~~Depleted Oz opens up even field in World Cup~~

Published: Tuesday, January 9, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:The Australian retirement spree will open up a level playing field and it would need six weeks of consistent performance to lay fingers on the cricket World Cup, concur West Indian pace legends Wes Hall and Joel Garner.

Here in the capital with a Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) delegation to woo the cricket-mad Indians, the towering 6'8'' Garner said, ''Consistency will open the road to final. You will have to play consistent cricket over a period of six months and that would be the key to success in West Indies.

''Australia definitely have the edge over others but I guess five or six teams would have outside chances and you can't discount teams like Sri Lanka and even New Zealand,'' he added.

Hall, the lethal Windies pacer of the 1960s, however, felt that with a number of senior Australian players leaving the scene, it would be an even battle in the World Cup.

''I totally agree with Joel that consistency would be the key. And with a few senior Australian cricketers calling it quits, I think we would have a level playing field in the World Cup.

Australia dominated the scene for 10 years or more but it won't be the same for them. Anyway, every team goes through such phases and competition would be more even this time,'' he observed.

On India and West Indies' prospects in the Caribbean, Hall said mere talent won't do it in the World Cup.

''I think it's rather difficult to pick two teams for the final even though we won't mind West Indies and India in the summit clash. Cricket still is a game of glorious uncertainty and it all boils down to how you play as unit.

''West Indies is going through a transition phase and they were not winning till the other day. In the last two-three years, we have brought in a cadre of young individuals with the requisite talent but talent alone can't win you title. You need maturity, consistency as well as unity to reach to another level,'' he explained.

''India is a good team in terms of bowling and batting but it all would depend on how these two departments go together. There will be teams like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and even New Zealand.

Besides, you would have West Indies as well.

''No host country has so far won the Cup and we want to put it right this year,'' he added.

Hall went on to invite the cricket-crazy Indians visit Barbados, which hosts three Super Eight matches besides the final, and enjoy the country. ''Come to Barbados, enjoy the country, mingle with our people and if India does well in the tournament, that would be a bonus. And it's only in our country that you would have a 6 pm to 6 am non-stop entertainment package,'' he said.

Everything going according to plan, India would meet England on April 11, Pakistan on April 15 and hosts West Indies on April 19 in Barbados.

Hall, who post-retirement headed the West Indies Cricket Board and also became the Tourism Minister in Barbadose, recalled how the game has changed since his days.

''Twenty years ago, 230 would have been a winning score and now even 280 doesn't seem secure. And we never imagined scenes like a fast bowler being hit over the head till Twenty20 came,'' he said.

Garner, meanwhile, scotched speculations that the pitch in Kensington Oval might be under-prepared.

''We had some matches there in October and again in February, a West Indies Masters vs World Masters match would take place there. It's not really a new pitch and there is no worry at all,'' he said.

Hall asserted that the Caribbean is ready to host the best World Cup ever.

''It's not very easy with ICC when it comes to preparation and I think last year, 10 such ICC teams came and we got thumbs up on each occasion,'' he added.

BTA President and Chief Executive Stuart Layne said apart from the hotels, 14 cruise liners would be moored in the Bridgetown Harbour to accommodate tourists, while the Barbadians would also rent their house if needed.

''The uniform visa system is working well and the rates would be reasonable. we have adequate accommodation, Indian chefs and Bollywood-style entertainment lines up for you and Barbados would be happy to play the perfect host to the Indians,'' he added.


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