October 18, 2000

New Zealand were worthy winners

Just as well that New Zealand beat India, otherwise the Pakistan cricket public would have crucified its team. Both Pakistan and India lost to New Zealand in more or less identical fashion. Both teams were unable to defend what were eminently respectable scores, lacking the ultimate fire-power in closing overs. But having said that, let me say that New Zealand were worthy winners. The team played with spirit and self-belief.

Whether or not they had any plan, as teams are expected to have now that coaches have become computer literate, I wouldn't know. But they gave the impression of taking it as it came along, they looked like a team that was not over-awed by a stronger (on paper) opposition. But behind, what looked like non-chalance was commitment, one for all and all for one. And no one better demonstrated this than Chris Cairns. He wasn't expected to play in the final but he stuffed himself with anti-inflammation tablets, bowled his full quota of 10 overs with a shortened run-up and put the brakes on the rampaging Indian pair of Tendulkar and Ganguly and he scored a century which should have given him a Ph.D degree for it seemed a research innings. He knew exactly what he wanted to do. It was in many respects an out of character innings for he likes the big hits. New Zealand's win is seen as an upset. But the one-day game is like horse-racing. Any punter will tell you that favourite wins only 40 per cent on an average in a season.

I am sure that the Indian experts will be doing their own post-mortem as to why they lost a match when their batting was cruising to a score in excess of 300. Tendulkar's run out may have been crucial but India by then had a platform and it was the middle order that lost its way. There was plenty of batting but the loss of Tendulkar seems to unhinge the team. The time has come to cut the umbilical cord.

Pakistan, on the other hand, proved to be its own enemy. It can be said of it that it was brimming with over-confidence to the point of being cocky. As soon as he arrived in Nairobi, the Pakistan captain Moin Khan confidently predicted a Pakistan-South Africa final. He repeated this forecast. As it happened he had got both the finalist wrong. He needs to change his crystal ball for a muzzle.

The Pakistan think-tank got the team selection wrong. The team went in with 5 bowlers and Moin Khan did not have the option of a sixth. It seems elementary that there should be some bowling options in case one bowler breaks down or is off the boil as was Arshad Khan and even Azhar Mahmood who took 4 wickets but he went for over 60 runs which gave him an economy rate in excess of the asking rate. This was a cardinal mistake. Moin had no option but to bowl a hopelessly out of form Arshad Khan in the death overs and how he must have wished that he had Waqar Yonus and a sixth bowler, someone like Shahid Afridi.To compound this, the fielding was atrocious and the New Zealand batsmen were able to convert ones into twos. I have been writing of the necessity for a fielding coach. Every team has one and it is obvious that they are getting results. For reasons not known to me we do not seem to need one. The throwing was unbelievably sloppy. The team had undergone a lengthy training camp in Lahore. The camp's fruits were not visible. What has happened has happened but I sincerely hope that same complacency will not be shown against England.

This is a good England team in both versions of the game and in Darren Gouth, Andrew Caddick and Craig White, they have a pace attack every bit as good as ours. And if we are thinking of spinning tracks, then we should be thinking of a leg-spinner. Playing two off-spinners is unusual for the simple reason that it is counter-productive. If you are going to have spinning tracks, then you have to attack, then you have to attack with spinners. They have to get wickets and not used for containment.

I thought it odd that there should not have been a Pakistani match-referee or a Pakistani umpire in the ICC Knockout tournament but even worse, there was no Pakistani commentator. There were 4 Indians (counting Navjote Sidhu) and Englishman and an Australian. Bob Woolmer, Chris Cairns and Elec Stewart were invited to the commentary-box. Why not Wasim Akram? And I thought the standard of the "live and exclusive" commentary poor apart from Sunil Gavaskar.

And someone should tell Geoff Boycott that he is not a school master with a cane in his hand, on the ready to deliver the six of the best. He is coursing the line between a critic and an opinionated old fogey. He had no business to say that Umpire Bucknor has "lost his marbles" nor was there any need to savage Chris Harris the way he did.

I would like to hear Boycott on Boycott, his slow innings that led to him being dropped from the England team and his own running between the wickets.

Ex-players who are now commentators would do well to remember that in their playing days, they too made a hash of things. In American football, there is a term, a Monday morning quarter-back. It means being wise after the event. The viewer wants to watch cricket and not get a lecture on how the game should be played.