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Cornered Kangaroos are dangerous!
by Gulu Ezekiel
Feb 23, 2007
We all know the cliché of the cornered kangaroo being a dangerous beast. But surely the spate of injuries and the run of shock defeats means Australia’s is looking more vulnerable than ever and the World Cup is looking the most open since 1996.

The late withdrawal of Brett Lee from the squad, the retirement of Shane Warne and the signs of ageing shown by Glenn McGrath have all combined to produce a doomsday scenario for the Aussies who have their eyes set on becoming the first country to make it three titles in a row.

Ricky Ponting has recovered from his back sprain. But Matthew Hayden’s fight for fitness and the likely absence of star all-rounder Andrew Symonds shows up some obvious chinks in the mighty Australian citadel that till just a few weeks back was looking impregnable. Michael Clarke too is in some doubt to make it to the Caribbean.

The stunning upset in the CB tri-series finals at the hands of England could have been dismissed as an aberration. But then to suffer a whitewash in New Zealand, that too in the most spectacular and unexpected manner, has really put the cat among the pigeons Down Under.

It was their air of invincibility that gave them a massive advantage even before the toss with opposing teams psychologically on the back-foot.

That in-built advantage has now been effectively obliterated and suddenly every team in their group is sniffing blood—South Africa, Scotland, the Netherlands. After all, the decline was first noticed when they were stunned by Bangladesh in England in 2005. Now anything is possible.

And to think that South Africa is the country that has finally nudged them off their pedestal at the top of the ICC ODI rankings! Group A is certainly the group of death.

What is surprising is the lack of effective bench strength, something that Australian cricket has been famed for over the years. The bowling attack looks particularly vulnerable and their inability to defend huge targets means any total their still strong batting puts up on the board is now chaseable. Stand-in captain Michael Hussey’s candid admission that he felt “demoralized” after the whitewash in New Zealand reveals their battered psyche.

It took rank outsiders India to stop the West Indies juggernaut in their tracks in the final of the 1983 World Cup. They were never the same force again after that stunner at Lord’s and have failed to reach the final ever since.

It would be foolish to write off Australia’s chances completely. Remember, they bounced back brilliantly in 2003 despite losing the services of Shane Warne on the eve of the tournament.

Still, captain Ricky Ponting must be a wary and worried man. It fell to him to become the first Australian captain in nearly 20 years to surrender the Ashes in 2005. Now will he become the first to relinquish his nation’s hold on the World Cup after nearly a decade? The cricket world waits and watches.

 
More Views by Gulu Ezekiel
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