Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Champions Trophy stuff

This has been a real rollercoaster tournament so far and, as many commentators have noted, has been rather exciting given that the ball has had an upper hand for most of it. Low scores aren't necessarily entertaining, but it is still a refreshing change from the mindless carnages we have got used to lately. Some former players have observed that the current crop of batsmen have all too often feasted on flat tracks and may have lost tightness in defence and attack that is needed to counter good quick bowling on helpful surfaces. I'm not knowledgeable enough to comment on whether this is indeed the case, but I have a gut feeling it might be true. If there was the one thing India couldn't have done, it was not making it to even the semis. This latest cockup is another morale sapping loss, at least for supporters of the team (hopefully the team can bounce back). Increasingly, this side looks farther and farther from being able to mount a serious challenge for the World Cup next year. Both batting and bowling were a worry, with batting being the more problematic. What on earth was Dinesh Mongia doing at No.3 in the crunch game against Australia? I must say I haven't seen anything that will convince me Mongia can hold his own against top drawer fast bowling. Don't worry, he'll be on the plane to South Africa. Sehwag has become so inconsistent these days, even as he remains a potential matchwinner, that he must be given no special treatment. Oh well, the problems are endless, but the bowling in the crunch game was pretty pathetic. Anyhow, with India gone, subcontinent fans can relax and enjoy the good cricket being dished out by those in the semis. Australia is no doubt a favourite at this stage and they have quality and know how to win, but they are not runaway funs yet for the semis against their other perennial rivals. Martyn is firing again, Watson is coming on well, Gilly's back in touch and to top it all, Glenn McGrath was back to his normal self against Tendulkar and India. Two othes players have had a huge tournament so far in Chris Gayle and Stephen Fleming. Gayle is an easy crowd favourite with his swashbuckling methods with the bat, but he's also proved his worth as a one-day bowler on more than the odd occasion recently. He's definitely a player worth paying for to watch. Fleming's not, but he has quietly become the lynchpin of the Kiwi batting order. Some of his more prolific or talented colleagues no longer command a regular place in the side, and Fleming has made up a great deal of that gap on his own. In other words, he's more than earned his place in the side, not just making statements at press conferences, although that is an occupational hazard. There is a lesson there. - NK


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