Spin, pressure could dent Australias World Cup bid

Published: Monday, January 27, 2003, 21:49 [IST]
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Bangalore: The number one team in anybody's book to lift the Cup would be Australia. The 2nd final of the recently concluded VB series would bear ample testimony to that fact.

Apart from having loads of individual match-winners in its ranks the most intimidating quality would be Australia's ability to bounce back from the death. The Aussies know how to win matches when they are seemingly dead. However, even though the odds are heavily stacked in their favour, I have my reservations about them retaining the Cup.

I know I am rolling the dice and taking a chance, but if there is one area the Australians are susceptible to then it has to be spin. Their inability to put it across Sri Lanka in the Champions Trophy sowed the seed of doubt in my mind and it was further strengthened during the VB series where Murali ran havoc with its middle- order. For a team which is famous for making a mockery of pace attacks, it seems clueless when encountered with quality spin; the run rate from a high 6 to 7 per over drops to 2 to 3, which then results in a few wickets tumbling. For my money, Australia's greatest threat would either be Sri Lanka, India or Pakistan.

That being the case, it's not my only take on the Aussies. There just might be another soft target - their batting succumbs under pressure. The mighty Aussies are hardly under pressure is another issue but if and when they are under sustained pressure, they are prone to wilting than withstanding. And this kind of pressure may come from the South Africans because of their high standard of fielding and bowling. I have marked two target areas in the otherwise strong and mighty Australian fort. If any team has to make headway it is these areas that it has to score maximum of.

Teams like New Zealand, West Indies, England and Zimbabwe could upset the applecart on this score but the teams most likely to do it would be the sub-continent teams and host South Africa. This is where Steve Waugh's absence as a player might be felt. If there is one player who is a proven customer under pressure then it is Waugh; added to it he is a good player of spin. So there definitely is a chink in the armour and how costly it will prove? Time alone will be the judge of that.

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