely provide a good platform for the Proteas to hunt down big totals.
Amla is the key. If he can re-discover his 2015 World Cup form, where he scored 333 runs at 41.62 runs on average, South Africa will in good shape. de Kock's aggression and Amla's stability have always been a strong opening combination. If there's ever a good time for them to get back to their historic ways, the 2019 World Cup would be it.
Note: All statistics as of May 25, 2019
By: Chinmay Vaidya
It's no real secret Shikhar Dhawan performs better in ICC competitions. It's why he's been dubbed "ICC Shikhar" by many, including us here at The Follow On. However, the gap between his ICC and non-ICC numbers is quite staggering and it makes Dhawan finding his form almost imperative for India to rise to the top and win the 2019 World Cup.
Dhawan wasn't really a major factor in Indian cricket for the early part of his career. He'd been good, but not great in IPL and his international resume was quite ordinary. Then the 2015 World Cup happened and all of a sudden, "ICC Shikhar" had arrived.
With Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag happily retired, India turned to Rohit Sharma and Dhawan to open the batting. The left-hander responded in the 2015 tournament with a team-high 412 runs, including two centuries and one half-century. His 51.50 true average was one of the best on the team and he proved he could be a star in a lineup full of them.
The 2017 Champions Trophy was another telling moment. Dhawan tallied 338 runs to once again lead India in that department. He notched one century, two half-centuries and a true average of 67.60. So how much better is "ICC Shikhar" compared to the one playing in normal ODIs?
The methodology here is pretty simple. I took Dhawan's ICC matches (1 World Cup and 2 Champions Trophy events) and tallied up his average, strike rate, century rate and half-century rate. I then subtracted his ICC stats from his overall numbers, giving me his non-ICC match numbers. After calculating the average, strike rate, century rate and half-century rate from his non-ICC matches, here's the comparison for Dhawan. The blue bars represent his non- ICC numbers and the red bars represent his ICC numbers. The first graph is for average and strike rate, with average on the left and strike rate on the right.
There's not really a big difference in strike rate, but the average is better by more than 20 runs. Dhawan, for some reason, simply scores more per match in ICC events. The sample size is obviously very different (18 ICC to 109 non-ICC), but think about this: Dhawan has replicated his high scoring in three separate ICC events from 2013, 2015 and 2017. It's hard to think his good form suddenly kicks in at the exact time the ICC event rolls around. There's something about pressure games that gets Dhawan going. Next up, his century and half-century conversion rates. Blue bars represent his non-ICC numbers and red bars show his ICC ones. Century rate is on the left, half-century rate is on the right.
The half-century rates are similar. Dhawan converts a 50 about 21 percent of the time in regular ODIs and 22 percent of the time in ICC ODIs. It's the century rate that should really excite India. The lefty star converts centuries at nearly 3 times the rate in ICC ODIs as he does in regular ODIs. For some reason, Dhawan clicks more often under pressure than he does in ordinary games. That's not to say he doesn't try in those games, but there's just something about ICC competition that brings out the best in him.
For India, which relies on its top 3 batsmen heavily, Dhawan re-discovering his ICC form once again would be a godsend. The left-hander has developed into star over three ICC tournaments and his performance in this one will shape his cricket legacy. If he can put on another run show while leading India to the top of the tournament and collecting some individual records himself, his status as "ICC Shikhar" will be cemented.
Note: All statistics as of May 25, 2019
By: Chinmay Vaidya
It was an odd year, something Mumbai Indians have thrived in for the last half decade. In 2013, 2015 and 2017, the franchise captured its first three IPL titles to hold the most championships in league history. However, Chennai Super Kings won last season's title to level the overall championship score at 3-3 and CSK's consistency across every season in the tournament has been more impactful than Mumbai's recent string of wins. Still, the final showdown between Chennai and Mumbai would be another defining moment in IPL history between the two sides most responsible for shaping the competition.
In scenes reminiscent from 2017, Mumbai set what many would consider a total below par on the board at 149. The Indians then clawed their way back in the second half of the game and eventually won by 1 run, just like they did two years ago. Mumbai now has an IPL-record four championships and completed its 4-0 sweep of CSK in 2019.
As openers Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock had done all season, they got off to a quick start but couldn't convert into big scores. The Indians were cruising at a little over 9.0 runs per over before de Kock perished in the fifth over. Sharma followed three balls later. The rest of the batting lineup had to dig in on a sticky surface in Hyderabad and gut out runs. Kieron Pollard's 41 from 25 pushed Mumbai to 149 at the end of the innings. It was runs on the board in a final.
Mumbai has a history of successfully defending what one might consider poor totals. The Indians beat Rising Pune Supergiant in 2017 with 130 on the board. They took down Sunrisers this season with 136 and CSK with 155. It was going to require a similar effort in the final.
Shane Watson, who blasted 117 not out in last season's final, looked in great touch once again. He finished with 80 runs in 59 balls, but his indecision on a run out in the final over was costly. Jasprit Bumrah had crucial breakthroughs with the wickets of Ambati Rayudu and Dwayne Bravo. But the most important character of the final was Sharma, who cemented his legacy as a leader throughout this season.
Let's consider some of the decisions Sharma had to make this season. Mayank Markande, last year's sensational bowler, was swapped out for Rahul Chahar. The latter dismissed Suresh Raina early. Mitchell McClenaghan, who had spent more than a month on the bench after playing the opening three games for Mumbai and the final game against KKR, got the nod for the final. He bowled four clean overs. Sharma had a choice to make between Lasith Malinga and Hardik Pandya for the final over. The latter had only gone for three runs in his lone over, but he has consistently been one of the worst death bowlers in IPL history. Sharma went with Malinga even though the aging Sri Lankan had gone for 42 runs in his previous three overs.
Malinga gave up just seven runs in the final over, including a wicket on a slower ball on the last delivery to seal the win. He had this to say in the post-match presentation on his decision to go for the win with the slower ball.
"Last ball, I thought that if they get one run, it would be a Super Over, but I wanted us to win," Malinga said. "So I went for my wicket ball."
After struggling in the first five seasons of the tournament and appearing in just one final, the Indians have made their mark in the next seven. Mumbai has won four titles in seven seasons and doesn't look to be going away anytime soon. The Indians were going up against the IPL's dynasty in CSK and needed every ounce of effort from every player on the field to cement their status as one of the premier franchises in the league.
With two franchises looking to make history, it all came down to one run in a final during an odd year. It wasn't going to be anybody but the Indians lifting that trophy.