Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The battle of the enigmas

The last couple of days have seen a succession of upsets in the world of cricket. Australia and Pakistan, both favorites to clinch the Champions trophy, were eliminated from the contest by their lesser fancied rivals, England and Pakistan. While I'll come to Pakistan later, England truly showed what great results hard work and determination can achieve. Over the last couple of years Australia's continued domination of world cricket has made it an absolutely boring fray to be in. Vijay thinks this is akin to Michael Schumacher's domination of the F1. World cricket was becoming frustrating to watch with teams competing hard for the No 2 spot, with Australia being untouchable at the No 1 spot. One of the banes of being an English cricketer is the fact that you have to play Australia, whether you like it or not. Perhaps the Aussie aggression has rubbed off on their colonial cousins and I hope we shall soon see England give them a tough time in the Ashes. Before that the Aussies need to cross the "Final Frontier" -- India. And while the Indians haven't been in the best of form, the Aussies would find it difficult to put it across Sourav's boys while they are on home turf, with most of them playing for their places in the team. They would also miss the services of their talismanic captain, Ricky Ponting, who has been ruled out of the initial part of the series with a broken finger.


So much for the Aussies and the Pommies. I guess the West Indians possibly produced a more emphatic display of professional cricket skills today, with their absolute annihilation of Pakistan. Though Shoaib put up a brave resistance on the bowling front, a score of 132 wasn't enough for the lesser bowlers to stand up and defend. I have always regarded the West Indies to be a gifted bunch of cricketers in the shorter version of the game and the fact that they have won 11 of their last 13 run chases is in itself a tribute to their ability. I am sure the form of their middle order would already be giving Steve Harmisson and Co. sleepless nights. This is a final between two teams that havent won much in quite a while and both of them are hungry for success. Towards the beginning of the tournament, Charu Sharma, who is known to have had his foot in his mouth had remarked that England along with Zimbabwe, Kenya and Bangladesh, was the only participating nation that hadnt won an ICC tournament. England would love to prove Charu wrong, yet again! On the other hand the Windies are a team thats been under tremendous criticism and Brian Lara has faced most of it, being captain. They would be eager to put it across the Pommies and join the Aussies as the only other team to have won three ICC tournaments.


A lot of hue and cry has been raised about the belief that Pakistan are a much improved unit under Bob Woolmer. I believe its only a period of time before this bubble bursts. If we look at the result in the past few tournaments closely we will realise that the only test team that Pakistan has beaten in the last 3 tournaments has been India itself. And the fact remains that India were nowhere near even 2nd gear ever since the beginning of this season. Considering that they have been beaten comprehensively by Sri Lanka, Australia and the West Indies, in the last couple of months, I see no reason to classify them as a world beating unit as yet. However all credit does go to Bob Woolmer for bringing this splintered group together and trying to build a cohesive unit. That, with Pakistan, is a really tough job. However, we would need to look at this arrangement for a year at least and then judge how these amazingly talented lads respond to him. Till then, we can only marvel at their mercurial performances and pray that they dont thow matches away with their impulsive attitudes.

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