10Y OF T20

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February 17, 2015 marked an important date in the life of cricket’s most nascent form – Twenty20 international cricket completed ten years on that day. The format has exploded and caught the public imagination thanks to the Indian victory at the inaugural T20 World Cup and the consequent invention of the IPL, now in its eighth season. But what of those more innocent times when T20 still had that new format smell and Mohammed Asif was still playing cricket? I present to you an article I had written about the format & its coming World Cup for The Sunday Indian magazine in September 2007. It is always fascinating to see what we thought then, and what came to pass.

Would You Like Fries With The Cricket? By Tareque Laskar

There was a time when getting to 300 runs in a 50 over limited overs cricket match was considered a towering task. Now, as recently as last week a Sri Lankan, Dhanuka Pathirana, smashed the last remaining reservations with a mind numbing 277 off 72 balls (29 sixes and 18 fours) helping his side Austerlands (a minor county in Lancashire’s Saddleworth league) to 366-3 in 20, yes twenty overs! That, in short, is the frenzy of the latest brand of cricket to hit the international block—the ever exciting truncated form known as Twenty20. And the frenzy builds up to a crescendo as we approach the inaugural Twenty20 world cup in South Africa, featuring 12 teams. As you read this, the excitement would have begun to unfold in the fast paced and action packed world of the brave new frontier of cricket playing itself out on the gorgeous grounds in South Africa. Coming as it does only a mere 4 and half months after the ‘real’ world cup, the tournament is whipping up rapture and resentment in equal measure. Experts are split down the middle between those who see it as indulging in excess despite a packed international calendar, and those who consider Twenty20 as the format of the future. The fans wait with an equal measure of anticipation and apathy. There are ones who can’t get enough of the big hitting and the others who feel it’s a travesty of the game. And the analogies don’t seem to stop—the McDonaldisation of cricket, they have called it. And if One Day cricket earned the nickname ‘Pajama Cricket’ Navjot Sidhu called Twenty20 ‘underwear cricket’!

At the time of writing, the number of Twenty20 internationals held stood at a mere 19 since the first match (a fun and frolic filled hit about at Eden Park in Auckland between Australia and New Zealand) back in 2005. Originally a county innovation implemented in 2003 by the England and Wales cricket board that met with rousing success (fulfilling the administrators’ mission to broaden the audience and rekindle fan interest in the county game), the format only grudgingly gained international acceptance.

But soon, it was on its way to becoming serious stuff. England took their Twenty20 match against Australia very seriously in the summer of 2005 and their win turned a remarkable summer on its head as they went on to reclaim the Ashes. India too have had a taste of Twenty20, though only once against South Africa which ended in a win. And if you take a look at the squads of the 12 teams at the competition (10 full ICC members by invitation and the associates went through a qualifying process), the youth factor is prominent. Twenty20 has become ideal grooming ground for youngsters (Zee with its proposed Indian Cricket League also envisions the same, though so far mostly retirees have signed up) both technically as well as psychologically to steel them to face the pressures of bigger games.

Although underestimated, the cerebral aspect of the game in T20 cannot be ignored. The thinking will be pushed to a whole new dimension lending new meaning to the phrase ‘thinking on your feet’. And of course, the regular cricket skills will have to be sharper (hence the youth) especially fielding which most experts reckon will be the thin line dividing the good teams from the great teams in the T20 arena. The craftsmen most under duress would be the bowlers who will be put to the sword as dashing batsmen go hell for leather. But bowlers, especially high impact ones like a Shoaib Akhtar or Mohammed Asif (who’s bowled the only T20 maiden so far) can still swing things with a quick wicket or two. Expecting the batsmen to go after the bowling with a mixture of extravagant and inventive shots would be par for the course, but those who can do it with chutzpah will emerge the batting stars at the tournament.

Whether Twenty20 becomes the new global face of cricket or remains a fad, only time will tell. We do not know as yet if this form becomes a force to reckon with or is reduced to a farce, but one thing is for sure—it’s like the quintessential Hollywood summer blockbuster; leave your intellect behind, fasten your seat belts and get ready to enjoy some blazing action!

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VOX AUREUM

"Put your brain into gear and if you can add to what's on the screen then do it, otherwise shut up."

“Put your brain into gear and if you can add to what’s on the screen then do it, otherwise shut up.”

I first heard Richie Benaud during the 1991/92 tri series between India, West Indies and Australia in Australia. A few days later I heard him in a rerun of the 1975 World Cup final. I remember being amazed at how long he had been commentating and the fact that he sounded virtually the same seventeen years on. His voice had a mesmeric quality, a silky smoothness that wine tasters will claim only the finest vintages have. Amidst the unfolding cacophony that a cricket game could often be, his narration provided almost meditative pause, never looking to force the action at you, but always setting up context that you as a viewer sometimes wanted but did not exactly crave every ball.

Benaud was the only commentator whose silences added more to the action than his utterances because he knew how to use the pause and silence to great effect. That didn’t mean he wasn’t quick with a turn of phrase or did not possess a sharp wit. But he always, like the devoted cricket fanatic he was in all senses, deferred to the game in the middle. His measured tone and grandparently twinkle in the voice that everyone of the current generation remembers seem to run contrary to the narrative of him being a risk taking captain (Australia never lost a series under him) and cricketer (a fine legspinner, at that). But perhaps having played the game, he knew exactly the distance he had to accord to it as a chronicler to let people soak the visuals. During the 1992 World Cup final, when Wasim Akram’s scorcher cleaned up Alan Lamb, only Benaud could have come up with a line so beautiful in its banality – “Left arm round the wicket…Alan Lamb has been cleaned up and so too, perhaps, England.” Rightfully, he let the moment have its own limelight. Thankfully Rameez Raja was on the field playing, and on field cricketers would not be miked up till about 20 years later.

When he was on the mike, Richie Benaud was not watching the game to you; he was watching the game with you. That realization came to me as I was watching the 1996 World Cup. India were playing the West Indies at Gwalior and Azhar just introduced the offspinner Aashish Kapoor as Shivnaraine Chanderpaul looked threatening. The over began and as Kapoor delivered his first ball, there was silence on air. Chanderpaul was dismissed. Azhar completed the catch. Chanderpaul started his walk back. Benaud just said “And he’s got one, straightaway.” The pithiness and succinctness of it all was mind boggling to me. The moment was not the most crucial one in the game, let alone the tournament, yet it sits easily accessible in my bank of memories precisely because the commentator on air let me experience that for myself before he came in. I always marveled at how he would keep quiet during a glorious shot and then offer about four precisely measured words in praise of the shot.

My next important Benaud tryst was when I tried the videogame Brian Lara Cricket. Many things about the game did not feel cricket-y enough to impress me, except one thing – Richie Benaud’s voice. The moment he’d describe even the most ridiculous cheat-code aided six you hit, the cricket would suddenly feel brilliantly authentic.

And my most recent admiration of him comes from digging up some archival footage on YouTube of Kapil Dev’s famous running catch to dismiss Vivian Richards in the 1983 World Cup final. In a game that was seminal for India and maybe one day cricket, Kapil’s catch was the seminal moment. Benaud’s description of it was classically Benaud. “Shot…” he said as Viv ferociously pulled a short one from Madan Lal and then paused as the camera panned to midwicket and a running Kapil, who slowed down, adjusted and caught the ball just over his shoulder. Still silence. Kapil celebrates and Benaud completes his sentence with the post-hoc correction “…not so good”.

Much as the commentary box has been richer for a Bill Lawry’s enthusiasm and a Tony Grieg’s unbridled joy, nothing says warmth and fondness like Benaud’s ‘Good Morning, Everyone’. And nothing ever will.

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IN THE HEAT OF THE HOT TAKE

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In my time in the United States as a Graduate student, I became familiar with a style of American sports analysis that was called the ‘hot take’. A hot take was essentially a viewpoint idiosyncratic to a pundit or a talking head on the panoply of channels on talk radio or on television in programs like ESPN’s ‘Around The Horn’ which used to usually idly play in the background during most afternoons I was home. The ‘experts’ on these programs would talk about players, teams and coaches discussing endlessly what they thought of their latest performance or failure. Some segments specifically put the pundits in the spot to express his or her viewpoint one way or another, often right after something has happened – say a fancied team lost a playoff game – giving them no time or chance to reasonably and critically analyze the event.

The hot take is a much derided style among those who care about things like facts, data, objectivity and sanity. After India’s semifinal loss to eventual champions Australia at the World Cup last week, the hot take syndrome hit right home when one of the major Indian cable news channels, Times Now, (owned by the same group who owns The Typo Times Of India) started viciously crticizing the team in general and captain M S Dhoni on particular for the defeat and branded their bit of analysis, as is their wont with most stories they cover, with a banal and stupid Twitter hashtag. The hashtag #ShamedInSydney did not go down well with grieving fans coming to terms with a hard loss to a tough opponent.

An exit from a major tournament for a fairly talented team will always attract post mortem, some of the criticism will be justified, some just rants and hot takes. You don’t usually expect mainstream media to go the way of hot takes and that is the line Times Now crossed. Most of their criticism went ad hominem, attacking or example, Dhoni’s purported lack of emotion after the loss. But most hot takes work because they find some support among some segment of fans. In this case the uproar against the hot take was instantaneous and there was virtual consensus.

The casualty as usual was the idea of a measured and objective debate and critique of where India may have gone wrong in that game. This is a worrying trend, not because we need to eliminate armchair fans debating their team (it is one of the quirks of sport that keeps it so exciting and entertaining), but because it begins to erase the line between vendetta and critique. Lost in the hunt for TRPs, eyeballs and the need for instant incitement and ‘outrage’ is the art of actually having a debate.

I have been watching cricket for over 25 years now. Defeats still hurt. Wins still give me a heady high. I vent frustrations out at the television and social media often during games. And I am acutely aware of how they represent my failings from being an ideal cricket fan. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stand to see the same thing becoming institutionalized. I stopped watching the news almost 15 years back. Maybe you should too.

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ON THE WINGS OF ICARUS

There comes a moment in every sports fan’s life when she is faced with confronting her idol’s mortality, a moment of painful unmasking that reveals that the idol is human, after all. The moment when after floating in the clouds for an epoch on the wings of Icarus, the heat of time begins to melt the wax wings. Today, a minute or so into the second half at Anfield in the game between Manchester United and Liverpool, that moment arrived for me, a lifelong Steven Gerrard fan.

Gerrard had been a halftime substitution, meant to inspire and prop up a listless Liverpool trailing 0-1 to a determined United, but within barely 60 seconds of his introduction got entangled into a challenge with Ander Herrera, and retaliated by stamping on his foot which meant referee Martin Atkinson went straight for his red card.

This was a potentially season defining match up. A win for Liverpool would have lifted them over United into fourth place and Champions League spot contention. It was a big home game. And in one tiny moment of madness, everything came unhinged. It was always the opposite case for almost the entirety of Gerrard’s career at Liverpool, especially as captain. He was the talisman, the glue that held a rickety performance together, and often producing sublime moments of magic to rescue a win or at the least a draw. This was not to be that day. In a game that needed them to be calm, calculative and composed, Liverpool gave into the temptation of chaos and adrenalin and lost their collective minds, the epitome and the nadir of which was the Gerrard sending off.

Balotelli tried his hardest to follow suit, at one point the Anfield faithful literally intervening at the sidelines to restrain him from entering into a scuffle with Ashley Young. Martin Skrtel crossed that dangerous line between being aggressive and being malicious with a stamp on David De Gea, the United keeper at the fag end of the game, an incident the referee did not notice (but might be retrospectively reviewed by the FA).

Liverpool lost the game 2-1. As a fan, a loss always rankles. A loss to a bitter and competitive rival even more so. That is the pathos and ethos of sport and being a sports fan. But when you see your heroes puncture the notion of the game that you want them to uphold, it rankles even deeper.

Gerrard’s antics today will add an asterisk to a stellar career (and I am not here to discuss if he could, or should have won a league title etc.) not because he and his team failed, but because they seemed to be at war with themselves. There will be some amount of Schadenfreude from the fans of Manchester United and assorted clubs, but that is to be expected.

All of us have probably been in heated and competitive situations and we are biologically wired to have our blood pressures and heart beat rise as the brain senses danger or clouds out of anger and frustration. The survival instinct takes over and our primal side surfaces, metaphorically converting our Bruce Banners into the Incredible Hulk. When the dust settles, we often see our folly as Gerrard did and apologized. But for the countless number of times that I have always brushed his foibles aside because he was truly superheroic in my eyes, this time is when that cookie crumbles. I still absolutely love him of course but now with the acutely painful realization that I saw the ugly verses of his closing chapter at Liverpool begin with my very own eyes.

This is not the first time a hero of mine or for that matter any one of yours has done something stupid that has punctured his halo if not vaporized it. This will not be last either. But every time it happens, your happy bubble floating in dreamland bursts. And sport, which is meant to be a rabbit hole of escape, hurts for a bit. And then we hope to heap new memories to make that go away.

We pick ourselves up from that fall, our Icarus wax wings melted in the heat of reality, and down that rabbit hole, we go again.

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KOKABURRAS IN KABUL

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George Orwell’s metaphorical classification of sport as war minus the shooting is well known, but lost in that over quoted line is its ability to heal. For proof, look no further than today’s historic win for Afghanistan’s cricket team, their first in their debut World Cup. That they are there on cricket’s biggest stage is a fairy tale against all odds in itself but it is beyond heartening to see them competing the way they are and what it means to their countrymen back home.

I have written about the healing power of sport here before, in the context of Colombia at football’s World Cup last year. But to see folks out on the streets of Kabul celebrating a win is exactly the reason I fell in love with sports in the first place. Its ability to inspire hope amidst the bleakest of settings should never be underestimated.

Since the Taliban took over the country, Kabul, a once great world city has been under a constant stage of siege. If the Blue Tigers’ fighting spirit (they were 97/7 in a chase of 211 against Scotland before recovering to win a thriller by one wicket in the final over) provides even a fleeting moment of unadulterated joy, their long, winding and often dusty journey to the World Cup would have been worth it. For a country repressed by extremism and violence, the national cricket team is that rare opportunity for self expression without fear of retribution. And in a Shapoor Zadran’s headband it finds that expression.

Mohammed Nabi, the captain, like a lot of the others in the team used the game as an escape in the refugee camps in Pehsawar where he grew up. The motley crew got together as the Taliban allowed, in what must be a rare show of clemency, cricket when it cracked down on and banned other sports. For a proud and sport loving people it became a chance to prove themselves worthy as they set out with a mission to rub shoulders with the top rung of cricketing nations by competing in the World Cup.

From the fifth division of international cricket with barely any facilities in 2008 to the World Cup in 2015 has been a giddy rise for the Afghan Cricket Board and its players. As their former coach says in the documentary ‘Out Of The Ashes’ that the country has so many problems and the solution to those is…cricket. He may have been specific there but his larger sentiment was really hinting at sports in general and their capacity to germinate a ray of hope.

For every kid who picks up a bat in the dusty or muddy bylanes of Kabul cricket represents an escape that is not beyond the realm of possibility. If that kid dons the Blue Tigers’ shirt and imagines himself for one moment to be under the spotlight as his team beats Bangladesh in Bangladesh at the Asian Cup or gives Sri Lanka a scare at the World Cup or that magical moment when they hit the winning boundary against Scotland it provides him with that one moment of magic.

And that’s why we love sport. Because the magical realism of it can leap right out of the pages of fiction and right into our lives.

Go Blue Tigers.

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REMEMBER THAT ONE TIME…? – INDIA v PAKISTAN AND THE AVAILABILITY BIAS

[DISCLAIMER: If you are a non cricket follower let me apologize in advance for some of the inside references I will be making. I will write a longer and more universally accessible post, I promise. But for now, my brain is a slave to cricket.]

During the innings break of the supercharged World Cup match battle that is India v Pakistan, while everyone fretted over how India may have been short of a matchwinning total by about 20 runs, a friend of mine asked me on Twitter if Pakistan had ever chased down a target of 300 or above (India had scored 300-7 in the first innings) in the World Cup. I replied to him that I didn’t think they ever had but added the disclaimer that I was purely relying on my memory. Luckily he soon got a statistically verified answer from someone else that said that they indeed hadn’t. I may have looked very omnisciently clever in a cricket nerd sense but I was never very confident of my answer. And that is because our memories are not like a computer’s which can flawlessly recall any piece of data you call up from a storage point. Our memories and cognition are coloured by what in behavioral economics are popularly called biases. And in this instance I was worried about one bias in particular – the ‘availability heuristic’. I thought that was the end of that till I read a news story this afternoon about a controversy from yesterday’s game.

When Umar Akmal came out to bat for Pakistan at a crucial juncture of their chase, he lunged his bat out at a ball from Ravindra Jadeja that just held its line and seemed to brush his bat and find its way into M S Dhoni’s gloves. The Indians spontaneously appealed but the on field umpire, Ian Gould, was not convinced and decided in favor of the batsmen. Teams are allowed a referral each in each innings during the World Cup which meant India could challenge Gould’s call and captain Dhoni who seemed convinced there was the faintest of edges called for a referral. The whole of India and the whole of Pakistan held their collective breaths as third umpire Steve Davis reviewed the video evidence as well as checked the ‘snickometer’ which picks up any spikes in sound as the ball passes the bat (an edge would show up as a tiny spike, a sharp rise in the sound level picked up by the stump microphone). The snicko registered almost nothing. But the ball was tantalizingly close to the bat and Davis declared Akmal out. The technology used in the Decision Review System (DRS) has always been under scrutiny in terms of consistency and reliability. Davis’ decision in such a high stakes encounter seemed to light a powder keg on that debate.

But I am not here to discuss that. Back to the news story. While appearing on a TV news show in Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal lashed out at the ICC and suggested that India had conspired to have the decision their way primarily because Steve Davis hates Pakistan. (Davis is on record having made disparaging statements against Pakistan after the terrorism incident in 2009 involving the touring Sri Lankan team.) But while he was trying to expose Davis’ alleged bias, Ajmal unwittingly exposed one of his own with this statement “Steve Davis never upheld any appeal when I bowled and I had to always ask for a referral to get a wicket when he was the umpire.” Now, it is a hard stat to verify (I will be hitting ESPNCricinfo’s Statsguru tomorrow to give it a try, though) easily but I am convinced Ajmal here is a victim of the ‘availability heuristic’. It is defined as a bias where someone “assess(es) the frequency…or probability of an event by the ease with which instances or occurrences can be brought to mind”. (Kahneman and Tversky, 1974)

Perhaps Davis has given decisions in favor of Ajmal too but at that point he could only recall instance(s) where he had to ask for a referral. It happens to all of us because our minds are limited that way. It is the reason why people suddenly are afraid of flying the moment they hear about a plane crash or people go and buy the lottery when the hear the news about someone winning the jackpot. Continuing in the vein of our India v Pakistan cricket references, it is also why a Pakistani fan might easily and endlessly recall Javed Miandad’s famous six off Chetan Sharma, but almost similar feats of Rajesh Chauhan (in Pakistan) and of Hrishikesh Kanitkar (in Dhaka) would not come to mind.

For the brain, it is hard work recalling and classifying ALL possible instances to make a judgement in a particular situation so it uses a shortcut, or to use fancy terminology, heuristic. The result is that we overestimate the probability of something (let’s say, being attacked by a shark when at the beach because you were watching the ‘Jaws’ rerun yesterday night) and often make poor decisions in everything ranging from investing in the stock market to playing Monday Morning Quarterback (or in Ajmal’s case, off spinner) as a sports pundit on TV. It is also why you think the lift is never (ugh!) on the floor that you are on or the bus number you want never comes on time or you have to wait the longest always for claiming your luggage at the airport. Your mind recalls those unpleasant (or remarkable) moments easily while ignoring the many times the opposite of those things happened.

Awareness of the availability heuristic is important because while sometimes you can get away with the shortcuts, if you want to make measured judgements, it is a better idea to call up the stats if you can rather than rely on your memory. I was lucky I didn’t look stupid in front of my friend yesterday when he asked me about the chase statistics, but let me tell you a secret – when he asked that question, all I could recall were Pakistan’s games in the 1992 World Cup which was anyway a low scoring one and 2007 where Pakistan were knocked out in the first round. I gave him my answer based on just these two instances. I could easily have been wrong and admitted as much. Now, if only Saeed Ajmal had tempered his statement with the words “As far as I can recall, and I may be wrong…” And that is where an M S Dhoni had a subtle triumph. At the end of the game as everyone was euphoric over how the stat that Pakistan had never won a World Cup tie against India remained intact and chants of 6-0 were going around he said “6-0 is a good record but it won’t stay forever. One day we’ll lose to Pakistan. 4 years or 4 World Cups later. We should not forget that Pakistan has a better ODI record than us.” Now, here was a man not letting the availability heuristic of just World Cup games cloud his judgement.

Evidently Captain Cool known his Psychology and Behavioral Economics 101.

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THE GENTLEMEN’S GAME OF THRONES

WITH THE ICC World Cup arriving, here is a quick guide to the contenders. As George R R Martin may have envisioned them. Pledge your allegiance to the House of choice and let’s roll.

HOUSE GREYJOY They have been around in the Seven Kingdoms since the Age Of Heroes. And ruled the seas. Always formidable. Australia, much?

HOUSE GREYJOY
They have been around in the Seven Kingdoms since the Age Of Heroes. And ruled the seas. Always formidable. Australia, much?

HOUSE BARATHEON Traditionally, they have been the rulers of the Seven Kingdoms since you have known the world of Westeros, much like England who claim ownership of the concept of cricket and of the World Cup, having brought in structure to it. But they have never held aloft the World Cup, just like the Baratheons' claim to the Iron Throne has always been contentious.

HOUSE BARATHEON
Traditionally, they have been the rulers of the Seven Kingdoms since you have known the world of Westeros, much like England who claim ownership of the concept of cricket and of the World Cup, having brought in structure to it. But they have never held aloft the World Cup, just like the Baratheons’ claim to the Iron Throne has always been contentious.

HOUSE BCCI Controlling the purse strings of world cricket India are the wealthiest house in world cricket just like the Lannisters are the richest House in Westeros. And like the Lannisters, you could say they currently occupy the Iron Throne (just ask Cersei to be certain) and once you taste power it is hard to let go. Maybe it was the Lannisters who first trended #WontGiveItBack about their gold.

HOUSE BCCI
Controlling the purse strings of world cricket India are the wealthiest house in world cricket just like the Lannisters are the richest House in Westeros. And like the Lannisters, you could say they currently occupy the Iron Throne (just ask Cersei to be certain) and once you taste power it is hard to let go. Maybe it was the Lannisters who first trended #WontGiveItBack about their gold.

HOUSE TYRELL Their words are "growing strong". And so they have been quietly and efficiently ready to spring a surprise. Just like New Zealand are.

HOUSE TYRELL
Their words are “growing strong”. And so they have been quietly and efficiently ready to spring a surprise. Just like New Zealand are.

They have been a motley crew of bannerman, quite capable of blowing the best away, but have been inconsistent in their duties during battles and conquest. Much like Pakistan.

They have been a motley crew of bannerman, quite capable of blowing the best away, but have been inconsistent in their duties during battles and conquest. Much like Pakistan.

HOUSE STARK Like the Starks were related to the First Men, the Proteas trace their cricketing lineage back to the beginning and have always been noble and talented. But somehow they have always ended as also rans thanks to a string of mishaps one way or another. Kind of like the Starks, they keep saying their time is coming. But it is yet to come.

HOUSE STARK
Like the Starks were related to the First Men, the Proteas trace their cricketing lineage back to the beginning and have always been noble and talented. But somehow they have always ended as also rans thanks to a string of mishaps one way or another. Kind of like the Starks, they keep saying their time is coming. But it is yet to come.

River lords. Fish out of water who found themselves ruling over all lands in the Trident. Basically, Sri Lanka.

River lords. Fish out of water who found themselves ruling over all lands in the Trident. Basically, Sri Lanka.

HOUSE TARGARYEN Like the House Targaryen was of Westeros, they used to be the true rulers of the World Cup once, feared and respected. But now their feeble attempts at regaining the Iron Throne World Cup have become almost painfully comical. But they have a few dragons up their sleeve (one of them is called Chris, possibly) and will keep making an attempt to recover lost glory.

HOUSE TARGARYEN
Like the House Targaryen was of Westeros, they used to be the true rulers of the World Cup once, feared and respected. But now their feeble attempts at regaining the Iron Throne World Cup have become almost painfully comical. But they have a few dragons up their sleeve (one of them is called Chris, possibly) and will keep making an attempt to recover lost glory.

BANGLADESH and ZIMBABWE are the SWORN BROTHERS OF THE NIGHT’S WATCH. Banished to the periphery where they can be kept gainfully busy without developing too much.

What about the Associates, you ask? THE BROTHERHOOD WITHOUT BANNERS.

And we the fans?

Of course we are the WILDLINGS. Or THE FREE FOLK. Or so we would like to believe.

Let the show begin.

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