The West Indies beating India
convincingly some weeks ago, in the five match one day series could
be tagged the beginning of the last lap to the World Cup. After
three years of experimenting with various combinations of players
the teams competing are now nearly settled. From here on it is a
matter of maintaining form and gathering momentum in confidence.
For those two reasons every
remaining game is of importance to all nations.
There is no looking back from
here. Australia, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand,
England and now even the hosts West Indies will want to throw their
hat in to run as contenders.
|Lara’s return to the helm of West Indian
cricket saw their resurgence as a cricketing nation.
It was very encouraging from a cricket point of
view to witness the tremendous achievement of the Windies to topple
the in-form Indians. India has been building a youthful one day
outfit, shedding the older players from late last year. Most of
the changes have proved worthwhile. However, they were surprised
by Brian Lara’s team with unknown capabilities. Not that the
players were unknown. Most of this West Indian team has been around,
in and out, for a few years now. What was unknown was their ability
to come good in pressure situations. It is only good teams that
win the crucial points in pressure situations. The West Indians
did and totally surprised the Indians.
That would have sent Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid
back to the drawing board. The Indian run machine was blunted. The
batting approach is what the Indians will have to work on, based
on this experience. They are savouring more of these conditions
playing four test matches and are fortunate that this four have
come around at this stage.
The Australians are having
time cooling off right now and whilst they must feel pretty good
with their performances in the past six months after the Ashes debacle,
although they got knocked around somewhat in the one dayers in South
Africa. Their one concern will be that the World Cup will be played
at the end of six gruelling months. They have to maintain both form
and fitness because the challenges will be formative throughout
As a one day outfit England are in some disarray.
This has mainly happened because of fitness problems. Their winter
tours to Pakistan and India did not produce too many plus points.
Right now injuries continue to plague them as they take on Sri Lanka
in a five game series. Andrew Strauss, relatively unknown as a leader
and so too some of the players selected to play against Sri Lanka.
It gives Mahela Jayawardena’s team a great opportunity to
win the series. Their confidence must be sky high after the test
win and to continue that flow in momentum is important.
Pakistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, could be termed
as the dark horses to carry away the World Cup. All three teams
have players who can deliver. What is required is to play well throughout
the tournament and provide the finishes in the vital games.
As mentioned earlier Sri Lanka
must not miss this opportunity in England. With the weather also
getting warmer and now much accustomed to the conditions, most must
be made of these five games. A series win is a must.
From there on they will play
South Africa, India, New Zealand, West Indies and a mixed bag at
the ICC Champions trophy. This too in three countries – in
Sri Lanka, India and New Zealand. They have it tough with touring
and facing tough opposition at home and away, but all that has made
them battle hardened.
The craze right now is World
Cup Football. Once that dies down the race will begin for the next
cricket World Cup!