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West Indies roars while India wobbles
by Gulu Ezekiel
Oct 26, 2006
The beauty of one-day cricket lies in its unpredictability—Bangladesh beating Australia last year being a prime example. And going by that criteria the ongoing Champions Trophy must rank as the most unpredictable of all major cricket events since the 1983 World Cup, which began with Zimbabwe stunning Australia and ended with India upsetting holders West Indies in the final.

West Indies are holders of this event too. But their victory in the 2004 Champions Trophy in England was seen as a flash in the pan. Their form in the two years before and the two years after has been abysmal.

That is until a few months back when India were surprised 4-1 in the ODI series. Lara’s men then continued the good work by reaching the final of the DLF Cup last month in Kuala Lumpur. And now they have suddenly emerged as the favourites after first shocking Australia in their first game and now putting it across India on Thursday. That means they have won six of the last eight matches between the two teams.

The sub-standard pitches means the bowlers have taken the upper hand since the tournament began and we are yet to see a team cross the 300-run mark. Amazing when chasing even 350 has not been impossible on Indian pitches over the last decade.

The crises in the Indian team with the World Cup barely six months away will lead to some pressing the panic button. It should be recalled however that just before the last World Cup India went through the horrors of a nightmarish tour of New Zealand.

Whether Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid can rally their troops in the manner of their predecessors John Wright and Sourav Ganguly is the question uppermost in the minds of all Indian cricket fans.

The entire balance of the team has been sent into a tailspin by the slump in batting form of their most dangerous player, Virender Sehwag and the loss of bowling rhythm of their most talented player, Irfan Pathan.

Certainly the final game of the tournament taking the whole thing down to the wire makes for a thrilling climax. But on present form it will be a major surprise if India can pull it off against Australia at Mohali on Sunday. And failing to reach even the semifinals of a tournament—crucially, at home-- where India have twice made it to the final may well have heads rolling.

Certainly the tour of South Africa next month is not the ideal place for our batsmen to regain their feet. And the slump of the last six months has swung the pendulum of blame from the usual suspects, the bowlers to our so-called star batting line-up.

All this will sound academical should India get past Australia and lift the trophy next week. But even in the win against England the batting looked suspect. It is time for Tendulkar and co. to fire on all cylinders and repeat history of exactly 10 years ago at the same venue when India beat Australia to reach the final of a tri-series.

 
More Views by Gulu Ezekiel
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