World Cup review - Part 1 - Australia, Bangladesh, England, India & Ireland
28 years ago, I was rudely woken up by relatives screaming "We have won the World Cup"
. It is quite likely that Saturday's final between India & Sri Lanka
also ended around the same time as that game in 1983
. I was well awake this time around!
I can't recall exactly when I started following cricket with a lot of interest, but I definitely recall watching games from the 1985 World Championship of Cricket in Australia keenly. I did watch at least 1 day's play of the India v Pakistan test at Chepauk in 1987
and definitely remember Azhar taking a blinder of a catch. I can't recollect if it was off a spinner (Maninder) or off a medium pacer (Raju Kulkarni), most likely the latter since I didn't bunk school, and the last day of the test was on a Sunday. The 1987 tied test at Chepauk
enthralled me. A few months earlier, I had read an account of the final over of the Brisbane tied test
. Around the same time that the India v Australia game was coming to an end, with India in a winning position (50-odd runs to get with 5 wickets in hand), I was at my music class, and wondered aloud if a tie was possible. Needless to say, I got thrashed when umpire Vikram Raju's finger went up.
Back to the present though. The final was an excellent exhibition of classy batting by Jayawardene, who I still believe to be over-rated
in comparison to Sangakkara, nice partnerships (Sangakkara-Dilshan, Mahela-Samaraweera & Mahela-Kulasekara, Gambhir-Virat & Gambhir-Dhoni) and a fair amount of power-hitting at the end.
Now that the tournament has ended though, teams & individuals need to introspect into whether they have achieved what they set out to.
Australia needs to take a serious look at their approach to grooming spin bowlers. Under Ricky Ponting's captaincy (possibly because of his limitations when it came to playing spin bowling in tests), the only time he used "spin" with some degree of seriousness was when he was washing his clothes. They've never identified any sort of backup options for Shane Warne
other than Stuart "watch-me-bowl-a-half-tracker" MacGill. They need to find at least 1 more young batsman to play alongside Watson, Clarke & Ponting. It is rare for Aussie ex-captains to play on for too long
after they've quit as captain
. While Ponting may play on until the 2013 & 2014 Ashes, it is quite likely that he'd have quit ODI cricket by then.
Bangladesh need to have a rethink about their domestic cricket structure, and ensure that the top 25-30 players get a lot more exposure to cricket against first-class teams from countries that are better than them. It's quite obviouso that the talent is there, but they're not progressing beyond an odd upset every World Cup and getting thrashed by the rest of the stronger sides. Given their proximity to India & the vote that they bring to India's table at the ICC, I can't understand why they don't engage in some quid pro quo for test & ODI tours to India, and for IPL sides to pick their players.
England performed extremely well against the stronger sides, but lost it against the weaker ones (and barely survived against West Indies). This seems to indicate that it isn't a skill problem, but an inability to understand how to play limited overs cricket. Constantly complaining about the schedule doesn't get them anywhere. The Ashes-World Cup schedule was known well in advance, and they had the better part of 3-4 years since the 2007 World Cup to have a squad of 20-odd quality players to pick from. They have the bowling. Anderson, Broad, Ajmal Shahzad, Tremlett & Swann are a pretty handy lineup. But the batting is far too unidimensional with Strauss, Trott, Bell and Collingwood providing at least 2 too many 'bat 30+ overs' batsmen & only Pietersen, Bopara and Morgan providing the flair.
India won despite a bowling attack that was under threat of being smacked around every game, and a fielding unit (barring 2 or 3 players) which was ever willing to help opponents convert 1s into 2s, 2s into 3s, routine saves into 4s, etc. There's absolutely no doubt that they were the best side of the tournament, and they defeated all the top sides barring South Africa (England, perhaps conveniently, don't count). Yet, players like Virat Kohli & Sreesanth need to think about their game, and what they want to achieve. It is bizarre that Kohli, at 22, is unable to adapt his game to a situation where he goes in at #6 with a couple of overs left to go. He has to realize that he may not go in at #4 with 30 overs to go every time! Similarly, Sreesanth needs to realize that this was his 'last chance saloon'. He only had 2 opportunities to prove that he can be an effective #2 or #3 bowler in ODIs, and he fluffed up both times. If his strength is around generating late outswing, why did he pitch it so short on a very flat batting track
in the final? Ashwin has most likely become the 2nd choice spinner, and I'd expect that he gets a lot more games over the span of the next 6-10 months to show that he can do a good job.
Ireland had at least 2 opportunities other than the game against England (v Bangladesh & v West Indies) to show that they should be given many more opportunities
to compete against good sides, and also that a World Cup was better off with them than without them.
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