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India, Australia are favourites

By Bob Woolmer
March 10, 2003 11:40 IST
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Looking at the Super Six line-up, India and Australia have to be the favourites.

Interestingly, New Zealand have been able to beat both teams recently! India have made great strides and for once Australia looked vulnerable in Port Elizabeth, which will probably host their semi-final.

If games go to form then the semi-finalists will be Australia-1 India-2 New Zealand-3 and Sri Lanka-4. So India will have to beat New Zealand in the semi-final in order to get through to meet Australia in the final. This leads me back to my initial point that both New Zealand and India can beat Australia.

How then can India beat Australia and New Zealand? The batting will be the key in both games and one cannot expect India to rely on Sachin Tendulkar and players such as Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif and Sourav Ganguly will also have to come to the party. India now has an all-round team and I believe that the spin twins allied to the three-prong seam attack, all on form, will be a match for any team.

To beat Australia one needs to chase. Setting a target is never easy on good surfaces. New Zealand at Centurion is one such case. If I were New Zealand, I would prefer to chase. India's game against Sri Lanka at the Wanderers too will be an entertaining affair on a beautiful batting surface, batting second will be important there.

Tactically there is not much to do in the Super Sixes but if rain interferes then Kenya, the Cinderella team of the tournament, can squeak past the other teams as they are bringing 10 points to the party. As fun as the first round has been, the permutations and excitement is only just starting.

Watching the Kenyans play against the West Indies and India it is clear that there is a large parity between the two sides. Perhaps it is time for the International Cricket Council, while encouraging the minnows, to have a different system. I like the one that is being discussed at present. This involves 16 nations divided by seeding into four pools of four. The first round would ensure that each team had three games in each pool instead of six and then the top two teams in each pool would go through into a super eight.

This would almost guarantee that the best eight went through and that there would be less dead games. The emerging nations would have the incentive to reach the World Cup and the main sides would have a fair crack at each other.

Interestingly, I would like to see a couple of new innovations as well. Firstly, a new ball at 25 overs, with one mandatory catcher inside the 15-metre circle. This would prevent having to change the ball later in the innings. It would also bring in new tactics and batting and bowling innovations.

The second and this would be quite revolutionary is to take a leaf from baseball and allow a double play during run outs. Both batters could be run out if they are stranded in the middle of the pitch. Mike Proctor, whose idea this is, is correct in saying that this would change the course of a game and give a side a method of getting back into the game say at 220-2 in the 38th over.

I would like to see sides that do not bowl their overs in time (normally due to excessive wides and no-balls) having the score off the overs after the due time doubled. In addition no-balls and wides should count as two runs plus whatever is scored off the no-balls and following a no-ball there should be a free hit off the next ball. It is a system that has been used in domestic cricket in the UK to exciting effect.

Amazingly in three out of the four World Cups South Africa have been affected by rain, by the system, and by one run! It reminded me of one of the sayings that were part and parcel of the team's one-day disciplines a few years ago, “remember one run can make a difference”. How that has come home to haunt South Africa. Rain in 1992 and 22 off one ball, 1996 -- Brian Lara! 1999 -- the tied match, 2003 -- tied match due to rain!

Yet it was a simple error that caused South Africa to be eliminated.

The Afrikaans language has a lovely saying “What a gemorse”. While the Duckworth Lewis method has its critics, they are pretty clear. Indeed Nicky Boje, the messenger, in this case was running on and off the field of play so much that when the SA camp realised that they had got it wrong umpire Steve Bucknor had had enough and sent him off. The real mistake was that the tactics should have always been to be ahead of the Duckworth Lewis run rate.

It is a lesson well learnt not only by South Africa but hopefully by the other teams as they move into the Super Sixes.


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Bob Woolmer