WC 2003 - Ganguly, Sehwag, Mongia need to hit form to reach final

Published: Tuesday, February 4, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Captain Saurav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag and Dinesh Mongia need to hit some form if India is to make the final of the World Cup let alone win it.India still relies heavily on Sachin Tendulkar to make a big score. It has not proven to anyone, least of all itself, that it can make a winning score without a sizeable contribution from its super-star.The bowling has been serviceable but will need to show more potency if it is to beat Australia in particular. As the World Cup enters the Super Six Stage the organisers will be disappointed that the senior host nation is the one missing from the list which will go to the next stage.South Africa has only itself to blame. Sure, the rain interruptions were cruel, but the errors of omission that South Africa made during the tournament are what will haunt it. The Proteas left themselves a lot to do by losing to the West Indies and New Zealand, but the little things that would have got them through to the next stage are what will wake them up in the middle of the night for years to come.Nicky Boje and Lance Klusener should have crossed when Klusener was caught in the deep late in the game with the West Indies and Boucher should have known that one run was required from the last ball against Sri Lanka.There is no doubt that the Duckworth-Lewis system is harder to understand than Chinese algebra, but it is hard to imagine that the ruthlessly efficient Australians would have made a similar miscalculation at such a vital stage. Pollock, Klusener, Boje and Boucher will be revisited by the ghosts of these mistakes every time World Cup cricket is discussed in the future. England is equally guilty of self destruction. Despite having allowed itself to get distracted by the politics surrounding Zimbabwe it should have got through. Nasser Hussain is right to fall on his sword. Apart from having done nothing with the bat he captained the team poorly and must take much of the responsibility for allowing Australia to get off the floor to win in Port Elizabeth.England has unearthed some promising cricketers in recent months and will need a leader who is resourceful, adventurous and courageous. It will help if that person is also worth his place in the team. Pakistan also laid the seeds of its own destruction. Nothing much went right from the start. Its first match with Australia set the tone for a disastrous few weeks.It appeared to play on emotion and little else. When the fast bowlers failed to have any effect against the better teams there did not seem to be a plan 'B'. In fact it was hard to see what plan 'A' was most of the time.The captain and the coach will, no doubt, bear the brunt of the acrimony and insinuation that will surely follow another disappointing end to a World Cup campaign. Some critical comment on the captain will be justified, but if that is as far as the investigation goes then the Pakistan supporters will be let down once again. The problems appear to run much deeper than those on the field.Of the six teams making up the Super Six stage Australia is the overwhelming favourite. If talent, form, preparation and belief are all that it takes from here, the Australians should be at the Wanderers Stadium as a participant on March 23. History will tell you it is not that straight forward.India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Zimbabwe are capable of beating anyone on their day if the circumstances fall for them. Kenya has been brave, but I can not see them beating any of the fancied teams. A washout though could be enough for them to get through to the semi-finals. Australia will not take any of the remaining games lightly and will know that they should be in the semi-finals. From that point on they will know that they will not be able to make any mistakes.The advantage that Australia has over the other nations is that it seems to rely less on a few individuals than the rest. Despite the loss of Shane Warne and Jason Gillespie, Australia has not appeared to miss a stride in its march to the finals.Andy Bichel's performance underlines how committed the Australians are. I like his approach. He plays each game as if it was his last and he leaves no stone unturned in his effort to bring something to the team effort. Whether with bat, ball or in the field he will give the team 100 per cent commitment.Michael Bevan, Darren Lehmann, Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn are all capable of making runs and, as we saw at Port Elizabeth, the tail is also capable of some runs. Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist are the super-stars in a star-studded line-up, but they do not have the same pressureon them that key figures in other teams do.As Bichel showed against England, Australia does not rely on any one bowler to have a day out. In fact, it is generally a team effort that sees them through. Sri Lanka has steadily improved during the tournament albeit the surprise packet is a largely part-time spin attack. Once again, it is hard to see them beating Australia unless it is on the back of a large score and Chaminda Vaas can get some early breakthroughs.Zimbabwe has got to this stage with the assistance of a political smoke-screen and some rain. It will be keen to prove itself genuine contender. On form it is hard to see it getting through to the semi-final stage.New Zealand is the team that will have earned the respect of Australia by dint of its committed attitude last summer. Chris Cairns will need to have a bigger impact than so far in the series, but if it can get to the final its opponents will not take it lightly.The Super Six concept received much critical comment when it was introduced but it is now being warmly embraced by most. The concept of the top teams having to play each other at least once is excellent, with each of the next nine games being critical for most teams. Australia and India are all but assured of a semi-final berth but that is only half the battle. First and fourth positions are the coveted spots for that will ensure a day game in Port Elizabeth as opposed to a day/night game inDurban.The players know that a day/night game is the cricket equivalent of Russian roulette. Win the toss and you own all the empty chambers. Lose the toss and you are guaranteed the bullet. The main hope then is that the gun misfires. PTI

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