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It is Art vs Science in World Cup Finals
by NT Shiv Kumar
Apr 27, 2007
Connoisseurs of the game around the world would hope for at least one thing to NOT happen on the big day at the Kensington Oval – Aussies steamrolling the opposition to make it a no contest like they did in ’99 and ’03 to Pakistan and India respectively.

The good news for everyone is Aussies are taking on a team that expresses unadulterated joie de vivre in everything it does on the cricket field. Their camaraderie, robotic discipline in training, continual efforts to raise the bar and above all the spirit of playing for each other truly brings an awesome breath of freshness in the air that is otherwise so polluted with ‘star’ culture and parochial groupism. To me, Sri Lanka is a team that is an ideal pot pourri of youthful exuberance mentored by caring veterans, spin magic powered by slinging pace and savage hitting balanced with sublime touch artists. A World Cup win for such a compelling cocktail of subtleties would restore the world cricketing order in favor of the traditional artists of the game who ‘live to play’ as against the scientific modernists like the Aussies who ‘play to live’.

A quick ‘exit poll’ amongst the pundits suggests an overwhelming odds in favor of the invincible Aussies but there in lies their Achilles heel – the weight of expectation and the burden of ‘law of averages’ (ready to strike any moment) are as real as Hayden’s muscles. Sri Lankans have no such pressure – the game plan should be if they can, bat first, bat sensibly enough to post a score north of 260-270 and then let their success recipe to cook in the afternoon. Malinga and Vaas can do enough to dent the Aussie top order that would enable Murali to rip thru the middle order soft belly. The Aussies have never been tested chasing a 250 plus total in a pressure game against quality spin backed by electric fielding. It would take a lot for Symonds, Hussey and Watson to bunt and biff if the top order goes out cheaply.

Should SL end up chasing a formidable total, they have to bring to bear the big match innings that typically Jayasuriya or Jayawardena play. There is enough depth and character in their line up to hunt it down if one of them go the full distance. It may not be a bad ploy to play Chamara Silva, who is progressively impressive with every outing, at number 3 and have Sangakkara at 5 to lend form at the top and experience in the middle.

Just as the theme music of this WC 2007 jingles ‘it’s a game of love and unity…’ a Sri Lankan win would hopefully go a long way in restoring peace in their strife torn land. Murali wants to win the WC only for that reason. Neutrals want SL to break the monotony of Aussie dominance. The ICC would hope for a humdinger to end the jaded tournament on an energetic note.

For all it is worth, I put my money on SL to pull it off tomorrow and celebrate with a (World) Cup of Dilmah Tea!

 
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