Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The hate objects!!!

When you have hit the bottom, many will pity you – ask me. When you are at the top, more than many will hate you – ask Australia. With last 3 world cups in their kitty, performance in each of them better than the previous one, almost everyone wants Australia to crash out of the world cup 2011. ASAP. Those who don’t, they must be Australians. In recent times, Australia has done a lot to strengthen the belief of those who want them crashing out of WC11 in the first round itself. But never discount Australia. They may not be as strong as they were with the presence of their stalwarts, but they can still be strong enough to edge out a more favorite contender. But if Australia is not clear favorite this time, there are lots of reasons. Anyways, here is my take on their side –

Ricky Ponting - He is surely one of the greatest batsmen to have played the game. But many believe that he is way past his use-by-sell date as a captain. If that is true, Ponting may not feature in Australian batting line up as well. I cannot recall an ex-captain playing for Australia. In last 12 matches, he has scored 351 runs with an average of 29 which is 32% less than his career average. Add up the rarest of rare title of 3 ashes losses under his captaincy, and many will start arguing against his place in the side. But question remains – who will replace him? Not an imported product for sure who doesn’t want to emulate him . Not for the world cup at least. But this world cup will surely be his last. Ponting may do well to find a buyer for himself in Bangalore where he won’t have to feel sorry for his problem because, like Jesse Ryder, he will be seen as a customer there.

Michael Clarke – When Alan Border was nearing his retirement, Australia had Mark Taylor ready. By the time Taylor retired, Australia had groomed Steve Waugh to lead the side. Before Steve Waugh retired, Ponting was ready to peak as a batsman and leader. But Australia may not say the same about the current situation. If people have been demanding Ponting’s head for ashes disaster, they have been demanding Clarke in totality. Clarke averages 49 in ODIs in last 12 months but this doesn’t tell the story of how “Ashes” has burnt his form. 193 runs at an average of 21 in the test series have been followed by 124 runs in 5 ODIs at strike rate of 63 when his team scored at 87 runs per 100 balls. May be he will turn it around in the remaining matches. May be he will not. But he may like subcontinent especially India. India is where he replaced Darren Lehman with a century on his test debut and forced Lehman to retire. This is where he foxed everyone by his 9/6 bowling in Mumbai. But this is also where he couldn’t find anyone rich enough to buy him .

Douglas Bollinger – CSK was reeling in last IPL till he joined them. They won the trophy after that. A look at his record says that he will be quite a handful for Australia.

Brad Haddin – Haddin was brought as Gilchrist’s successor. But Gilchrist-like success is hard to emulate. So Haddin tries hard. If he cannot reach the ball, he will extend his reach by throwing his gloves at the ball to stop it. Haddin remains the only wicket keeper in the history of game to get a batsman out bowled while keeping wickets . Alas, it wasn’t attributed to him. While an average of 32 in 74 ODIs at a run rate of 5 per over may not be able to impress many, his performance in Australia’s tour to India in 2007 will surely do. At the age of 33, he may well be many of current Australian players who may not play next world cup.

John Hasting – A new face. His cricinfo profile page speaks volumes about him but so does Gagan Khoda’s.

NM Hauritz – I remember it very clearly that I saw somewhere Hauritz’s age as 35 years. I was about to write that he is John Traicos of Australia but I thought of checking his age over the internet. To my surprise, his age turned out to be 29. He may not know how to turn the ball by 5 degrees but Hauritz surely knows how to turn around his age by 180 degrees. Since everyone was stuffing truckloads of spinners for the subcontinent, Australia decided to oblige Hauritz. Obviously they could not have run the risk of stuffing beer in the ship especially if the captain of the ship has had drinking problems.

D. Hussey – Australians have a tradition. If main skill of two brothers is batting, their debut must be separated by at least 3 years. Mark Waugh made his ODI debut 4 years after his brother had done so. So did David Hussey but at an age of 30. This means he doesn’t have a long life as an international cricketer. But, is it his fault that his brother made his debut so late? Shouldn’t Australia have done away with the tradition? He is equally gifted in both the departments – batting and bowling. That is what a batting average of 31 and bowling average of 33 suggest. But he could be useful in his world cup - his first and most probably last.

M. Hussey – Hussey was considered to be Australia’s Bradman till 2008. Then he came to India. His superhuman test average came at more human level. Considerations were doubted. He went back and resurrected himself. He came back to India. Average remained at human levels. Considerations were again doubted. He went back and repeated his act of resurrection. Now he is coming back to India. But his ODI average in the subcontinent still remains at super human level of 73. Strike rate of 83 makes it even more dangerous. Although he is yet to take guard on a Sri Lankan cricket ground. But he will be one of the most important Australian batsmen in this world cup. This may be his last though.

Mitchell Johnson – What is the similarity between Mitchell Johnson and a Zebra? Both seem to have dark strips painted all over their body. When the movie mixed doubles was shown to him, he didn’t like it at all, why? May be it’s because he doesn’t like to swing. But he has been pretty effective with the ball in the subcontinent – 31 wickets in 18 matches with an average of 24 and economy rate of 4.94 tell the tale. On his day, he can be quite dangerous with the bat too although those days have been far and few.

Brett Lee – Another one to play his last world cup. In his 12 year long career, Lee has been a fighter. He fought for a place in side in initial years, and then he fought against injuries. Once he was fit, he fought again to get back into the side. He again went to fight an injury. If this wasn’t enough, he had to fight with the captain as well. He gave up and retired from test cricket. He may well retire after this world cup and may be fighting for a place in commentary box henceforth.

Tim Paine – Paine is doing what Haddin did for ages i.e. he played the role of a standby keeper for Gilchrist. By the time Haddin retires, Paine might reach the age when Haddin confirmed his spot in the side. So Paine might well have a standby doing to him the same what he is doing to Haddin – scaring him by being a possible replacement. But this will not be his last world cup for sure. At least he won’t in the retirement club when next world cup is played.

Steve Smith – Smith has almost everything what Shane Warne had. Blond hair, tall and bulky body, title of leg break bowler, casual and easy run-up. Australia claimed that they had discovered Warne’s replacement when Smith took 3 for 51 in his first innings versus Warne’s 1 for 150 in his first. But what they missed was that Smith lacked in one department – spinning the ball. Although a batting average of 30 and bowling average of 25 (economy rate of 5.19) may force his strong supporter to believe that he is an all rounder, he is yet to play in subcontinent where he may have to face the likes of Murali who can bowl leg-spin better than him. He will also have to bowl to the likes of Sehwag who believe that spinners do not have a right to exist. God bless him.

Shaun Tait – As Ravi Shastri would put it, “Shaun Tait announced himself to the world cricket in 2005 with express deliveries of 200+khp.” Shaun Tait announced his retirement in 2008. Bringing a Pakistan to Australia’s shores, he came out of retirement soon. If you have followed his career, Shohaib Akhtar seems to be his role model. Both can bowl 150kph+ deliveries, both had their bowling actions being doubted at the start of their respective careers and both are playing international cricket post retirement. If Perth 2007 is repeated to him, he might again announce his retirement.

Shane Watson – He will be Australia’s “the man” in this world cup. If Australia does manage to win the cup, he may well be “the man of the series” as well.

Cameron White – White is quite similar to the bowlers India produced in 80s and 90s. They all came as a bowler, improved their batting when they realized that bowling may not have talent enough to survive and ended up as a specialist batsmen. In short, he is Australia’s Ravi Shastri. Just that if Ravi Shastri was “Shan ki Sawari Loona” in terms of strike rate, White will be a Ducati. Okay, Okay, point taken. Most will be Ducati when compared to Shastri’s strike rate. But White is a smart cricketer. He realized very soon that if he plays as a spinner, his performance will be compared with Warne’s. That would have given him as little chance of surviving as Canda has of winning the world cup. So he positioned himself as a batsman. I am sure he will last till the next world cup.

While not many treating Australia as favorites, England has returned a huge favor to them after their Ashes victory. England has given Australia a taste of victory in recent ODI series. You never feed a shark with blood when you are bleeding yourself, you never handover the microphone to Siddhu when you need just a 30 seconds bite and you never go too far away from the toilet if you are suffering from lose motions. Similarly, you never feed Australia with the confidence of winning when world cup is less than a month away.

1 comment:

Spiff said...

as long as punter retires from test cricket..he can play another wirld cup.. White will be good