July 04, 2020
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Slow Burn-Out

England's exit is no surprise, but the Calypso's-with Lara, and two all-time bowling greats-ouster is regrettable

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Slow Burn-Out

India's entry into the Super Six stage revived some interest in the World Cup even in England. But the host country's departure in the league phase itself was a shame, but not entirely unexpected considering that they have taken such poor care of their cricket. But the real surprise was Zimbabwe making it to this elite group. It shows that cricket is getting truly global and playing standards are evening out.

Saurav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid made India's passage into the Super Six easier than was imagined. But the player who by his own astonishing standards hasn't been spectacular is, of course, Sachin Tendulkar. Why was he ever played in the middle-order? Fiddling around with the finest batsman playing cricket today was a ridiculous idea, never mind Ganguly and Dravid's high scores. As regards bowling, with Debashis Mohanty teaming up with Srinath and Prasad, the attack seems more incisive. But using only four specialist bowlers in these conditions is inviting trouble. The two best teams in the tournament-Pakistan and South Africa-have shown that one cannot sacrifice bowling depth for an extra batsman.

India's progress and the upset defeats of South Africa and Pakistan apart, the big story of the week was England's unceremonious exit from the World Cup. You might say that Alec Stewart's side was unlucky to go out in spite of winning three matches. But there can be little sympathy for a team that gets defensive when aggression is the need of the moment, and crumbles under the first sign of pressure.

England's performance against India was pathetic. The batsmen threw in the towel as soon as Graham Thorpe was dismissed, albeit to a poor decision. Some of the shots I saw that day were shocking to say the least. But what else could one expect from a long line of mediocre players!

England are paying the price of being too self-absorbed. For some decades now, they have been a very bad touring side and have also failed to understand the rising importance of limited overs cricket, leading to their present predicament when they do not have any role models, nor any sparkling talent in schools and universities.

Unlike England, however, West Indies' departure was regrettable. I am a great admirer of their cricket, and believe that had they qualified for the Super Sixes, the sport would have got a fillip in the Caribbean. After their wonderful showing against Australia recently, expectations were high, and there must be acute disappointment that this team could do no better.

But the Windies batting was suspect, and with Brian Lara finding neither the rhythm nor the zeal to carry forward his brilliant form of April into May, it was always going to be an uphill task for them to get past Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand. As luck would have had it, they were caught on a nasty, seaming track against Australia with Glenn McGrath at his best.

Australia, like India, are going into the Super Six without any points. Steve Waugh and Azharuddin now have their task cut out. The match between the two teams is vital as even a single loss will make progress into the semi-finals practically impossible. Pakistan and Zimbabwe have four points each, which makes their task that much easier and I think even South Africa could rue their defeat against Alistair Campbell's hardy bunch.

But as the week drew to a close, my thoughts were reserved for the two great men, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, who had to fly back home in spite of being the two most economical and feared bowlers in this tournament. Neither has played in a World Cup final, and given that they are 36 and 37 years old respectively, it is unlikely they ever will.

That's a real travesty of justice.

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