Wedding sans the bride and the bridegroom!

Published: Monday, October 30, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Mohali:The failure of the four Asian teams to make the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy indicated trouble lay in store at the World Cup, experts said.

India joined Pakistan and Sri Lanka on the sidelines after being thrashed by world champions Australia by six wickets here Sunday night, while Bangladesh failed to progress beyond the qualifying rounds.

This was the first time since the inaugural World Cup in 1975 that an Asian team had failed to enter the semi-finals of a major multi-nation tournament - that, too, in their own backyard.

The first semi-final here Wednesday pits Australia against their trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand. On Thursday, South Africa clash with defending champions the West Indies in Jaipur.

"I still can't believe it," said legendary all-rounder Kapil Dev, who captained India to their lone World Cup triumph in 1983.

"We are supposed to be masters in our conditions, the same applies to Sri Lanka and Pakistan. It's like going for a wedding minus the bride and the bridegroom.

"I don't even want to contemplate what will happen at the World Cup. It's going to be tough, very tough."

Sri Lanka breezed through the qualifying round against the West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe before falling at the first major hurdle against a depleted Pakistan in Jaipur.

Mahela Jayawardene's Sri Lankans bounced back to beat New Zealand in Mumbai, only to lose the crucial game against South Africa at Ahmedabad that sent the islanders crashing out of the tournament.

Few gave Pakistan a chance after inspirational captain Inzamam-ul-Haq was banned for four matches over the Oval Test fiasco and pace spearheads Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif were recalled home a day before their first match due to failed drug tests.

Yet the Pakistanis stunned Sri Lanka, but could not put it across New Zealand and South Africa on seaming wickets in the northern town of Mohali.

Hosts India, often referred to as tigers at home and lambs abroad, went out with a whimper after losing their sixth game in seven matches against the West Indies and providing a no-contest against the mighty Australians.

"If you don't reach the semi-finals, it is a failure," said a disappointed Indian captain Rahul Dravid.

"We would have liked to play in the semi-finals and the finals of this tournament, especially when we were playing in India. It's a setback, but it is also an opportunity to review and turn this around."

The Champions Trophy confirmed the belief that Asians are unsurpassed when it comes to piling up records, but fall short of what matters most -- winning matches and titles consistently.

Eleven of the 12 places in most one-day appearances are held by Asian players. Of the top 10 batsmen in the game, eight are Asians. Among bowlers, seven of the top 10 hail from the region.

"What use are these records if you can't win," said former Indian all-rounder Mohinder Amarnath, who was named the man of the series at his nation's victorious 1983 World Cup.

"Things do turn around quickly in limited-overs cricket because a lot depends on how you play on that day, but a lot of hard work lies ahead if Asian teams are to do well at the World Cup."

Three Australian coaches - India's Greg Chappell, Sri Lanka's Tom Moody and Bangladesh's Dav Whatmore - and Englishman Bob Woolmer with Pakistan, have begun to feel the heat.

"It has to be asked if paying huge sums to foreign coaches has helped," said outspoken former Indian captain Bishan Bedi. "Mr Chappell, at least, has reduced the Indian team to ashes."


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