Saturday, November 3, 2007

Lankans at their very best

This World Cup has seen surprises in terms of teams qualifying for the Super Eight and landmark individual performances like the consecutive sixes of Gibbs or the four wicket haul of Malinga on the trot.

One team that has really made a mark with their all round performance in all the departments of the game has been Sri Lanka. For this small island nation cricket is something more to them. I am of the view that it is the players who have made the difference and hats off to this talented team.

There is really something special that goes with this team. It is the sheer presence of the three experienced campaigners Sanath Jayasurya, Muthiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas. With more than 14 years of experience between them, believe me the entire team revolves around the trio.

The seniors are aware of their responsibility that they have to perform and so have their task cut out. When they peak in terms of form half the job is done and other players simply play their part, which makes a win look so easy. The most astounding aspect is that they can chase any target and win matches and this makes them a formidable team today.

A key performer in Lankan cricket has been Jayasuriya. When he is in form the team is sure of a win. In fact his form in the next couple of games is crucial and the team will definitely look up to his performance.

The other aspect which makes Sri Lankan cricket special is the combination of experience and youth. The youngsters simply follow the performance of their seniors and they too come up with match winning performances. The team always displays fighting spirit and their body language vouches for that.

The man who has known to spin Sri Lankan wins is Muralitharan. He is an intelligent cricketer who can adapt himself and bowl to different wicket conditions. He is known to destroy the best of the teams and is rightly called the “Smiling Assassin”.

When a team has the best in terms of batting, bowling and fielding, they can script a win any time and this is what makes the Lankan team special.

The role of a coach like Tom Moody should not be neglected. The Lankans have a young coach with two World Cup experiences. He has really backed the team well and shared his experience to their betterment. Today if one team can upset Australia’s World Cup plans it is Sri Lanka.

The coach plays a vital role in these kinds of matches. For example Moody knows the way as to how Australia plays cricket and can plan the strategy accordingly.

Mahela Jayewardene is one of those rare breed of captains who has lead the team confidently though some of the individual performances have not been up to the mark. The fact that he has gone down the order to bat at No. 4 shows his calibre and the attitude required for a captain.

Even if the top line batsmen fail the team has talented youngsters like Arnold and Dilshan who could rise up to the occasion when needed.

On the whole I am firmly of the view that it is their all round performance that makes Sri Lanka a side to reckon with and they will be really fighting it out to get the Cup.

Time for "Talent Refresh" in Team India

Time for "Talent Refresh" in Team India

Team India has been on a high with a string of decent performances in the international arena. The victory in the inaugural edition of the T20 world cup bodes well for the success of the next-generation team under the leadership of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Critics may regard the T20 victory as an aberration with defeat in the subsequent one-day series against Australia being seen as the reality picture. But, I see that as an education. India should take pride in making Australia stretch for their victories in couple of matches. It's simple logic, if one is not strong in a specific field and has the urge to learn, learn it from the leaders. Having said that, India has won its last two internationals against Australia (the last one-dayer and the T20 in Mumbai) and is all set to invite Pakistan for a good and enchanting cricket series.

Here comes an interesting twist in the plot, the on-going Challenges series at Ahmadabad. With India doing pretty decently in recent times, does this tournament really matter or is it just for academic interest. In my opinion, this tournament is very important as every international side needs a periodic "talent refresh". We have history supporting this claim. It took Australia some time to rebuild a side after Rod Marsh, Greg Chappell and Dennis Lillee all retired at almost the same time. West Indies has not completely recovered after the retirements of Richards, Lara, Ambrose and Walsh. Reasons, these teams didn't do a reality check and didn't adopt a "talent refresh" exercise, which is to mix team with fresh talent and experience so that the veterans can pass on their knowledge to the new comers.

Gambhir made his way back to the Indian side along with Sehwag, while Praveen Kumar got the nod for the bowling slot. I was a touch surprised that Munaf Patel was ignored considering that it was his fitness that cost him his place in the side, though his 1-81 against the India-Red was not impressive. I am sure that other performers will get their chances as well in due course of time. Rahul Dravid's omission was baffling for many and I am also hoping that he is too good a player to miss out and I go with Dilip's words the day Dravid will be back into the side will not be far.

The tournament so far has not been the best for the India Greens side, which has consistently leaked 300 or more runs and I do not blame them as Munaf and Piyush Chawla seem to be the only known face in the side and both going for plenty. Cricket is a funny game and a team's fortune at times rides on their opposition's misfortune. But this tournament is offering the much needed opportunity for all of us to take notice of some fresh talent and strong performances which will represent the future of Indian cricket and am enjoying every moment of it, as you all are. So, let's enjoy the current "talent refresh" phase of Indian cricket before the tournament against Pakistan begins.

BBC News | News Front Page | UK Edition