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Rickety knees and cigarettes spell success

By Tony Lawrence
March 02, 2003 16:10 IST
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Never mind whether it is a bad back, a dodgy ankle, a rickety knee or even a 90mph thump on the head. If you want to succeed at the 2003 cricket World Cup, get yourself an injury.

Everybody seems to be at it and, on Sunday, it was the turn of Sachin Tendulkar and Saeed Anwar.

Saeed AnwarPakistan opener Anwar began the tournament in hospital after being decked in the nets by team mate Shoaib Akhtar.

Anwar, hit on the point of his left elbow, was sure the joint was fractured. Reprieved by the local hospital's x-ray department, he fought his way back into the team.

Against India at Centurion on Saturday, his 34-year-old knees, a handicap for years, gave way under him. Between overs, he knelt on the ground, dreaming about a desk job.

"I'm ageing," he said afterwards. But he still limped his way to a 20th one-day century.

A few hours later and Tendulkar dragged his cramping, dehydrated body, complete with thigh strain, to a 75-ball, match-winning 98.

It was one of the great one-day innings, and as textbook as it was explosive. At least the Indian had the sense to limit the physical damage by hitting 54 in boundaries.

SWOLLEN ANKLE

Ashish NehraAshish Nehra, Tendulkar's team mate, got clattered for 74 runs off his 10 overs on Saturday, a heavy price to pay for two wickets.

His problem, clearly, was his fitness.

In the previous game against England, he had prepared with two days on the physiotherapist's couch. His ankle still swollen, he took six for 23, ranking the left-arm seamer among the greatest of World Cup performers.

Sri Lanka's Chaminda Vaas produced his display of a lifetime against Bangladesh in Pietermaritzburg with an unprecedented hat-trick with the first three balls of the game on his way to six for 25, the fifth best bowling analysis in World Cup history.

His first response? "I had a sore back this morning."

Ramnaresh SarwanRamnaresh Sarwan, meanwhile, had to persuade doctors to allow him back to the Newlands crease in Cape Town after he was cracked on the helmet by a Dilhara Fernando bouncer against Sri Lanka and carried off on a stretcher.

He returned on painkillers, with two stitches in his head and a throbbing headache, to score a lightning 47 not out and take West Indies to the brink of an unlikely victory before they fell just six runs short.

The key, of course, is to get hurt at this World Cup, but not too hurt. By breaking a bone in his hand, Jonty Rhodes, replaced in the South Africa squad by Graeme Smith, was clearly going too far.

General fitness, indeed, seems to be over-rated.

SUPER-FIT

Three players in particular have made massive efforts to get super-fit for the World Cup.

Inzamam-ul-HaqTop Pakistan batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq lost 12kg (1st 12lbs) before the tournament and has scored just 16 runs in five innings, while Aravinda de Silva, who only regained his place in the Sri Lanka team after months of gym work, is averaging 22.

Australia leg spinner Shane Warne also tried to slim down for the World Cup and look where that got him.

Fellow Australian Darren Lehmann, meanwhile, continues to enjoy the odd beer and ciggy during quiet times and is rarely heard discussing his cholesterol levels.

Lehmann hit a World Cup record of 28 runs off an over in the win against Namibia, and currently averages 135 for the tournament without being dismissed at a strike rate of 114.4.

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Tony Lawrence
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