The West Indies were the notable absentee in the Super Six league of the World Cup 1999. They were not there mainly due to the overall failure of their batsmen. After all, group B in the preliminary round was the toughest considering the fact that Pakistan and Australia possess the best bowling combinations while New Zealand could boast of a couple of match-winning bowlers in their ranks.
Incidently New Zealands left-arm paceman Geoff Allott went on to pick 20 championship wickets by the end of the Super Six programme. West Indies too excelled with a set of bowlers inspired by the two seasoned campaigners Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose.
But the batsmen, including the great Brian Lara , could not strike a balance with the natural talent of their bowlers. That the two-time champion who ruled the One-Day cricket for nearly a decade were not there in the Super Six league would have certainly disappointed cricket followers who expect cent per cent athletic lustre in a Summit Meet.
But then that is only a romantic thinking in a world where progress through performance is ultimate. Not that the Super Six programme was lack-lustre.
In fact we witnessed a series of top-class performances in this phase of the championship. The mercurial West Indians with their natural grace and athleticism would have lent more colour and charm to the proceedings. Anyway the fact remains that the current West Indian team is not promising much to go places as before. Right from the start of this World Cup South Africa and Pakistan were ranked as the best teams. In contrasting styles, these two teams have won the hearts of the experts and the commonman as well.
If South Africa could be described as a team that play cricket with strict scientific approach, then the Pakistanis play their cricket purely by instinct. Like most instinctive sports persons, the Pakistanis too show a tendency to become erratic at crucial moments . Precisely their strength has been their weakness. The paying public really love such teams. South Africas systematic methods appear tedius to most grand stand sport-watchers. But in modern days only result-oriented methods bring name,fame and the Cups.
Ironically enough both South Africa and Pakistan were brought to earth in the preliminary round itself. South Africa were stunned by Zimbabwe in group A while Pakistan were surprised by Bangladesh in group B. While Pakistan were not affected at all by that defeat as they were able to carry all possible four points to the Super Six round. South Africa, on the other hand, could come to the Super Six only with two points.
But South Africa were quick enough to rebuild their image and were walking as tall as they were expected to be in the Super Six league. They played as if to prove that they might never encounter a worhty challenger in this World Cup. They did what giants generally do. Interestingly enough , it is very very difficult to pick the best players of this team.
For, each does his role to near-perfection like the stars in a professional drama troupe. Science do enhance a teams overall skill. At least South Africa remain a living example. The Super Six turned out to be a nightmarish experience for Pakistan who lost to India and South Africa. Only those four points brought forward from the preliminaries kept them in good stead. They were certainly in a mess.
Here their instinctive-play came to their rescue. They played with all the native courage and conviction to outplay Zimbabwe in their last Super Six match and stormed to the semi-finals. So one giant progressed thanks to technical brilliance and the other grew through natural instinct. Saeed Anwar announced his return to form with a century against Zimbabwe. Saqlain Mushtaq acheived a hat-trick. Inzamam ,Azhar Mahmood, Shoiab Akthar and Abdul Razzaq all lived up to their reputation as a bunch of dedicated soliders.
General Wasim Akram was the proudest leader at the end of the Super Six.. When we talk about instinctive-play we would certainly remember India and their sad exit. It was sad because this was the team which produced four century-makers of the meet in Dravid (2), Ganguly, Tendulkar and Jadeja (one each) That they came to the Super league without any point seemd to have haunted the entire team barring in the game against Pakistan. India performed like all-conquering kings on that day and to believe that even that victory did not help India to go further up in this championship is a crude reality.
The Super League loss against Australia dashed all Indias hopes. Their exit from the meet after a loss to New Zealand only meant the exit of a team that could entertain the entire cricketing world on their day. And blaming the format for Indias failure will only be likened to the proverbial dancer who blamed the quality of the stage for her poor show. The Zibabweans were the bravest during the preliminaries and were the luckiest in the Super Six. Of the three Super Six matches, they lost to Australia and Pakistan but rain Gods gave them an important point against New Zealand.
That clash was washed out and the teams got a point each. According to form -book New Zealand could have gained full points from that match. The score read : Zimbadwe 175 and New Zealand 70 for three in 15 overs. A sickening day for New Zealand indeed. Zimbabwe, no doubt , possess a superb all-rounder in Neil Johnson who scored a century against a strong Australian Attack. But their overall batting strength does not suggest anything good enough to be in the big league. New Zealand, on the other hand, were certainly a better side than Zimbabwe with fine One-Day performers in Roger Twose, Chris Cairns, Chris Harris and Geoff Allott.
And remember their work on the field has been something extraordinary. Coming to Australia all one could say is they peaked a bit late or so it seemed. A prelimianry round loss at the hands of the New Zealand upset their Super Six league plans. Australia, like India, came to Super Six with an empty hand and were forced to win all the three matches in this league.
They lived upto their reputation and got past India and Zimbabwe convincingly thanks to a bowling attack headed by that most feared fast bowler Glenn McGrath. Their batting hero was Mark Waugh who slammed a classy century against Zimbabwe and an 80-plus against India. Australias destiny would be pronunced only on Sunday ( June 13), the final day of the Super Six. Australia , with four points, will play South Africa (6 points), Zimbabwe finished their programme with five points.