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Cricket in dire need of a contest

To overhaul 240 in the finals, West Indies needed large dollops of pluck and luck. They had none on Sunday.

Harish Dimote | |September 24, 2006, 8:27 PM IST
Cricket in dire need of a contest

Mumbai: Cricket is in crying need of a challenge. England’s triumph in the Ashes seems like a Christmas long overdue. When you roll over an opponent with a 127-run victory without being at your best, it speaks volumes of God-kissed talent reserves.

Pakistan, India and Australia (and England to a certain extent) were no pushovers when Clive Lloyd’s arms reigned supreme. The encounters in the early 80s were simply colossal. Today, the game is in dire need of a contest.

Cricket must have those curious onlookers lining up within earshot of television. It needs cricket extremists queuing by the salons for a quick score update on radio. These scenes could be lost to the game if it becomes largely predictable.

To overhaul 240 in the finals, West Indies needed large dollops of pluck and luck. They had none on Sunday as the batting card hosed down in the first fifteen overs. It was just a matter of time before the organisers ironed the tablecloth for the presentation ceremony.

The run chase never built up a sober head of steam. Chris Gayle got a scorcher; too much for a first ball. Whistling of menace, Brett Lee’s toe-crusher curved in late to arrest Gayle plumb before the sticks. It hurt West Indies no end, for somebody like Gayle can make a galaxy of difference with a 10-over presence at the start.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul could not recapture the binge of free-hitting he exhibited in the first game, and Runako Morton perished without returning the principal one run after his jarring 32-ball investment. One wonders whether Guru Greg has had an influence on Lara. Wavell Hinds, an opener, was asked to do a Roshan Mahanama at number seven.

In 1996, Arjuna Ranatunga possessed a bullwhipping Sanath Jayasurya at the top. He had Arvinda De Silva to shore up the middle-order. Gayle and Brian Lara are no less but remain lonely warriors; the rest of their squadron is quick to gag into torpor. Doesn't it make sense to have your specialists first up before the opposition throws off scent half the batting order?

At one stage, Ramnaresh Sarwan coiled up 2 runs in 21 balls. Initiative on his part could have spurred some bowling changes. By the time he decided to change gears, West Indies were in no position to limp back to the battle.

However, the telling jolt came when Brian Lara, who had lent on a luscious off drive early on, was declared caught behind off Nathan Bracken. The snickometre showed a faint nick but it appeared that the bat brushed the pad. Lara was understandably taken aback by the decision but Benson was in no mood for the gesture that he had extended to Sachin Tendulkar.

Dwayne Smith’s attitude opened a whiff of fresh breeze into the game. Kicking over the traces of disaster, he launched himself into an array of uninhibited shots. It must be said though that he had nothing to lose.

Lee who prized 12 wickets in three games was crowned man of the match. Gnashing his teeth, he charged in full steam as if he would gnaw off the batters’ limbs - the kind of aggression lacking in the other two sides.

Jean Claude Killy says: "The best and fastest way to learn a sport is to watch and imitate a champion." Australians play at a different spiritual plane; there is so much sadhana in their cricket. Better to learn from the Baggy Green than envy them.

Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 5211 116
2 New Zealand 3959 110
3 Australia 4320 108
4 England 5253 105
5 South Africa 3537 98
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6967 124
2 India 7939 118
3 New Zealand 5347 116
4 South Africa 5602 112
5 Australia 5915 110
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 8926 270
2 Australia 7815 269
3 England 6407 267
4 India 12141 264
5 South Africa 6220 259
see more