Yusuf Pathan - the new Emperor of Blitz

Last Updated: Wed, Feb 16, 2011 07:21 hrs

To have a career ODI strike rate of more than 100 is indeed a rarity. For ages, the only Indian to make it to that list was Virender Sehwag, who goes at about 103. For ages, among regular batsmen of Test playing nations, Pakistani Shahid Afridi led the pack at 113.

But make way for the new Emperor of Blitz.

After 45 matches, Yusuf Pathan has a career strike rate of 115 and has reached prime form just in time for the World Cup. His career average of 33 is also near the other great strikers: Afridi (24) and Sehwag (34.6). Adam Gilchrist had a career strike rate of 97 and an average of 36.

Confused ICC changes format yet again

Yusuf is in some very elite company.

He has been on a six-hitting spree in the last two months and this bodes well for Team India. As a fifth-bowler option, he will be a very integral part of our chances of winning this time.

The Eden Conundrum

Eden Gardens Kolkata is probably the best of grounds and the worst of grounds. In terms of capacity, it is the largest cricket ground in the whole world. (It's a title that alternates with Melbourne, depending on who renovates and upgrades when.)

The stadium hosted India's first and only World Cup final in 1987. Both Kapil Dev and Harbhajan Singh got hat-tricks on this ground. And of course there's VVS Laxman's glorious 281.

But it has also been the seen the worst of crowd trouble. Rioting was seen in Tests twice in the 1960s. The 1996 WC semi-final was called off due to crowd interference. People were evicted over a Sachin Tendulkar run-out in a Test with Pakistan in 1999.

India at the World Cup

Then Rahul Dravid and his men were booed over the Sourav Ganguly's omission from the national team.

So when one hears the news that Eden Gardens will not be hosting the India-England World Cup tie, one can only shake one's head.

Why no home advantage?

One of the mysteries of cricket World Cups has been why there is absolutely no home advantage. In the Olympics, host nations register record medal tallies. Look at India's performance in the recently concluded Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

The FIFA World Cup has been won by hosts six times. Spain became the first European team to win outside its home continent. Argentina has never won outside the Americas. Only Brazil has won it almost everywhere.

In cricket the reverse it true.

India has an impeccable home record, but failed to make it to the finals in 1987 and 1992. Australians are tigers at home, but couldn't even make it to the semis in 1992 despite being the defending champions. In the same edition co-hosts New Zealand topped the round robin stage with 7 wins ahead of England's 5, but couldn't make the final.

Memorable World Cup finals

South Africa has won 17 of the last 20 ODI series they've played on home soil. They are the most formidable home ODI players right now. But during this period, they failed to make it to the semis of the 2003 edition which they hosted.

The only exception could be 1996 co-hosts Sri Lanka.

But they won the semis in India and the finals in Pakistan.

England has been host four times, so it is no surprise that it is yet to win the title.

How to qualify for a World Cup

While Test playing nations automatically make it to the World Cup, other cricketing nations have to go through the ICC World Cup Qualifier. It used to be called the ICC Trophy.

Sri Lanka won the inaugural tournament in 1979 and got Test status in 1981.Zimbabwe won the 1982, 86 and 90 editions to get Test status in 1992. Bangladesh won in 1997 and got Test status in 2000.

Other winners are UAE, Netherlands, Scotland and Ireland. None of them have got Test status yet, but it’s their ticket to play in the WC.

Top 10 upsets in World Cup history

The tournament also has its fair share of decent records. Papua New Guinea has the highest score of 455/9. Pakistan-born Asim Khan had astonishing bowling figures of 7-9 while playing for Netherlands in the 1997 edition. Maurice Odumbe of Kenya has 1173 runs in the tournament.

FYI, the ICC has 60 Affiliate Members. Wonder what will happen if we manage to get 32 of them in a WC!

In all, 19 countries have played in a cricket WC so far.

(The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger)