Ultimately, Cricket first – Frontline

As World Cup 2003 will get off to a spectacular begin, each when it comes to the opening ceremony and the inaugural match, the 14 groups are all set to battle it out, with Australia entering into because the favorite.

IT was ironic that one of many official sponsors of the 2003 Cricket World Cup in South Africa, LG Electronics, had used the slogan `Cricket first’ in its promoting marketing campaign for the occasion. No earlier version of the World Cup has seen such vitality expended on non-cricketing issues. The official contracts dispute between India and the Worldwide Cricket Council (ICC), the doable boycott of Zimbabwe by England and Australia, and the refusal of New Zealand to play in Kenya (as of February 10, 2003) brought on large uncertainty throughout the run-up to cricket’s greatest occasion. Add the extreme business and media hype surrounding the World Cup to the political drama and the state of affairs has left the avid fan desirous to fast-forward on to the cricket.

Regardless of the uncertainty, the match kicked off with a spectacular opening ceremony in Cape City on February 8. Impressed by the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the organisers of this occasion held a large-scale inaugural ceremony, aimed toward showcasing the range of the Rainbow Nation.

In a symbolic transfer, the hosts performed the West Indies within the opening match in Newlands, Cape City on February 9. As if to script, it went all the way down to the wire and a resurgent West Indies beat the hosts by three runs. A magical 116 by one among cricket’s best skills ever, Brian Lara, and large help from skipper Carl Hooper, Ricardo Powell, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul allowed the Windies to submit a powerful whole. The Windies seemed to be coasting to victory when the person of the 1999 World Cup, Lance Klusener, selected to make a spectacular assertion that he was not but over the hill. Klusener’s 57 off 48 balls, which included 5 sixes and one 4, got here inside just a few metres of snatching victory for South Africa from the jaws of defeat.

On day two of the World Cup, Sri Lanka beat the extra fancied New Zealand by 47 runs. Powered by an outstanding ton from captain Sanath Jayasuriya, which was his first World Cup century, Sri Lanka posted a profitable rating of 272. Jayasuriya is in ominous kind and now has scores of 122, 106, 6, 99 and 120 in his final 5 one-day innings. Regardless of a combating 141 from Scott Styris, New Zealand’s batsmen have been uncovered by Sri Lanka’s mixture of spin and seam. Within the different match of the day, Zimbabwe thrashed minnows Namibia after opener Craig Wihart’s 172 off 151 balls helped Zimbabwe attain a mammoth rating of 340 for two. On the time, Frontline went to print, these have been the one three matches that had been performed.

Saurav Ganguly leads the Indian crew throughout the opening ceremony.-DAVID GRAY/REUTERS

Defending World Cup champion Australia was the favorite firstly of the match. There’s little doubt that Australia is probably the most full aspect in each types of the sport at the moment. Not like the Take a look at enviornment, the place a big hole exists between the Australians and different sides, the Australian one-day crew doesn’t appear overwhelmingly dominating. A number of different sides appear able to mounting a problem in opposition to it and this probably makes for an attention-grabbing match.

In Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee and Andy Bichel, Australia has probably the most potent and constant tempo assault on this planet at the moment. Add to this heady combine, Shane Warne, arguably the best spinner in historical past, left-arm chinaman bowling all-rounder Brad Hogg, and part-time bowlers Darren Lehmann, Michael Bevan, Andrew Symonds and Ian Harvey, Australia has as full a bowling assault as there’s within the recreation at the moment. Australia’s fielding enhances its bowling exceptionally effectively. Based mostly on present kind, openers Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist can lay severe declare to the title of the perfect batsmen within the recreation. Captain Ricky Ponting and Bevan, each attacking batsmen and good runners between the wickets, full the Aussie risk.

So, is there any chink within the Aussie armour? Damage worries are a serious concern for the Aussies. Within the final two months, McGrath, Warne, Gillespie, Bichel and Bevan have all been sidelined, at numerous instances, by accidents. Australia can be weak within the all-rounder division. Symonds and Harvey are each inconsistent and at present off form and Hogg is basically untested. The decrease center order, probably comprising Damien Martyn, Lehmann, Bevan and one of many all-rounders, seems a little bit fragile. A lot will rely upon the shape and health of Bevan, at present hampered by a torn groin muscle.

Will Australia miss Steve Waugh’s guts, willpower and management? Waugh’s 120 not out in a must-win Tremendous Six match in opposition to South Africa within the 1999 World Cup is now the stuff of legend. Australia obtained off to a foul begin in that occasion however Waugh’s inspirational management was instrumental in turning Australia’s fortunes round. Ponting has proved an ready captain however how he handles the strain of the World Cup stays to be seen. If Australia doesn’t defend its title, it’d critically rue the choice that left cricket’s best fighter at house.

On paper, host South Africa appears to be the strongest crew within the fray after Australia. South Africa can have the house benefit however it’ll additionally should grapple with the truth that hosts haven’t, as a rule, carried out exceptionally effectively. To win, South Africa should first shed its popularity of being `chokers’ in important video games.

Taking part groups pose for {a photograph} earlier than the opening ceremony. From entrance to again: South Africa, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, England, Holland, India, Kenya, Namibia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe.-AP

South Africa has high-calibre quick bowlers in captain Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini. If the opening match of the match is something to go by, South Africa’s different bowlers – the legendary Allan Donald, all-rounders Jacques Kallis and Lance Klusener and left-arm spinner Nicky Boje – have to enhance considerably. However there’s loads of potential in South Africa’s bowling, which is ably backed by its excellent fielding. South Africa’s Achilles heel is its batting, which is able to self-destruction. Gifted opener Herschelle Gibbs and his associate, the skilled Gary Kirsten, completed all-rounder Kallis and the ever-energetic Jonty Rhodes should shoulder a big burden, particularly in necessary video games. Although the decrease center order of Klusener, dashing batsman-wicket-keeper Mark Boucher and Pollock is greater than ready, it could be laborious for the host crew to win if the highest of its batting line-up fails. Maybe, probably the most important members are Gibbs and Kallis. If they will come good in essential matches, South Africa could also be able to breaking its World Cup jinx.

In June 2002, India appeared a powerful World Cup contender however the crew has had a tough time since then. A loss to the West Indies within the one-day sequence at house and a disastrous tour of New Zealand in December and January has raised sturdy doubts about its prospects. This doesn’t bode effectively since India appears to be a momentum crew that thrives on confidence.

ON paper, India’s batting line-up is the perfect on this planet. The supremely gifted Virender Sehwag has been a serious purpose for India’s success in 2002. India’s line-up is stuffed with gamers who rely upon scoring boundaries and the crew will look to Rahul Dravid within the center order to rotate the strike and consolidate the innings. India isn’t a one-man crew anymore however Sachin Tendulkar should still maintain the important thing to India’s fortunes. Although Tendulkar didn’t have wherever as profitable a 12 months as he’s accustomed to, his mere presence provides a distinct high quality to the crew. Tendulkar must put a lacklustre 2002 behind him and as soon as once more rise up and be a world-beater.

India’s greatest weak point is its bowling and it is going to be hoping that its bowlers don’t crack beneath strain. Seam bowlers Zaheer Khan and Javagal Srinath are at present in good kind. Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh is a confirmed match-winner however India is weak on the third, fourth and fifth bowling spots. Barring the younger dynamic duo of Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif, India has few excellent fielders. It is aware of it can’t count on an excessive amount of from make-shift keeper Dravid however will want him to stay comparatively error-free in necessary matches.

The present Indian crew comprises a superb mixture of youth and expertise and has generated a buzz that few earlier Indian World Cup groups have. Maybe, crucial issue to India’s World Cup marketing campaign is its stage of self-belief and its means to bounce again from the New Zealand fiasco.

West Indies batsman Brian Lara acknowledges the cheers of the gang after finishing a chic century in opposition to South Africa within the opening match of the match.-JON HRUSA/AP

Mercurial Pakistan is a particular risk. Writing in The Sportstar, the distinguished cricket author Peter Roebuck described Pakistan’s capabilities aptly: “Pakistan can nonetheless beat anybody, together with themselves.” Few groups can boast of higher particular person expertise than the Pakistanis. However the crew may be as disorganised and lackadaisical as it may be good.

Pakistan’s overwhelming energy is its bowling, which, on its day, may be much more devastating than the Australian or South African bowling. The bowling assault might be anchored by the legendary Ws – Wasim Akram and skipper Waqar Younis. Each are within the twilight of their superb careers however are nonetheless very able to making the ball discuss. Skilled off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq will add necessary selection to the Pakistani bowling. In specific speedster, Shoaib Akhtar, Pakistan has a genuinely fast bowler who’s able to turning video games round. Shoaib has usually did not stay as much as the hype that has been created round him however his efficiency has improved since 2002. Not one to lack in confidence, Shoaib had this to say on Pakistan’s probabilities: “If our batsmen can persistently rating 250 or extra, then we have got the bowling to beat anybody. We’re such a gifted aspect, if three or 4 of our guys carry out in each recreation I do not see any likelihood of us dropping the World Cup.” Shoaib might effectively have some extent however Pakistan’s batting is commonly fragile. As they usually have previously, the attacking and prolific Inzamam ul-Haq and Yousuf Youhana should shoulder a whole lot of accountability and keep away from the tendency to self-destruct. Predicting Pakistani efficiency is as daunting a activity as forecasting subsequent 12 months’s monsoon but when the aspect manages to achieve the semi-finals, it is going to be laborious to beat.

With sequence wins in opposition to New Zealand at house and India away in 2002, the West Indies crew has rekindled hopes of a Caribbean revival. West Indies could be this time’s darkish horse, and it proved this with a unbelievable opening win in opposition to South Africa. Not like its predecessors in 1975, 1979 and 1983, who boasted quick bowlers of the best high quality, this West Indies crew will rely totally on its batting. Chris Gayle may help the Windies obtain 300-plus totals and in Ramnaresh Sarwan and Marlon Samuels, the crew has two younger batsmen of the best calibre. The dependable grafter Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the stylish Carl Hooper and the explosive Ricardo Powell are clever cricketers who present stability and energy within the center order.

The ace up the West Indian sleeve, after all, is Brian Lara. Lara might have been overshadowed by Sachin Tendulkar, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden however is undoubtedly one of many best batting skills the world has seen. His 16th One Day Worldwide (ODI) century, within the opener in opposition to South Africa, was an innings of large high quality and temperament. He’s getting on in his profession but when the sport in opposition to South Africa is any indication, 2003 could be Lara’s Cup.

The foremost weak point is the West Indian bowling and fielding. Mervyn Dillon and Vasbert Drakes have proved dependable one-day bowlers. The West Indian crew has usually chosen to play solely three specialist bowlers, relying on Hooper, Gayle and Powell to bowl 20 overs between them. Hooper is an under-rated and very clever bowler however a lot will rely upon how Gayle and Powell deal with the strain. The one genuinely fast bowler is younger Jermaine Lawson however he appears too uncooked to make an affect simply but. The bowling can be deprived by inconsistent fielding help. The shortage of bowling depth stands out as the main hurdle for the crew. However then, the unpretentious Indian medium pacers in 1983 weren’t anticipated to show the tables on Vivian Richards, Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes both.

Sri Lanka has not been in good kind main as much as the World Cup. Actually, the Lankans had a forgettable ODI sequence in Australia and South Africa not too long ago. However Sri Lanka might be inspired by the type of its explosive opening batsman and captain Jayasuriya. Jayasuriya is able to profitable matches single-handedly, as he confirmed within the 1996 World Cup. He underscored his significance to the aspect with an outstanding century in opposition to New Zealand in Sri Lanka’s first recreation. Aravinda de Silva and Hashan Tillakaratne present loads of expertise to the batting order. Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jaywardene are very gifted batsmen however the latter isn’t in good nick.

Sri Lanka’s bowling fortunes will relaxation closely on the shoulders of the excellent off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who has returned to the aspect after damage. Sri Lanka appears to be a completely completely different aspect with Muralitharan. Sri Lanka might have been in poor kind previous to the World Cup however with Jayasuriya in prime contact and Muralitharan match once more, the crew seems able to springing a shock.

New Zealand is coming off a convincing sequence win at house in opposition to India and, on the face of it, appeared to have pretty much as good an opportunity to win the match as any. Nonetheless, the efficiency of the aspect in its opening fixture in opposition to Sri Lanka has dampened expectations, significantly because the crew has determined to forfeit its match in opposition to Kenya. In model, New Zealand shows a powerful distinction to the person brilliance of subcontinental groups. Barring all-rounder Chris Cairns, quick bowler Shane Bond and batsman Nathan Astle, the Kiwis would not have outright match winners however rely closely on teamwork. They’re led fantastically by Stephen Fleming and are stable within the batting and bowling departments.

New Zealand’s fielding is in the identical league as that of South Africa and Australia. The current feats of Shane Bond have allowed him to stake a declare as among the finest quick bowlers on this planet. With the tempo and bounce he generates, he has the flexibility to be one of many stars of this World Cup. The detached type of a number of specialist batsmen, together with Craig McMillan, Lou Vincent and Mathew Sinclair is a serious concern for the aspect. New Zealand’s greatest weak point is that it depends considerably on bits and items all-rounders Chris Harris, Jacob Oram, Scott Styris and Andre Adams to contribute with the bat and ball. Harris, Styris, Oram and Adams are best in bowler-friendly situations however lack the tempo to bother good batsmen on much less supportive wickets. This was demonstrated in New Zealand’s opening recreation in opposition to Sri Lanka, the place these medium pacers have been taken aside by Jayasuriya. If totally match, Cairns would be the axle upon which New Zealand’s fortunes will revolve. He has large pure means and is a devastating batsman and efficient bowler. We now have come to count on a stable efficiency within the World Cup from the Kiwis, who’ve reached the semi-finals in 1975, 1979, 1992 and 1999. However they are going to want one thing extraordinary from Cairns and Bond to achieve the head this time.

Although it edged out Sri Lanka within the current VB Collection in Australia, England’s fortunes look pretty bleak. Positioned in a powerful group, it might want to pull off a win in opposition to Australia, India or Pakistan to have any hope of constructing the Tremendous Six. A doable boycott of Zimbabwe would possibly simply be the final nail of their 2003 World Cup coffin. In Michael Vaughan, England has a unbelievable stroke-maker who has proved able to succeeding in opposition to the easiest. When on track, Nick Knight and Marcus Trescothick are damaging openers who can rating rapidly. Paul Collingwood was a serious a part of England’s marketing campaign within the current ODI sequence in Australia. Barring Andy Caddick and Mathew Hoggard, England’s bowling doesn’t appear able to troubling sturdy batting line-ups.

Zimbabwe should carry out regardless of political distractions. It should beat India, Pakistan and Australia to have a probable shot on the Tremendous Six stage. Zimbabwe’s fortunes will rely upon brothers Andy and Grant Flower. Andy Flower is presently among the finest batsmen on this planet and his batting, together with Grant’s, might be important in necessary video games. The crew is effectively organised and fields outstandingly however lacks batting and bowling firepower required to scale the heights. Given the relative energy of Australia, India and Pakistan this time, Zimbabwe doesn’t look to be the risk it was in 1999.

WITH 14 groups within the fray, the pool for this World Cup is bigger than ever earlier than and the match itself is longer than any earlier version. With the inclusion of Namibia, Canada, Holland, Bangladesh and Kenya within the competitors, a number of one-sided contests appear to be in retailer. Realistically these lesser groups have little hope of a decent efficiency in opposition to the established groups. The ICC will do effectively to judge the efficiency of those groups in opposition to the A groups and the Below-19 squads of established cricketing nations over a time frame earlier than permitting them into the World Cup.

This World Cup has had its share of controversies. It’s now time for the true motion to start and time to place cricket first.

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