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India must guard against complacency

By Barry Richards
March 17, 2003 20:09 IST
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There was a lot of talk about a change in captaincy after South Africa's exit from the World Cup. However, I never thought it would happen because there never seemed to be a ready replacement.

I am surprised that Graeme Smith has been made captain. He has hardly had any experience at this level and his tours have been to Zimbabwe, which is as good as playing at home. I'm one of those who believe that a player has to cement his place in the side if he is to be considered for captaincy. The fact that Smith was not even part of the original World Cup squad speaks volumes about the wisdom of the decision.

The entire World Cup has blown up in the face for United Cricket Board of South Africa. True, there will be huge monetary gains. But South African cricket seems to be in a crisis now.

The future of the team seems to be in danger for the first time since we came back to world cricket. I fear that Shaun Pollock would not want to be part of the Proteas anymore. He has just had his benefit year with Warwickshire, and may choose to continue with county cricket, since his income would not suffer thanks to the strength of the pound.

The game may lose plenty of well-wishers are well. There is concern about the implications of the transformation policy. The changes may leave spectators disillusioned. Soon those interested in South African cricket might throw their hands up and say go ahead, choose your coaches and bosses and run the game the way you want to. A very depressing scenario.

The semifinals get underway at Port Elizabeth Tuesday. The Australians are not playing as well as they did at the start of the tournament. They are still favourites to make the finals, but some of their players have begun to look tired, especially the batsmen.

With Michael Bevan fit, his skills will be useful against Sri Lanka's spinners. Even a sub-par Australian side has enough big guns to put it across most teams.

The Sri Lankans, if they are honest , would admit they are not playing their best cricket, and are lucky to be in the last four. The main problem is that their captain Sanath Jayasuriya seems to be out of sorts after the blow he received from Brett Lee. Jayasuriya is the kind of captain who is in good captaining form when he is in good batting form. He gets all geed up and rallies his troops extremely well. However, if things are not going his way in the batting department, his body language reflects on the team, and they look a very ordinary unit.

The toss will be crucial, with the Lankans hoping to bowl second on the slow Port Elizabeth wicket. Aravinda De Silva and Muthiah Muralitharan are threats and the former is proving quite a handful in the first 15 overs. If he makes inroads by the 20th over, the match could be quite interesting.

The other semifinals will also not be an easy affair. The Kenyans have surprised me because they are troubling top teams despite having very few quality performers. Perhaps the fact that they have done better than expected has taken the pressure off them. If the Kenyans bat first and score 220, things could get tight.

The Indians must guard against complacency, this is no walk in the park. Often crunch games can throw up surprises beyond the expectations of even the most hardened cricket expert.

Gameplan 

 

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Barry Richards