The Kings meet at Lord's

Published: Saturday, June 19, 1999, 5:30 [IST]
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Courage and conviction, emotion and sentiments, leadership and the inspired ones all will be tested in a day of 100-over duration at Lord's, London, on Sunday. The game of cricket would not have asked for a more glorious situation and atmosphere to complete the 20th century with a World Cup of significant note.

Australia and Pakistan are the proudest nations to hold the responsibility of offering an historic climax from where the game would grow with greater confidence to attain global recognition. Perhaps, for the first time, a World Cup final's fate would be depending more on the leadership qualities of the rival captains. The Charismatic Wasim Akram is undergoing a terrible emotional phase in his career.

This gifted left-arm all-rounder with glittering records in both versions of the game, made an unceremonious exit as a skipper of Pakistan a couple of seasons ago. Then the "betting and match-fixing" issue shattered his morale and smudged his image. Ironically enough, he was made the captain this year and Wasim Akram took his men around the sub-continent on a successful mission. But the World Cup triumph is ultimate for him, and, of course, for his country.

Akram was the happiest captain during the preliminaries of this World Cup winning four matches in a row before suffering a blow from neighbour Bangladesh. Akram just said, more by instinct rather than by design, that "it was good for Bangladesh cricket". Worst things were to follow in the Super Six league. Defeat at the hands of South Africa and favorite foe India made the Pakistan team look like a flash in the pan.

Akram wakes up his men in his own aristocratic style. Sometimes, it even resembles the method of an autocrat. But his approach produces the desired result. He is lucky that his men admire his qualities and also understand the nature of his mission. Very few captains in modern sports could afford to be dictatorial and succeed too. The modern young sportspersons would tell such captains to "get lost".

But then this Pakistan team under Akram is passionate family. It is this astounding degree of passion, which generally makes a Pakistan player ready to give his 'life' for the skipper. So from this point of view, Pakistan enjoys a slight edge over Australia. The manner in which Pakistan thrashed Zimbabwe in the Super Six, and, then whipped New Zealand in the first semi-final only underlined the emotional attachment between the leader and the inspired. Now Akram and his men face the fiercest competitors in World Cricket. No doubt, Pakistan had beaten Australia by 10 runs thanks to Akram's "fatal blows" in the 50th over.

But that was in the preliminaries. The demands of a World Cup final are different. A slip here and a blunder there are enough to bury a team. This, of course, applies to Steve Waugh and his men also. Australian cricket is hugely different from Pakistan cricket. Steve Waugh is no Akram or an Imran Khan. He is "Mr.Cool", and his methods of motivating his men emerge from a brain that could "read" talents and situations meticulously.

He motivates even an average talent to provide an effective breakthrough. Australia was inconsistent throughout the preliminaries of this Cup championship. An inspired Glenn McGrath (5 for 14) helped Australia humiliate the West Indies in the preliminaries. Thereafter they did not look back.

They won all their Super Six encounters including a resounding one against South Africa for which Steve Waugh (120 not out) was hailed as the "captain of the championship". In the imaginary lists of World XI prepared by a host of experts of the game, Steve Waugh was nominated as the skipper. There lies a telling message.

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