Bat or ball,
they stand tall
ball, they stand tall
Certain teams will have an edge over the others in the cricket World Cup due to the presence of "two-in-one" players. These all-rounders can deliver with the bat or the ball in crunch situations.
What makes a player a good all-rounder? One commonly used yardstick is that his batting average should be greater than the bowling average, though there are exceptions.
Among the World Cup-bound players, Shaun Pollock of South Africa leads the pack, followed by his team-mate Jacques Kallis, Chris Gayle (West Indies), Andrew Flintoff (England), Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka) and Shahid Afridi (Pakistan). Though the statistics of Jayasuriya and Afridi do not follow the accepted norm, their all-round heroics put them in this elite club.
Among the others, Andrew Symonds (Australia), Jacob Oram (New Zealand) and Irfan Pathan (India) have donned the mantle of an all-rounder, but they are struggling with form and fitness ahead of the Cup. Both Symonds and Oram are doubtful starters, while Pathan barely managed to catch the flight after proving his fitness in a Deodhar Trophy match.
Thrifty with the ball and useful with the bat, Shaun Pollock is a real match-winner. A medium-fast bowler, Pollockís weapons are his unwavering accuracy, reliability and his ability to make the ball swing both ways. With the bat, he is a handy hard-hitting batsman.
Pollock is the first South African to take 400 Test wickets; in one-dayers, he has 373 in his kitty. His recent form is a big positive for the Proteas. He was unstoppable against India and Pakistan and was adjudged the man of the series both times.
Jacques Kallis is a dogged right-handed batsman and muscular fast-medium bowler who can swing the ball both ways off a good line and length. He is the only cricketer in the history of the game to have more than 8,000 runs and 200 wickets in both Test and one-dayers (Jayasuriya achieved the feat in ODIs and Sir Garfield Sobers did it in Tests).
In the last two series at home, against India and Pakistan, Kallis gave sterling performances. He was the top scorer in both series. He averaged 84 in the series versus India and his best bowling figures were 3-3. Against Pakistan, he had an amazing average of 193 in five matches and his best bowling figures were 3-38. What a form to carry into the World Cup!
Nicknamed Freddie, Andrew Flintoff is aggressive with both bat and ball. Architect of the Ashes victory in 2005, he was named the captain in February last year after skipper Michael Vaughan and vice-captain Marcus Trescothick became unavailable for the series against India. Flintoff was seen as a great success during the drawn Test series against India, with a 212-run victory in Mumbai.
He also led England in the recent tri-series involving Australia and New Zealand. England barely qualified for the best-of-three finals against Australia, but reversed their poor form on the tour with a 2-0 win.
Flintoff contributed significantly with the ball in both finals, taking three wickets in the first and allowing only 10 runs off five overs in the second.
Butcher of Matara
Part of the Sri Lankan squad since 1989, Sanath Jayasuriya is one of the most successful cricketers. Powerfully built, Jayasuriya can demolish any bowling attack.
He was instrumental in Sri Lankaís victory in the 1996 World Cup, where he was adjudged the man of the tournament in recognition of his all-round contributions. He is the only cricketer in one-day history to score more than 10,000 runs and scalp over 250 wickets. Currently holding the record of the fastest fifty in ODIs (off just 17 balls), letís see if Jayasuriya can repeat his 1996 performance.
A hard-hitting left-handed batsman who can bowl right-arm off-spin, Chris Gayle was named the player of the Champions Trophy last year, where the West Indies finished runners-up. He scored three centuries and totalled 474 runs, 150 more than any other batsman, and also took eight wickets.
The tall Jamaican is one of the three players, along with Jayasuriya and Brian Lara, to have three or more scores of 150 in ODIs. His destructive approach with the bat and his slow bowling can be of immense help to the hosts, who are looking to win their first World Cup since 1979.
An attacking style has earned him the nickname "Boom Boom" Afridi. He has an ODI strike rate of 108.16, the highest in the game. In his second one-dayer, Shahid Afridi hit a record 37-ball hundred against Sri Lanka in October, 1996, scoring 28 runs off a Jayasuriya over on his way to beating the Sri Lankanís record of the fastest century. However, his aggressive style increases his risk of getting out and he is one of the most inconsistent batsmen around.
His exploits with the ball are also noteworthy. His best bowling figures are 5-11 and his stock ball is the leg-break. His armoury also includes the conventional off-break and a "quicker one" which he can deliver at nearly 80 mph in the style of a medium pacer. He relies more on variation in speed to flummox the batsmen.
The big question is: Can he deliver in the Caribbean?
Highs & lows
A look at Indiaís best and worst in the World Cup from 1975 to 2003
373 Highest total: vs Sri Lanka at Taunton, 1999
125 Lowest completed total (all out): vs Australia at Centurion, 2003
183 Largest margin of victory (runs): vs Sri Lanka at Taunton, 1999
10 Largest margin of victory (wkts): vs East Africa, Leeds, 1975
202 Largest margin of defeat (runs): vs England at Lordís, 1975
9 Largest margin of defeat (wkts): vs West Indies at Birmingham, 1979; vs Australia at Centurion, 2003
1 Lowest margin of defeat (runs): vs Australia at Chennai, 1987; vs Australia at Brisbane, 1992
183 Highest individual score: Sourav Ganguly vs Sri Lanka at Taunton, 1999
318 Highest partnership: Second-wicket stand between Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid vs Sri Lanka at Taunton, 1999 (it is also the overall record stand for any wicket in the World Cup)
1732 Most runs (aggregate): Sachin Tendulkar ó 33 matches; Average: 59.72 (he also holds the overall record)
6-23 Best bowling figures ó Ashish Nehra vs England at Durban, 2003
44 Most wickets (aggregate): Javagal Srinath: 34 matches, Average: 27.81
FOR Spanish striker Santi Freixa, the sole European in the Sher-e-Jalandhar team, the experience of playing in the Premier Hockey League (PHL) at Chandigarh has been "amazing and exciting".
"Itís a challenge to play in one position only. In Europe, players often swap positions according to the situation," he says.
Frexia said PHL offered him a unique opportunity to play "fast and attacking" hockey instead of the defence-oriented game prevalent in Europe.
With his precise distribution and drag-flicking prowess, he was instrumental in putting Sher-e-Jalandhar in the finals.
Freixa made his international debut against the Netherlands in the Champions Trophy (2000).
The 24-year-old hockey sensation has some suggestions for making PHL more interesting. "I feel that the two-month format is unreasonably lengthy. A shorter version, maybe lasting a month, would be fair to the players as well as the event," he said.
Making the league compact, Frexia said, would serve its purpose as international players could not afford to devote so much time to the PHL.
He is of the opinion that the league should be for a month so that the teams can retain all 14 players for its entire duration.
Born in the hockey-crazy town of Terrassa in the Spanish region of Catalonia, Freixa is not able to recall when he first picked up the hockey stick. Nicknamed Gugu by his family and friends, he got associated with the game at very early stage and used to practice at the Atletic Terrassa Club, which was formed by his grandfather in 1952. Four of his uncles played for the Spanish team.
Named "Talent of the Year 2004" by the international hockey federation (FIH), Freixa was the architect of Spainís maiden Champions Trophy win in December, 2004, at Lahore and their European title triumph in September, 2005.
Freixa said playing alongside Sher-e-Jalandhar team-mates like Gagan Ajit Singh and Baljit Singh Dhillon was a memorable experience.
About the positive side of the PHL, Freixa said it could be good for India as the selectors would get a chance to assess the playersí performance. "At the end of the day, this league would definitely serve as a platform for the upcoming players to display their talent," he hoped.
IN THE NEWS
OF all the qualities that have kept Roger Federer at world No. 1 for the past three years ó the Swiss earlier this week beat Jimmy Connorsí record of 160 consecutive weeks at the top of menís tennis rankings ó knowing how to manage his body has been vital.
While most of his rivals have been globetrotting in search of ranking points and titles since the Australian Open, the Melbourne champion has been back home, catching up with friends and family and spending time in the Swiss mountains.
"You have to know your own body well and I think thatís something Iíve achieved," Federer said in Dubai as he reflected on his record-breaking run. "I have more off-seasons than I used to. I always give myself one month to recuperate each time and then practise again. Thatís helped me to avoid injuries, stay healthy and become much fitter."
A comparison with Connorsí record run is revealing. In his 160 successive weeks at world No. 1 from July, 1974, the American appeared in 61 tournaments and played 278 matches. In Federerís first 160 weeks at the top, he played just 49 tournaments but 262 matches. Federer lost only 15 matches compared with Connorsí 26 and won 34 titles (including eight Grand Slam events) to Connorsí 30 (of which only two were Grand Slams). For Federer, it is clearly a case of quality rather than quantity.
Does he consider himself a better player than when he became No. 1? "Definitely. Iíve improved so many areas in my game. I remember my game was still a bit up in the air then. I knew I could play well on any given day, but I also knew that on my off days I was very vulnerable. My baseline game was OK, but I wasnít as consistent."
ó By arrangement with The Independent
Kudos to Rahul Dravid and his squad for winning the ODI series against Sri Lanka 2-1. Individually, Dravid also deserves accolades for crossing the milestone of 10,000 runs in this series.
Sourav Ganguly amply justified his comeback by being adjudged the man of the series. The same cannot be said of Virender Sehwag, whose dismal form continues. Therefore, his selection for the World Cup smacks of bias as sheer injustice has been meted out to players of the calibre of Mohammad Kaif, Ramesh Powar and Suresh Raina.
Furthermore, in the fourth ODI, which India won comprehensively, Chamara Silva of Sri Lanka was given the man-of-the-match award. Yuvraj Singh, with a masterful match-winning knock of 95, should have been the man of the match, while Silva should have got a consolation prize. The ICC and various cricket boards should ponder over this matter.
D.K. Aggarwala, Hoshiarpur