We’re into March, and the ICC Cricket World Cup is well under way. Just 32 more days to go (yes, thirty-two!) until the tournament comes to a close with a final showdown in Mumbai on April 2.
Reuters’ lean mean team of photographers have fanned out across three countries in the subcontinent – India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – as we get stuck into covering the first round of the tournament. Photographers Adnan Abidi, Andrew Biraj, Amit Dave, Andrew Caballero-Reynolds, Dinuka Liyanawatte, Rupak De Chowdhury, Danish Siddiqui and myself have started crisscrossing our territories. Philip Brown, who is on an “embed” with the English cricket team, has already covered two cities. Altaf Bhat in New Delhi is anchoring the operation as the main editor for the tournament with me lending a hand on days when I’m not on the move, shooting training or covering a match.
Covering cricket in the subcontinent is not as straightforward as one might think – for one thing, we’re worried about tight travel schedules and the possibility of flight delays – which thankfully haven’t happened yet.
A range of problems beset every one of us in this first week of matches.
At the opening ceremony in Dhaka, the stadium wireless went down, as did the phone network, leaving everyone stranded with no way to file anything, and it didn’t recover until well into the ceremony. Andrew Biraj had pictures of a lavish ceremony featuring traditional hand-pulled rickshaws and performers playing a cricket suspended from wires, on a giant vertical backdrop.
Adnan turned up in Chennai and was told no one could move from their shooting position, which surprised every photographer who came to cover the match.
Philip arrived in Bangalore to police charging at people with sticks after they got angry about waiting overnight for tickets and not getting any. The police chief of Bangalore pretty much summed it up in a news conference the next day, where he said “It’s not a new thing… It’s difficult for the people who have lived in Europe and in America to understand…” to open chuckles from reporters. Phil’s fantastic picture helps us understand a scene that probably will only ever be seen in the subcontinent.
Phil then went to Chinnaswamy stadium to cover the India vs. England match to find that pitchside power didn’t work at the start of the match.
I arrived in Nagpur, where the media bus for one of my matches ran worryingly late. The wireless connection was so slow I could barely load a web page. Wireless, CDMA, 3G and GPRS all didn’t work, and I had to set up my laptop on a LAN cable in a press box 10 minutes away from pitchside and run between the two constantly to get pictures out.
Despite all of these hiccups – and let’s face it nothing in this part of the world would be fun without the “will it really work?” factor – things are getting off to a good start and the fans and us are starting to get into the matches.
The first match produced an outstanding 175-run knock from India’s Virender Sehwag which helped India win against Bangladesh, an important ego boost since India was kicked out of the last world cup by the same team; Andrew Biraj captured the moment of glory.
Before the Australia vs. New Zealand match, kiwi players held a somber moment of silence to remember the victims of the Christchurch earthquake, with many players visibly weeping. I wondered how they managed to play through the whole match, especially given the kind of destruction Australia wreaked on their bowling and batting, the expression in Mitchell Johnson’s face as he celebrated taking a wicket summing up the “no mercy” approach.
This past weekend produced two of the best one-day-internationals I have watched in a long time. On Saturday night, I was on the edge of my seat as I edited Pakistan vs. Sri Lanka in Colombo – a thrilling, competitive match which Pakistan eventually won with captain Shahid Afridi destroying the Sri Lankan batting order despite some brave performances by their batsmen.
Dinuka Liayanawatte captured the desperation of the contest to score runs as the cricket bat flew out of the hand of Sri Lanka’s Chamara Silva’s hands as he heaved at the ball with all his might.
Dinuka also captured the key moment in cricket – harder to get than it looks – of wickets being skittled by a ball, this image showing the exact moment the ball hit the stumps.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds captured the elation of Pakistan’s captain Shahid Afridi as he brought the Sri Lankan batting order to its knees.
On Sunday, Altaf had a nail-biting time editing India vs. England, which came down to the very last ball (England needed two runs to win off one ball) which ended in a tie.
A great batting display by the “little master” Sachin Tendulkar was outdone by England’s captain Andrew Strauss. The whole subcontinent must have been as hooked to television sets as I was to the one at the bar in my hotel.
Monday and Tuesday saw two hat-tricks in two days (A hat trick is when a bowler dismisses 3 batsmen in 3 consecutive deliveries, for our non-cricketing friends – it’s a rare thing to see – and two in two days is almost unheard of.)
First from the West Indies’ Kemar Roach.
And second from Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga.
Just when you thought you’d seen the best match you were going to see in a while, the Irish – who else but the Irish – produced a stunning upset when they defeated England this evening. England had set what looked like an impossible target, and with five men down, the result looked like a foregone conclusion. Enter Kevin O’Brien, a tall, purple-haired Irishman who blasted his way through the English attack with brutal power, setting a record for the fastest ever century scored in World Cup history – 100 runs off just 50 balls. Not to mention one of the most powerful shots I’ve ever seen in cricket, the ball hit 105 metres into the air, over the boundary and nearly out of the stadium for six unbelievable runs. Phil’s pictures of the elated O’Brien say it all.
The post match celebration was nothing short of ecstatic, you’d think the Irish team had actually won the world cup! The luck of the Irish as they say.
As Altaf said in his blog post, Let the games begin! Well, the games have begun – let this be your invitation to understand what drives a billion people crazy – through pictures, if nothing else!
Reuters is running a live blog with pictures and commentary from each match, which can be followed here.
We also have a blackberry app with constantly updating pictures from matches live, which can be downloaded here.