I have just come to realize that ‘cycle’ is a huge word. It may mean many things but when it comes to cricketing terms, I believe that there is a lot of substance in it.
It was just four years ago that an English team carrying the names of Strauss, Cook, Pietersen, Collingwood and Bresnan crashed to a five-nil home defeat at the hands of a Lankan unit ably led by Mahela Jayawardena in the ODI series that followed the 1-all test series.
Lo and behold, today almost the same English team even without the services of mercurial Freddy Flintoff have just devoured the very pride of the Kangaroos in their own back yard and are gnawing the edges to eat up whatever that is remaining at the end of the ODI series. It was depicted well in their last ball T-20 victory. Mentally the Englishmen are a prepared lot.
In short the very English team that looked out of tune and minus any muscle power just a few moons ago look a complete macho outfit ready to take on the rest of the world.
Taking a step back, I still remember the legendary exploits of the West Indian team that bounced and hooked the rest of the world into submission. The very sight of Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes walking on to the field was awe inspiring. Then the mere fact that this batting line up also had Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd and the likes must have given their opponents some knee jerks more than often. That was talking nothing about their much feared pace attack of Garner, Marshall, Roberts, Michael Holding and the rest. They gave no respite to anyone who stood in front of those wickets at the other end. But, like the Roman Empire which ruled the World at one point of history, the West Indian cricket is full of rubble and memories now.
The newest victims of this cycle of power are the Aussies. This time against England they did not look like the fabled world-conquering Aussies but looked like mere sissies. There was a time when the Australians could have fielded two separate elevens that could beat any full member team in the fray. In reality the Australians did field two elevens in some of the internationals played at home at one juncture.
The Australians at the helm played the game from all ends. Yes, they did have the McGraths, Warnes, Waughs and the Pontings in their arsenal. It was a winning combination on its own.
|New Stadium, new wicket, no one knows what is in store for the World Cup.
(Pic Sanka Vidanagama)
Yet, they perfected the art of sledging and decorated it with psycho attacks on singled out performers through their publicity and other allied machinery like what they did to our own Muttiah Muralitharan in 1995. That was a real planned effort that they had cultivated to keep their style of play and their cricket right at the helm.
Then the worm turned. It all began in England. An utterly disarranged Pakistani outfit that could not even find their own captain more often than not or host a game on their own backyard for reasons so much other than the game of cricket, beat the Australians 3-1. They followed it up with a 3-2 loss against the rejuvenating Englishmen also in England.
These two defeats told the rest of the World that things were not hunky-dory in the Australian camp. While Lee and Tate were more on the injured list, the rest of the fast bowlers, including the much-talked-of Mitchell Johnson, were firing blank bullets.
Their next excursion was equally disastrous when they were trounced 2-0 in the Test series and 1-0 in the OIDI series in India and then went home to take on Sri Lanka on a 3-game Limited Overs series.
Never in the history before have we seen the Australians hurt their pride on the green-field to this magnitude. Their 2-1 loss to Sri Lanka was our maiden series win in the cricket’s last post.
However, the Lankans came home for a nasty surprise against the lowly placed West Indies. Trusting on an untested and untrustworthy bowling attack that was sans just retired Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga who was out as a result of a shield rather than a crippling injury we were exposed to the hilt. The lads from the Caribbean were pushed from one concrete graveyard to another till the rains came to our rescue, but, yet they saw to it that the Lankans fell down from their pedestal in their Test World rankings as a result of a drawn series.
Now the Lankans are getting ready for the big one next month which come their way sans the home advantage as they will be playing in new pitches and they will still be at sea as much as their opponents.
The Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara admitted to a foyer of Lankan scribes the other day that the Premadasa wicket was not cricket-friendly and said those used for the Lankan Premier tournament may not be the ones that are being prepared for the World Cup. Yet the question stays the same. Even the Lankan skipper does not know the qualities of the wicket. Then how are they going to prepare? Where is the so-called home advantage?
In 1996 when Sri Lanka won, most of their games were played in India and Pakistan barring the unimportant few that were played on their home soil. However to that they had the composition of one of the most experienced batting line-ups ever to take part in a World Cup tournament.
They went in with almost eight of the eleven players with a hundred or more ODI matches behind their credentials.
Now they are talking of a balanced batting line-up and a better bowling attack than 1996. Yes, Sri Lanka has the advantage of having Murali and Malinga, but, could this be enough?
With no proper home advantage and a tentative bowling attack skipper Sangakkara has a huge responsibility on his shoulders; if not we may feel the 1999 result reborn on our own backyard.