A farce called 'tri-series'

Written by: Sajith Balakrishnan
Published: Thursday, January 15, 2004, 16:37 [IST]
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Just two matches into the VB series, eyebrows have been raised regarding whether the tournament is a two-nation one or the so-called 'tri-series'. Zimbabwe, it seems, is just making up the numbers, a fact acknowledged by their generous captain who admitted that beating Australians and Indians is a tough task.

India is likely to give the Aussies a run for their money. But the Zimbabweans, whose No 6 and No 7 batsmen contribute more than their top order, cannot do the same. Despite the fact that television commentators talk incessantly on 'bonus points' and the lot to keep interest in the series alive, it's obvious it's all set for an India-Australia title clash on Feb 6.

On form and paper, the Zimbabwenas neither look capable of upsetting the Aussie applecart, nor beating the Men in Blue who are on a roll. That the match at Hobart between Zimbabwe and India that was totally a one-sided affair is a pointer in this case. Virender Sehwag and the Indians virtually made mincemeat of a hapless Zimbabwean attack and put them to the sword.

The African nation looked woefully out of sorts in all departments. Streak may be forced to rethink on the batting order with a possible elevation for himself as he looks to be in good touch and the best among the rest. The top-order's flaws in technique are glaring and even their seniormost pro Grant Flower seemed to be wanting in this department.

India-Australia clashes have scaled new heights. Even the retiring Australian Test skipper Steve Waugh was gracious enough to acknowledge that they have overthrown even the traditional Ashes rivalry. Statements have started emanating as to whether it would have been fair to limit the contest between the two teams itself playing a series of 6-7 One-day Internationals, instead of the ongoing farce.

But with the Australian scheduling being so systematic, where they plan things well in advance, there is no point now in crying over the spilt milk. The World Series Cricket (WSC) format is laid out well in advance. In fact, it has been a part of the Australian itinerary since the days of Kerry Packer. So clamours for a change in format is unlikely to be met with.

All these questions started arising in the wake of a stunning reversal in India's fortunes. They were written off even before they had set foot Down Under. But their transformation from being underdogs to overwhelming favourites has been phenomenal. Yet, they did squander one good opportunity in the opening league encounter against the home side at Melbourne.

Australia has always proved to be a thorn in India's ODI scheme of things. This tourney that involves four round robin matches against each other is likely to see high-voltage contests between the two sides. At the same time, the tragic irony is that the outcome of matches involving the third side Zimbabwe are predictive in nature. The tournament would have been more open had the third team been a more competitive outfit like the Proteas or the Kiwis.

Cricket Australia could have even reverted back to the '94's condemned-by-all-yet-popular format of playing a fourth team in Australia 'A'. A second string Australian side is far more competitive than Zimbabwe who still have not found their feet in international cricket despite being in the arena for over two decades.

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