Imran lashes out at Ganguly on two counts
Published: Thursday, March 27, 2003, 20:33 [IST]
Copyright AFP 2001
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New Delhi: Legendary former Pakistan captain Imran Khan on Thursday heaped praise on World Cup champion Australia, saying its juggernaut would continue to roll on. "Such was its depth and bench-strength that I feel if Australia had sent another team to the World Cup, the final could well have been between two Australian teams," Imran wrote in his column in the 'Times of India'. Australia thrashed India by 125 runs in the one-sided final at Johannesburg in South Africa on Sunday to retain the World Cup, also extending its unbeaten run to a world record 17 matches in the process. "This World Cup proved without a doubt that the Australians are head and shoulders above the rest of world cricket," said Imran, who led Pakistan to their only World Cup title in 1992 in Australia. "It (Australia) has been so since the 1999 World Cup and with the emergence of young exciting players like Brett Lee (fast bowler), its supremacy may last for many more years," he said. Imran said it was a tribute to the current Australian team's greatness that it had retained the title without Steve Waugh, Shane Warne and Jason Gillespie. "Such excellence and professionalism is not achieved without hard work," said Imran, who retired in 1992 after playing 88 Tests and 175 One-dayers. "Now that the World Cup is done and dusted, a few worrying trends have emerged. With the notable exception of Australia, all the teams have deteriorated since the time I played," he said. Imran lashed out at India skipper Saurav Ganguly for playing an unchanged side in the final and then electing to field after winning the toss. "I have two criticisms of Ganguly in the final. Firstly, what is this nonsense about superstitions as far as changing the team is concerned?" he said. "When you are taking on the best in the world, it would be pragmatic to choose your best team rather than stick to an unchanged one so as to not break the winning habit." Imran said Indian leg spinner Anil Kumble would have played a crucial role in the final since the ball had been gripping the surface. India, however, maintained the trend of going into the match without a fifth specialist bowler, relying on three seamers (Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra) and one spinner (Harbhajan Singh). Kumble figured in just three of his team's 11 World Cup matches. "Secondly, Ganguly opted to field first because the wicket offered some assistance to bowlers," said Imran. "Did he take this decision to protect his batsmen from the likes of in-form Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee or to let his bowlers try and make inroads into the Australian batting? We'll never know the answer to that one." "If Ganguly had taken a look at the statistics of past World Cups, other than in 1996 and 1999, the team batting first has always won. The pressure of chasing has always been too much in a World Cup final." Ganguly's decision to field first eventually backfired as Australia posted a massive 359 for two before dismissing India for 234.