SPORTS TRIBUNE
 


 

 

Charge of the elite brigade
Top teams are relying on tried-and-tested players to secure a berth in the World Cup semifinals, writes Ivninderpal Singh
The cricket World Cup has lost its fizz in the subcontinent with the shock ouster of India and Pakistan, but things are hotting up in the Caribbean. The battlelines for the semifinals are almost drawn. The top contenders are Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, with England being the dark horse.
Matthew Hayden (left) and Sanath Jayasuriya have been in blazing form in the mega event. — Photos by AP/PTI
Matthew Hayden and Sanath Jayasuriya have been in blazing form in the mega event. Matthew Hayden and Sanath Jayasuriya have been in blazing form in the mega event.

Need for POP culture
The TINA (there is no alternative) syndrome is deeply rooted in our cricketing psyche. Whether it was Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev or the spin quartet, one was made to believe that not only were these worthies irreplaceable but also the last hope(s) of Indian cricket. Gavaskar, Kapil, and Bedi & Co continued to play for the national team long after they had outlived their on-field utility.

Flawed format
The ongoing World Cup might not end up as the greatest of them all, but it is undoubtedly proving to be the most long drawn out. Even after about four weeks of action, it has just reached the two-thirds mark.




Ian Chappell’s suggestion about reducing the number of teams in the World Cup to 10 is impractical in view of the ICC’s “go global” policy
Ian Chappell’s suggestion about reducing the number


IN THE NEWS
Phelps eyes Super Eight
After conquering the world, Michael Phelps has set his sights on his biggest goal — eight Olympic gold medals — that will end the argument over who is the greatest swimmer in history.




Michael Phelps (left), who won seven gold medals at the World Swimming Championship in Melbourne recently, is keen to break the Olympic record of seven titles set by fellow American Mark Spitz at the 1972 games. — Photos by AFP
Michael Phelps, who won seven gold medals at the World Swimming Championship in Melbourne recently, is keen to break the Olympic record of seven titles set by fellow American Mark Spitz at the 1972 games.

 

Shameful ouster
The ignominious exit of India from the World Cup is unpalatable but equally condemnable is the behaviour of the fans at home. True, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh miserably failed to click when it mattered the most, but it does not mean that fans should take out “funeral processions”.

 

  Top







Charge of the elite brigade

Top teams are relying on tried-and-tested players to secure a berth in the World Cup semifinals, writes Ivninderpal Singh

The cricket World Cup has lost its fizz in the subcontinent with the shock ouster of India and Pakistan, but things are hotting up in the Caribbean. The battlelines for the semifinals are almost drawn. The top contenders are Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, with England being the dark horse.

Australia have shown their might and silenced their critics who had predicted the beginning of their fall after five consecutive ODI losses prior to the World Cup. Australia have won all their five matches in this tournament and that too convincingly.

The only other team which is undefeated in this mega event so far is New Zealand. They, too, have registered big wins to stake their claim to the coveted trophy. These two teams are closely followed by Sri Lanka and South Africa, who have also performed well.

These teams are riding on the form of their experienced players. Veterans are showing their match-winning ability yet again.

Matthew Hayden and Glenn McGrath are going great guns for the Aussies, while spinner Brad Hogg has proved to be a surprise package. Sanath Jayasuriya has proved that he still has a lot of cricket in him, while the Kiwis are capitalising on the experience of their captain Stephen Fleming. And not the least, Jacques Kallis’ all-round abilities have kept South Africa in the race for the title.

Hayden scored two consecutive tons and both came against top teams (South Africa and West Indies). The one against the Proteas was the fastest ton of the World Cup so far. Hayden reached three figures off only 66 deliveries, beating the mark of 67 set by John Davison of Canada against the West Indies in 2003. For this achievement, the Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis awarded Hayden with honorary citizenship.

The 35-year-old southpaw, who holds the records for the highest scores made by an Australian in Tests (380) and ODIs (181 not out), scored 158 off143 balls in the match against the West Indies, the highest knock by any Australian in the World Cup. This record-breaking opening batsman averages 98.75 in five World Cup matches and he is surely the trump card for the Aussies to complete a hat-trick of titles.

Hayden is assisted by 37-year-old McGrath and 36-year-old Brad Hogg. In five matches, the “Pigeon” has scalped 12 wickets at an average of just 13, with best figures of 3-14. He also became the highest wicket-taker of the tournament (57 wickets), overtaking Pakistani legend Wasim Akram (55). McGrath’s overall haul in one-dayers stands at 367 wickets in 244 matches.

He is closely followed by Hogg, who has claimed 11 wickets in this edition with best figures of 4-27. Primarily a left-arm chinaman bowler, he is a handy left-handed batsman as well and an excellent fielder. His international career would have been a brief footnote in history, had it not been for Shane Warne’s absence from cricket in 2003 due to suspension from a drugs test, and subsequent retirement from one-day cricket. Hogg has lived up to the team’s expectations.

For New Zealand, skipper Fleming is leading from the front and using all his experience to win the elusive Cup (He is playing his fourth as a player and third as captain). The 34-year-old Kiwi has scored one ton and two fifties in five matches and averages 70.

Just a day after his birthday, the most capped ODI captain hit a masterly ton against Bangladesh and became the first Kiwi and ninth batsman overall to make 1,000 WC runs. His century came off 90 balls, the fastest for a Kiwi in this tournament.

Kallis is leading the charge for the South Africans. The 31-year-old, the only cricketer with over 8,000 runs and 200 wickets in Tests as well as ODIs, is averaging 164 in five matches in this World Cup. And he can swing the ball too. The Proteas are banking on him to go the distance at long last.

Sri Lankans are relying upon the tried-and-tested Jayasuriya. He usually delivers when his team needs him. This old warhorse has secured many victories for the islanders and was the architect of their triumph in the 1996 World Cup.

He is in the thick of things this time as well. The 37-year-old all-rounder has hit two tons in this tournament and averages 55.6. His 86-ball century against the West Indies, was the fastest by any Sri Lankan and he is the only player from the island to hit three tons in the World Cup.

This muscular man from Matara is equally good with the ball. He helps to decrease the workload of Muttiah Muralitharan, who is also playing a key role in Lanka’s progress in the Caribbean.

The hosts, however, are missing out on every front. Call it the “hosts jinx” or bad scheduling, as Brian Lara says, but the true picture is that they are virtually out of the race to realise their dream of clinching the Cup on home soil.

The final is three weeks away — let’s see who sparkles to help his team win the Cup.

Top

 

Need for POP culture
Amar Nath Wadehra

The TINA (there is no alternative) syndrome is deeply rooted in our cricketing psyche. Whether it was Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev or the spin quartet, one was made to believe that not only were these worthies irreplaceable but also the last hope(s) of Indian cricket. Gavaskar, Kapil, and Bedi & Co continued to play for the national team long after they had outlived their on-field utility.

Something similar is happening in the case of contemporary cricket icons like Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly.

In politics, TINA has already given way to POP (perform or perish) culture. There is no reason why this cannot be replicated in the world of Indian sports, including cricket. If politicians can be shown the door for non-performance (or, to put it politely, the anti-incumbency factor), there is no reason why similar treatment cannot be meted out to the cricketers.

If for every Gavaskar, the team could find a Tendulkar or a Dravid, and for every Bedi and Prasanna a Kumble or a Harbhajan, there is no reason why Tendulkar and Ganguly cannot be replaced with younger, fitter and talented players. Already, the likes of Suresh Raina and Murali Karthik are waiting in the wings; even as Kaif and Laxman await their turn for a more assured tenure in the team.

Kapil, if we ignore his all-round capabilities, was a medium pacer who was succeeded by the likes of the fast-medium duo of Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad — dubbed at one time as “vegetarian tigers” of the cricket world. These, in turn, have been succeeded by a bunch of talented speedsters like Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, S. Sreesanth and Munaf Patel.

As for the coach, even if Greg Chappell has failed to deliver, it’s not the end of the world. There will be more World Cups and other tournaments in future, and he is eminently replaceable by the likes of Sandeep Patil, Dav Whatmore, John Wright or Mohinder Amarnath.

The present administrative superstructure of the game, too, needs to be replaced with professionally qualified managers who will be accountable to the cricket-crazy public for their performance. If the POP culture takes root, our cricket, nay the entire sporting scenario, will undergo a sea change. Any takers?

Top

 

Flawed format
Vikramdeep Johal

The ongoing World Cup might not end up as the greatest of them all, but it is undoubtedly proving to be the most long drawn out. Even after about four weeks of action, it has just reached the two-thirds mark.

The tournament’s format has come in for criticism from various quarters. One viewpoint is that there are too many matches (and teams), while another is that the top sides have very few games to get their act together in the first round.

Team India captain Rahul Dravid grumbled that there was no margin for error in the preliminary phase. According to him, a loss in one “banana-skin match” (against Bangladesh) was enough to push India to the brink of elimination. For Pakistan, all the damage was done by the 440V shock defeat to Ireland. Although there are no excuses for India and Pakistan’s abysmal show, Dravid’s point can’t be ignored.

The total number of matches in the 2007 edition is 51. Sixteen teams divided into four groups of four each played 24 matches in the first round. An equal number of games are being held in the Super Eight stage, which would be followed by the two semifinals and the final.

Former Australian captain Ian Chappell, not too enthusiastic about the “fledgelings”, wants the number of teams to be reduced to 10 (eight top sides plus two qualifiers). If all teams play each other once in the round-robin league, along the lines of the nine-nation 1992 World Cup, that makes it 45 matches.

The overall figure would be 48 (no Super Eight stage) after including the two semis and the final — a reduction of just three matches compared to the present format. However, the number of teams would get reduced by six, making it an impractical formula considering the International Cricket Council’s “go global” policy. Twelve teams were seen in action in 1999, 14 in 2003 and 16 in 2007.

Assuming that the ICC agrees to marginally reduce the number of participating nations, we can look at formats with 14 or 15 teams. The current Super Eight stage has to be replaced with the Super Six phase — used in 1999 and 2003 editions — to curtail the number of matches.

A 14-nation arrangement featured in the 2003 Cup. There were two groups of seven teams each, with the top three in each playing in the Super Six. The match aggregate was: 42 (first round) + 9 (Super Six) + 3 (semis and final) = 54 — three more than the current figure. Moreover, the first round dragged a lot.

An economical format would involve 15 teams divided into three groups of five each. Each would play four matches in the first round, thus getting one match extra to make amends for any upset. In each group, 10 matches would be played.

The top two teams from each group would figure in the Super Six. Each side would face all others except their first-round group rivals. The total number of matches would be: 30 (first round) + 12 (Super Six) + 3 (semis and final) = 45. This amounts to a reduction of six matches while dropping only one team.

All said and done, even if an abridged format is adopted for the 2011 edition, the cricket World Cup would still remain the longest event in the sporting world, with football’s month-long mega event being a distant second.

Top

 

IN THE NEWS
Phelps eyes Super Eight
Julian Linden

After conquering the world, Michael Phelps has set his sights on his biggest goal — eight Olympic gold medals — that will end the argument over who is the greatest swimmer in history.

The 21-year-old American won seven gold medals at the world championship in Melbourne last week to break the record set by Ian Thorpe at the 2001 championship in Japan.

Phelps might have won an eighth gold medal had the USA not been disqualified from the medley relay, but the mistake by his team-mates couldn’t detract from his amazing displays.

Phelps set five world records and won five individual titles, in freestyle, medley and butterfly, prompting US coach Mark Schubert to describe it as the greatest all-round performance he had ever seen.

“Mark Spitz’s performance was tremendous, and has inspired the USA for many years. That’s been the benchmark,” Schubert told reporters.

“But there has been nobody that’s not only as dominant and as versatile as Michael.”

Spitz won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics and it is no surprise what Phelps’ next challenge is. Phelps won six gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and his target for Beijing next year is eight.

“I think at the Olympics, it’s going to be even harder, because the amount of pressure, the amount of media and everything that goes into the Olympics itself,” Phelps said.

“It’s more emotionally draining than a world championship. There’s work to be done to get ready for that...but anything is possible.”

Phelps was a runaway winner of the award for the best male swimmer of the meet with no other men winning even two individual titles.

American Aaron Peirsol broke his own 100m backstroke world record but suffered his first loss in 200m backstroke for nearly seven years, losing the gold and his world record to team-mate Ryan Lochte.

Thorpe’s retirement last year opened the way for a new generation of men in the freestyle events and there were unexpected results.

South Korea’s Park Tae-hwan (400m) and Tunisia’s Oussama Mellouli (800m) provided their countries with their first swimming world champions.

Laure Manaudou of France was named the outstanding female swimmer of the championship, although the award might just as easily have gone to Australia’s Libby Lenton.

Manaudou defended the 400m freestyle world title she won in Montreal two years ago then broke the 200m world record, one of the 14 new marks that were set during the competition.

Lenton joined American Tracey Caulkins (1978) as the only women to win five gold medals in a single world championship after winning the 50 and 100 freestyle, 100 butterfly and two relays. — Reuters

Top

  sm
SPORTS MAIL

Shameful ouster

The ignominious exit of India from the World Cup is unpalatable but equally condemnable is the behaviour of the fans at home. True, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh miserably failed to click when it mattered the most, but it does not mean that fans should take out “funeral processions”.

Also, the TV channel concerned should not deprive the viewers of savouring all the crucial moments of a match by inserting advertisements.

As far as Mandira Bedi is concerned, she does not know even the ABC of cricket. She has been imposed upon the viewers in an attempt to attract female viewers towards World Cup matches.

Whether she has been able to do so or not is doubtful, but one thing is certain that she serves merely as a showpiece. She hardly does anything more than baring her legs and keeping them at ugly angles, as Amita Malik writes in “Perils of cricket” (Saturday Extra, March 24).

Tarsem S. Bumrah, Batala

II

In view of the humiliating ouster of Team India in the first round of the World Cup, it has now became essential, or rather inescapable, to remove Greg Chappell as coach and strip Rahul Dravid of captaincy. Dravid is neither able to take correct decisions after winning the toss nor has he displayed any capacity to utilise batting and bowling resources in the best possible way. However, he still deserves a place in the team as a batsman.

The team relied too heavily on Sachin Tendulkar, who is well past his prime. He was dismissed for a duck in the all-important match against Sri Lanka. It is high time for him to quit international cricket in the interests of the team.

Natha Singh, Ludhiana

HOME PAGE



Top