Few Surprises In ICC Champions Trophy

Written by: Sunil Vasudeva
Published: Tuesday, September 21, 2004, 18:08 [IST]
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Congratulations to England, Pakistan, Australia, and the West Indies for making it to the final four of the Champions Trophy! The teams who fell by the wayside have either themselves to blame or bad umpiring decisions or the Duckworth(less)/Lewis method.

The West Indies were the only ones to win without any surrounding controversies. The Proteas were simply outgunned by a group of players determined to reverse a losing trend that of late seems to be following them like a menacing shadow. The West Indian bowlers did an excellent job (only 2 wides) as did the batsmen and the wicketkeeper (only 4 legbyes).

The Australian juggernaut is ruthlessly ploughing ahead and the Kiwis almost had them by the scruff of the neck but for the umpiring gaffes by a certain individual who I feel needs to go a thorough re-examination of his qualifications. Those decisions could have turned the tide of the match. But then, even if those decisions did go the right way, there was still a formidable line-up to follow. Lehmann, Clarke, and even the Aussie tailenders would have done their bit to overtake 198. They have done it before and this was the occasion for it had it arisen.

The ones I really feel for are the Sri Lankans who lost to a team of thirteen, 11 players plus Duckworth(less)/Lewis. To score 145 from 24 overs is a daunting task against the much improved and constantly improving England. Had Muralitharan been playing, the outcome could have been very different. Rain, however, had the final say and put paid to the chances of a comfortable run chase which 252 would have been in 50 overs. Had Murali been playing, would he have finished his full quota? Definitely not, for one of the umpires in that match was Darrell Hair, Murali's 'best friend'.

Pakistan played intelligent cricket to be worthy winners of their last match. Naved-ul-Hasan and Shoaib Akhtar bowled brilliantly to ensure a low chase for the Pakistanis. Bob Woolmer has turned these guys to a well-oiled machine. The strategy to bring Shoaib back in the death overs was a brilliant masterstroke on Woolmer's part and Shoaib answered his coach's confidence with flying colors. It is a real pity that the ICC Emerging player of the year couldn't match that. Can't blame him when the more experienced players in his team floundered from the word go.

So, it is back to the drawing board for the Indians. If the current disturbing trend continues, then look for the Aussies to complete a 4-0 sweep to be followed by a 2-0 repeat sweep by the Proteas. Will the Indian fans be subjected to more embarrassment or will the Indian players redeem themselves like the team of old who won the World Cup after being soundly beaten in the preceding Tests by Pakistan and the West Indies? One thing is for sure though; some major restructuring is on the cards.

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