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India could put pressure on Aussies

By Asif Iqbal
March 07, 2003 14:18 IST
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As the Super Sixes get underway, one cannot help but feel that a mixture of politics, the weather and a points system not fully thought through have seriously devalued this World Cup. There may be more surprises to come yet. While one has nothing whatsoever against either Zimbabwe and Kenya, and one would have loved to see them come through on the basis of cricketing strength, that sadly has not been the case. Zimbabwe would not have got through to the Super Sixes if England had not forfeited the match by their refusal to play in Zimbabwe and Kenya would not have got through if New Zealand had not done likewise.

The upshot of it all is that Kenya has gone through to the Super Sixes with 10 points, just behind Australia with 12, and far ahead of New Zealand with 4 and Zimbabwe with 3.5. Now Zimbabwe has to play Kenya, Sri Lanka and New Zealand while New Zealand has to play Australia, India and Zimbabwe. Should Zimbabwe beat Kenya and lose to Sri Lanka and New Zealand, which would appear to be the most likely scenario, it would have managed only 7.5 points and be comfortably behind Kenya which already 10 points.

Similarly, if New Zealand were to beat Zimbabwe and lose to India and Australia, which is by no means unlikely, New Zealand would total only eight points and as such would be behind Kenya as well. That would mean Kenya would go through to the semi-final without winning a single Super Sixes match, probably to face Australia, while Sri Lanka and India appear to be in the running to battle out the second semi-final.

This situation cropped up because there were no reserve days for rain, which has seen South Africa and the West Indies out. Those who chose not to fulfill their commitments for political reasons have been penalised while those who were their opponents have been rather unduly rewarded. Perhaps if the teams who refused to go to Zimbabwe and Kenya respectively were docked 4 points instead of Zimbabwe and Kenya being given 4 free points, the results would have been less contorted. Not that any of this is the fault of either Zimbabwe or Kenya.

It is just that the organisers do not appear to have put enough thought into this. In the future the points system will have to be seriously revised to ensure that the results make a little more sense.

While England, the West Indies and South Africa were all unlucky not to qualify – England being done by some less than intelligent politicking while the West Indies and South Africa were done by the rain – Pakistan has no such excuse for not qualifying. True, the rain did come down in Bulawayo and cancelled their last game against Zimbabwe, but they were out of the competition before this last game; the targets required to be achieved being only of statistical interest. They have only themselves to blame for they did not give the impression of any previous planning or discipline in their approach. The selection has been whimsical and the commitment wanting. The road back will be steep and difficult. Pakistani fans should be resigned to a period of rebuilding during which the results may be less than flattering – which they have not been in any case for the past two years or so.

India is proceeding well and on current form look like the only side with a chance of challenging the seemingly invincible Australians. The Indian batting is perhaps the only line up that could take on the reigning world champions and put real pressure on them. How the Australians would react to that pressure is a largely unknown factor for it is not a situation they have experienced very often.

I think Indian cricket board chairman Jagmohan Dalmiya is absolutely right to bring up the issue of day/night matches. His concern is not India-specific for anyone could be playing the day/night semi-final scheduled at Durban. A sporting contest should be decided as far as possible on the basis of the sporting prowess of the contestants, not on factors like the toss of the coin. There is little doubt that in a day/night game, the side batting second is at a disadvantage and both Pakistan and England have suffered on this account.

I do not see how or why changing the timing of a match by a few hours should present insurmountable problems and the matter, I feel, should be going to the ICC's technical committee instead of being decided solely by Dr Ali Bacher.

Asif Iqbal is the former captain of Kent and Pakistan


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