The group stage of the ICC Cricket World Cup opened Tuesday and continues until March 25. The Super Eight stage runs from March 27 to April 21. The semifinals will be played April 24-25, and the finals will be Saturday, April 28, in Barbados. Follow all of the action on cricinfo.com . Michael Davies will provide weekly coverage of the tournament here on Page 2.
For another look at the basics of cricket, check out our E-ticket video from August 2005.
As the ICC Cricket World Cup enters its 14th week, the field has been trimmed to less than 83 teams playing 476 matches over the next three and a half years, and it is perhaps time to reflect on just why this event has captured the imagination of absolutely no one on the entire planet who doesn't live in Bangladesh or Jamaica.
True, the New York Times has devoted a front page story to the event, and nobody expected that. But nobody expected either that the Pakistani coach, the former England cricketer, Bob Woolmer (who scored 149 runs against Australia the first time I ever went to an international cricket match when I was 9), would be murdered in his hotel room after his team somehow managed to lose to Ireland. This is beyond tragic; it is sickening. I have no idea about the motives for the killing, but I can guarantee this. If Woolmer's death is related to cricket, then his killer hated sports. Had no appreciation of sports. Knew nothing of sports. To kill someone in the name of sport is to kill sport itself. This event died the moment that Bob Woolmer died. Like the "Sahkah" World Cup in 1994 after the Colombian defender, Andres Escobar, was shot 10 days after his own goal. Like the 1972 Olympics after 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by the Palestinian Black September. The Cricket World Cup is irrelevant now. For all I care, Bangladesh could lose to Ireland in the final, one of the O'Brien quintuplets hitting a nine (overthrows) off the final ball for victory. I wouldn't care.
And here are 10 other reasons not to care about the Cricket World Cup
1. You are American.
2. Not even the people of the Caribbean really seem to care unless their team's playing.
3. Bermuda and Canada, our beloved neighbors, have been eliminated
4. This is the bastardized, condensed and zippy, eight-and-a-half hour, one-day version of the sport -- you like your international cricket matches to last at least the full five days.
5. Weirdly, you find a buzzer-beating doozy of an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 matchup more exciting than watching a Cricket World Cup rain delay.
6. "American" Idol is on tonight and Chris Sligh just has to go after that awful "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" performance.
7. This weekend is your annual UK versus the US golf event with your buddies on Kiawah Island in South Carolina, you're playing the Ocean Course twice and you've designed trophies and everything.
8. You only watch sports in HD.
9. You only approve of bat and ball games where the fielders wear at least one glove.
10. The Car of Tomorrow.
And yet, I have to care. Firstly, I have been ordered by the leaders of ESPN.com to put finger to keyboard and grind out a preview of the interminable second phase of the longest tournament in human, animal or sea creature history. Secondly, I am still kind of hoping that England can win it all. And thirdly, despite now having lived half of my life in America, despite the fact that I now pronounce schedule "skedule," shower every day and visit the dentist regularly, despite having been exposed to the pure joy that is the NFL, the NBA, the Little League World Series and even NASCAR, I still love marmite, and I still love cricket. Even if I have to watch it in a window the size of a postage stamp on my computer.
OK, here we go. The second phase of the tournament is called the Super Eights, in which eight teams will play six times each against the six other qualified teams that they haven't played previously in the tournament. The result against the one team they've already played in the group stage who qualified with them to the second phase also counts. So four teams already have one win. And four teams already have one loss, even before we've completed a single match in the second phase.
(This is all very complicated, but I actually like the idea. Surely the NBA regular season would benefit if season series between teams counted for one game if they met each other in the playoffs. OK, don't risk it in the NBA, maybe just MLS or that funny indoor lacrosse league I keep seeing.)
And here are, as I tap my microphone and get the attention of the entire sporting world, my eagerly anticipated Cricket World Cup Super Eight Power Rankings.
1. Australia: Duh. They look unbeatable. Matthew Hayden opened the Super Eights with a 66-ball century (his second in a row, and that's good) and despite the bright yellow outfits they look like the class of the tournament.
2. West Indies: The Windies are chasing a total of 322 in their rain-delayed Super Eight opener against Australia. Even if they don't make it, which they seem unlikely to as of writing, they should be able to ride their supreme (if unpredictable) talent and home advantage to the finals.
3. Sri Lanka: They open today against South Africa and all eyes will be on the two most extraordinary bowlers in the tournament: the round arm, speed-ball hurler Malinga and the knuckeballiest, slow bowlingest, spins the ball furtherest Muralitharan. They are odd, there's something a bit wrong about their actions, but they're terrifying.
4. New Zealand: They wear black, seem like nice guys and could win the whole thing. Probably down to the form of the enormous all-rounder, Jacob Oram, and the fastest bowler in the tournament, Shane Bond.
5. England: Everyone's dark horses because no one knows which team will show up. The side who came back from nowhere to beat Australia and New Zealand in a mini tournament Down Under before the World Cup, or the team that went nowhere in the first place. Surely it's down to their giant, disgraced, all-rounder "Freddie" Flintoff, the enormous Pietersen and their lovable spinner Monty Panesar. But don't rule out Paul Collingwood either. England need their batsmen to inspire their bowlers. And to keep Freddie Flintoff off the sauce and the hotel pedalos.
6. South Africa: In the group phase Herschelle Gibbs scored six sixes in one over. Confused? Well, it's only been done once before and is the equivalent of one player hitting a home run on six consecutive pitches, not even at-bats, pitches. Not sure if this has ever been done, or even attempted. The more you look at this team, the more you think they can win the whole thing. They have great batsmen, Smith, Kallis, de Villiers and a terrifying strike bowler in Ntini. But they're short of spinners, and on these slow Caribbean wickets, that could be their downfall.
7. Bangladesh: They're just kids, teenagers even, and they're sure to be a cricket superpower. But they don't look capable of scoring enough runs. In one game, Australia scored a hundred more runs than the whole Bangladesh team has made all tournament.
8. Ireland: A sizable group of the greatest fans ever to support a football team at a World Cup (Japan 2002) has traveled to the Caribbean to root on its unlikely bunch of cricketing heroes. And stranger things have happened. Like Ireland beating Pakistan. England will be terrified of losing to them in their opening Super Eight game in Guyana on Friday.
And if Ireland can win, who knows I'll be depressed, but maybe this disorganized, disjointed, interminable tournament can recapture a tiny bit of the magic it lost so brutally at the Pegasus Hotel in Jamaica 10 nights ago.
But let's face it. On all counts, probably not.
Michael Davies is a British-born television producer who has covered two FIFA World Cups for ESPN Page 2. Last year his projects for ESPN included the critically acclaimed documentary "Once In A Lifetime" about the N.Y. Cosmos and the not-so-critically-acclaimed World Series of Darts.