April 16, 2007

The clash of opposites

ESPNcricinfo staff

Preview. Sneak peak. Dress rehearsal. Call it what you will but tonight’s Australia-Sri Lanka game is, according to those who put their mouths where their money is, one of those things for the April 28 final. What makes it even better is that nothing really rides on it (nothing, that is, that can happen to upset the possibility of these two sides meeting each other again in the final).

For a cricket fan, it will be a terrific contest not just because these have been the two best teams in the tournament so far (yes, I’d put Sri Lanka ahead of New Zealand because of its consistency and the quality of the opposition it has played from the group stage). It’s a mouth-watering prospect because the teams are exact opposites of each other. Nothing makes for a better showdown.

Australia is ruthless; it believes in taking no prisoners. It is clinical in its approach, gritty when fighting back and remorseless in its decapitation of opponents. Having been the best cricket side in the world for some years now (notwithstanding the ICC ratings prior to the World Cup), it brooks no failure. It is the champion side. It came to the Caribbean with the intention of defending the title. It believes in its invincibility.

It is an epitome of many things: how merely talent, even a lot of it, isn't enough any more, and how it needs to be harnessed with discipline; how one's gifts can't be taken for granted; how far cricket has evolved; how competitive a game it is and how mentally tough you have to be to play the sport at this level.

The metaphors I think of when I think of Australia nearly always have to do with surgery or with war.

Sri Lanka is charming, joy-filled and ebullient. It is beguiling in its approach, seeming to as much enjoy having the upper hand in a game as coming from behind. Eleven years back, it won the World Cup. And, while always having been full of promise, it has never quite come close to the form and flourish of that dizzying 1996 tournament. Now, as this World Cup wears on, it seems to realize how precious and how important this campaign is: this time around, really, it can go the distance.

It is an epitome of many things: how form comes and goes but class, true class, always endures in the end; how cricket is still at its most entertaining when played in their way – with flair and flourish and a sense of fun and goodwill – and that those seemingly old-fashioned things can be adapted to the modern template of the game.

The metaphors I think of when I think of Sri Lanka nearly always have to do with the fine arts or joyousness.

They have different means but the end, for both sides, is the same: they want to win. It's absorbing to watch how they go about that so differently.

Soumya Bhattacharya is the editor of Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He is the author of two volumes of cricketing memoirs - You Must Like Cricket? and All That You Can't Leave Behind - and a novel, If I Could Tell You

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on April 27, 2007, 13:02 GMT

    Re greatest allrounder. I guess with almost two billion people in India and Pakistan the results is not surprising. Don't get me wrong Imran Khan and Wasim Akram are two of the greatest cricketers that played the game,but Khan 37% to Sobers [The greatest of them all]14% that's a laugh, I suggest you ask Mr Khan who he thinks was the greatest allrounder and you might be surprised. When you are taking votes on these matters it is best to go direct to the people that played the game not to supporters who by sheer numbers will outvote the rest, it's a no contest. Wasim 13% and Hadlee 3% no way.

  • testli5504537 on April 27, 2007, 9:55 GMT

    It is not that the Lankan's are super charming and ebullient. It is more like that the Aussies are rather arrogent and cold. They obviously enjoye their cricket but they make me cringe everytime they have a press conference.. They seem to make a fine art of rubbishing the team they are about to play. I don't think any other team does this in quite the same way as the Aussies. It obviously has its intended affect on the opposition.. especially the South African's .. but becomes a little tiresome for us average cricket fans.. its funny but i dont remember so many cricket fans disliking the Windies when they ruled the world.. I think it was because these guys preferred to do their talking on the cricket field instead of participating in these venoumous pre match interviews... its just not cricket!!

  • testli5504537 on April 27, 2007, 2:40 GMT

    There seems to be some confusio,n ponting only suggested some fans were probably disappointed at Murali and Vaas not playing, seriously you guys are a touch paranoid about this. Secondly why are you allowing someone to post something as offensive asShindy, Aus are aggressive, unfriendly? white? therefore racist need i say mor As an Australian if I said anything like this about the sub continent I would be rightly howled down as paranoid and racist. Why not take a leaf from the teams books as they treat each other with a respect for their abilities not some rubbish race line. I just look forward to a great contest

  • testli5504537 on April 27, 2007, 0:59 GMT

    Glad to see I'm not the only one offended by the obvious bias of this journalist. I've watched most of Australia and Sri Lanka's games in this cup, and the article's comparison of the two team's styles is bordering on the ludicrous. I honestly don't understand the basis for it - how are the Sri Lankans so 'charming, joy-filled and ebullient'? Because Murali grins maniacally when he takes another wicket? Because the keeper never shuts up, and their celebrations are so cosy?

    Supporting Sri Lanka over Australia is fine, but putting out rubbish like this article isn't. It worries me that a cricket journalist has so little idea of the joy and passion that the Australians put into their cricket, which is part of what makes it so beautiful to watch. Stop trying to drag us along with your prejudices.

  • testli5504537 on April 26, 2007, 14:33 GMT

    Great Article. For everyone who ask "where are the key bowlers?" I think it was a strategic decision by the Sri Lankan team. Why would you want to give Australian batsmen a practice match for them to experience Sri Lanka's unique bowlers, when there is nothing for Sri Lankan's to loose. I think they saved the best for last, for the game with the highest stakes. Best of Luck, Sri Lanka.

  • testli5504537 on April 26, 2007, 11:07 GMT

    Hey Val,

    ok we defeated NZ.. now what u think ?


  • testli5504537 on April 26, 2007, 9:24 GMT

    Aus Vs SL Re-match is on


  • testli5504537 on April 26, 2007, 7:09 GMT

    The Sri Lankan cricket team's performance in the Ireland and New Zealand games was the best response to Ian Chappel, Michael Holding and others who must now be squirming at the prospect of the David and Golayath final this Saturday. Whilst I'm happy for our (SL) boys and wish them well, the following worries me:

    1) Latest news is that Motta Raala is planning to visit the West Indies for the final. The last thing Sri Lanka's cricketers need is for Rajapakse and his band of travelling idiots to disrupt their prep by making them pose for photographs. Worse, if we do win the final, this moron will rush to get himself photographed along with the cup to milk it for political mileage. If the LTTE love cricket, they'd bomb the airport and prevent Motta Raala from getting on that plane.

    2) Mahela doesn't have the killer instinct. If Ponting had been captain of the Lankan team, he'd have brought in Vaas, Murali or Malinga to cut off the Kiwi tail and win by a huge margin. Isntead, by letting Dilshan and Sanath bowl they let the tailenders get their eye in so they were able to negate Malinga and Murali when they did come back (Note to Mahela : eat more red meat).

    3) Sri Lanka's 11 beat New Zealand's 13 last Tuesday. The umpires were blatantly biased and I'm sure we have more of that to come in the finals. In the semi-final they effectviely took one bowler out of the attack when the kiwi batsmen couldn't. Sri Lanka Cricket should release a video analysis of the fast bowlers from the top four teams to pre-empt a similar attack on Vaas, Malinga or Mahroof. Do it on the eve of the match and minimize the prospects of conspiracy or conspiracy theory alegations.

  • testli5504537 on April 26, 2007, 5:31 GMT

    all ur mouths wil be shut big time wen srilanka wins the world cup... then ur'l wil end up talkin with the other mouth.

  • testli5504537 on April 26, 2007, 3:19 GMT

    Sitting in Sydney I hear so much bleating about Sri Lanka's tactical decision. I cast my mind back to the CB series this year, where Ponting and McGrath were rested for the final SCG ODI against England. Not once did I hear a pip about Australia devaluing the competition or being 'disgraceful'. Rather, it was shown as a 'well-earned rest' by many commentators. As a spectator at the ground, I was deprived of seeing these two stalwarts play on this occasion, although the media never erupted in a frenzy about how the spirit of cricket had been soiled, with the spectators being the great losers.

    It's just bleating from the australian media after the Australians had been out-thought and out-manouvered by one of their own (Moody).

    Go Sri Lanka!

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