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Preview of Finals - Same teams as World Cup 1975
by Gulu Ezekiel
Nov 04, 2006
The history of one-day cricket has come full circle as West Indies and Australia face each other for the first time in a major ODI tournament final since the very first World Cup in England in 1975.

Most cricket fans would agree that the 1975 match-up remains the best final of them all. And now the cricket world will be hoping the two teams can produce something of the same magic when they meet in the final of the Champions Trophy in Mumbai on Sunday.

Australia are the World Cup holders (since 1999) while the West Indies shocked one and all—including no doubt, themselves—by winning the Champions Trophy final last time around in England in 2004.

Sunday’s contest can therefore conceivably be considered as the dream final, though die-hard Indian fans would no doubt disagree—and to think the title-holders had to go through the humiliation of the pre-tournament qualifying stage before reaching the main stage!

So did Sri Lanka who were one of the hottest teams at the start of the competition and one of the favourites for the title. Especially after they crushed the Windies by nine wickets, routing them for 80 all out in the final preliminary match. What a complete turnaround!

Lanka, like the other two Asian teams in the main draw (plus Bangladesh who fell at the qualifying stage) failed to make it to the last four. And that too was a case of history repeating itself after 31 years as bar the very first World Cup in 1975, at least one Asian team has made it to the semi-finals of all major ICC tournaments.

There has been much debate over the inescapable fact that on wickets affording some help to the bowlers (amazingly, we are yet to see a 300-plus total and only three tons in the main draw in this tournament), Asian batsmen tend to struggle.

The main focus naturally enough was on India, being the hosts. And they failed miserably. The wheels fell off in the second game against West Indies at Ahmedabad that was played following a long gap of 11 days from the opening match against England at Jaipur.

That gap may have caused the team to lose some of its rhythm. But then despite beating England quite comfortably, the cracks had been obvious in the opening match itself and then things fell apart both at Ahmedabad and then last Sunday against Australia at Mohali.

While the Indian bowlers did well to skittle England out for just 125, it was the batsmen who flopped against the reigning champions in the next match. And then Mohali saw India fail to put up even the semblance of a fight in defending a decent total. The number of selection and tactical blunders just kept piling up.

As for the final, West Indies will surely take heart from their win over the Aussies in their first match in this tournament. And they beat them in Kuala Lumpur in September too before losing in the final. Australia though have peaked at the right time and look formidable.

 
More Views by Gulu Ezekiel
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