It was my 30th birthday yesterday. I am not too concerned however, since I am confidently told that 30 is the “new 21”. Unfortunately, despite such comforting thoughts, I cannot escape the cold hard truth that I am now firmly in the older half of the world’s population: the global median age is 28.4 years old. Luckily I was treated to a lovely birthday to take my mind off impending dotage: I went out to dinner while my sister babysat the boys and she and my brother-in-law gave me tickets to next week’s Cricket World Cup semi-final in Auckland.
Now, for those of you too uncultured to appreciate the finer points of cricket, I feel sorry for you, I really do. You are missing out on one of the wonders of the world. Further, you probably have not been following the progress of the magnificent New Zealand team who have gone undefeated in their last eight games and are one of the strong favourites to win the World Cup at the end of this month. It has been particularly exciting since this World Cup is being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand. This has meant that NZ has been playing at home and all of the games have been on at reasonable times to watch/follow.
Anyway, for those not familiar with what I am talking about, let me recap. Every four years there is the Cricket World Cup. This consists of the “one day” version of the game where each team bats for a set amount of time and the team with the highest score takes out the match. (This is not to be confused with Test Cricket which is the traditional form of the game with the players dressed in white, the games lasting for up to 5 days, both teams batting twice and no certainty of there being a result at the end of it all. The other form of the game is called “Twenty20” and is not really cricket at all…) For more information, here is a great little animated video from ESPN to introduce cricket to novices (particularly those familiar with baseball).
Anyway, this year ther were 14 teams at the World Cup: the eight traditional “big” teams: Australia, New Zealand, England, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies and South Africa. The two semi-established “big” teams: Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Added to these ten were four “associate” teams: Scotland, Ireland, the UAE and Afghanistan. Afghanistan is the real Cinderella story of this World Cup – their national team was only established in 2001 and they even managed to win one game against the poor Scots at the World Cup. They also have a fast bowler with the best name in the business: Dawlat Zadran.
After a month of pool play, the 14 teams have been whittled down to eight quarter-finalists. Starting tomorrow, South Africa will take on Sri Lanka, Australia will face Pakistan, Bangladesh will tackle India and New Zealand will host the West Indies. The only real upset in the quarter-final make up is that England was knocked out and that Bangladesh took their place. Ireland came close to knocking out the West Indies but failed to win their final pool game against Pakistan.
My predictions? South Africa will be too strong for Sri Lanka, Australia will beat Pakistan easily, Bangladesh will be beaten handsomely by India (unfortunately, it would be great if Bangladesh won) and New Zealand will beat the W’Indies. That will leave the following semi-final matchups: South Africa vs New Zealand and Australia vs India. From there, I’m not prepared to guess further, but a NZ/Aust final would be fantastic!
What does any of this have to do with demography? Not a lot, but the teams at this year’s world cup represented over a quarter of the world’s population. So while cricket may not have the ubiquitous reach of football, it certainly is a global sport, one that will hopefully last for a thousand years.