March 13, 2011

Australia need a workout

It's been all too smooth sailing for Ponting's men so far. They need a tough match against Pakistan

Michael Hussey's arrival at the World Cup couldn't have been better timed for an Australian team that remains undefeated whilst enacting a group impersonation of the Invisible Man. In addition to the undoubted boost his versatility provides to the batting order, Hussey's unbridled enthusiasm will be just the right tonic for a team that has endured long waits in between matches and then experienced very little challenging cricket.

Hussey's enthusiasm is infectious. If he's not playing a match, he loves to bat and bowl in the nets and then practise fielding. Then, when the daylight disappears he's happy talking cricket. Even if he doesn't enjoy it, he's earned the nickname "Mr Cricket". His brand of enthusiasm, complemented by a couple of serial pests in the team (taking the mickey and playing practical jokes), is the right mixture to help endure long, mind-numbing breaks between matches.

The washout against Sri Lanka, when the match was so evenly poised, must have been a major disappointment to the Australians. They were relying on that game as a tough workout to tune up for the knockout stage, especially after New Zealand provided such meek opposition. To then have a week off, followed by two gentle affairs against the seriously weak Kenyans and the only slightly stronger Canadians, is not ideal for Ricky Ponting's men. Those two games will be centre-wicket sessions with the added excitement of an anthem.

This is why the officials are right to query the wisdom of the minnows' presence at the World Cup. It's like asking a CEO to prepare for a crucial board presentation by speaking to a kindergarten class.

Apart from Ireland, who have displayed a commendable competitive mentality, the performances of the rest of the minnows reads like a struggling student's report card: "Tried hard but need to do better."

The Australians must now hope the consistency-challenged Pakistan team has one of its good days when the two sides meet. Australia desperately needs a tough encounter before they play their quarter-final.

Another frustrating aspect of the tournament for all players is the Decision Review System (DRS). In some circles it's now referred to as the dubious review system.

The DRS has become entwined with the tactics of the game and is constantly being used to challenge 50-50 decisions - two things it wasn't designed to do. The DRS reads as such a complicated playing condition that the Australians could easily fill in their numerous off days scouring the document, including the quaintly named "clarification communication" from the ICC.

The DRS has become entwined with the tactics of the game and is constantly being used to challenge fifty-fifty decisions - things it wasn't designed to do

This arrived as a result of the controversy over the notorious "2.5 metre ruling" that reprieved Ian Bell against India. If anyone unravels the metric mystery, I'd be delighted to hear the explanation.

What I'm eagerly awaiting is the official communiqué that confirms technology is now officially ruining - sorry, a slip of the finger: running the game. The sooner the DRS is placed firmly in the hands of the off-field umpire, purely to rid the game of howlers, the better off cricket will be.

The DRS reared its ugly head again in contentious circumstances in the Ireland-West Indies contest, to snuff out any chance of another fighting Irish victory. The system is fast establishing a consistency rate that compares with the England team.

England has produced two mammoth efforts to defeat South Africa and tie with India, only to stumble like a drunken sailor when confronted by the lesser teams. Their monumental struggle to overcome Netherlands was only surpassed by their gifts to Ireland and Bangladesh.

For now, it's their confidence that needs rebuilding after they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Bangladesh. England have to beat West Indies to have any chance of reaching the knockout stage. The one thing in their favour is, they've played their best cricket against the stronger sides.

Should England beat West Indies and reach the quarter-finals, beware. In 1992, Pakistan were playing like drones early in the World Cup and were extremely fortunate to reach the semi-finals. They then went on to play brilliant cricket in winning the final against, you guessed it, England. Could be an omen.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 15, 2011, 16:15 GMT

    australia beating test would be against the bowling attack of pakistan if saeed ajmal plays against australia it would not be easy for the middle order to face the music of afridi gul and ajmal who are the match winner in their own , they have put a good show against the men in men green . pakistan team should be focus when they face heat of tait lee and johnson.

  • Javed on March 15, 2011, 6:47 GMT


    I have been hearing the coments of chapal on different channels he is pretendimg as australians are un beatable side well i think he is living in fools paradise if u look at there match against SL they were really lucky that the match aws washed out other wise SL would easily have won the match. secondly i dont know why he thinks that ausrailia has best bowling attack well icant see how its best with one normal bowler in Lee 2 half bowlers in Tait & Johnson who at most of times are wavered and some club level spinners in Korejza, Smith & Hussey. They were saying the same in WC T20 about this bowling line up and every one knows that what thrasing this so called attack got at the hands of Pak in WC T20 Semi Final they were luck to win as Hussey palyed an innings of his life and some stupid decision by afridi also help them to win. Well i cant see austrails go beyond QF with Bits & pieces Bowlers & out of form batting. For me there are 2 teams to beat in this WC SL & Pak. Watch out

  • Dummy4 on March 15, 2011, 6:19 GMT

    Yes Australia could do with some competition and definitely before the knock out stage.They have had good games barring the Kenya game which was arguably their most tepid game yet. I think the good thing is that Hussey had a good hit and Clarke and Haddin are batting well. Ponting is still searching for that magic touch but the spinners are a cause of worry. I do believe that Smith will get wickets if persisted with, though I believe Kreja bleeds as he bowls too many loose balls. Australia are not in the peak of their form but thankfully for them India, South Africa and England are all playing patchily with touches of brilliance. It would be interesting to watch the quarters. As far as the UDRs is concerned, it is not perfect, but it certainly prevents howlers from happening.India is just being difficult as it can be on occasion . Interesting days ahead and I do hope the world cup picks up momentum and action. sridhar

  • Jay on March 15, 2011, 0:58 GMT

    The Giant Strides of Technology: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," Neil Armstrong famously declared upon becoming the first man to walk on the moon. We now see cricket take a "big stride forward" too with DRS: It's a useful technology that helps to make better informed decisions, especially (jokes aside) in "big stride forward" LBW situations. The ever-so-opinionated Chappell, in his usual half-baked way, calls it "dubious" because of inconsistent 2.5m rulings. But then, in the same breath, he offers a plausible solution: Place DRS "firmly in the hands of the off-field umpire." Aha! Why let the on-field umpire make the final decision, when his initial call is being challenged in the first place? Case in point: Billy Bowden in the Ian Bell review. The problem? No, not his crooked finger, but his crooked ego! Catch Billy reversing his own call! Only the off-field umpire, given all relevant information, is best placed to make an objective/final ruling. Period.

  • Aditya on March 14, 2011, 19:55 GMT

    The DRS is a brilliant system. In the worst case the number mistakes do not increase but remain the same. In most cases it gives the correct decision. I am all for it.

  • Jay on March 14, 2011, 15:50 GMT

    As for Ian Chappell's discomfort with the "metric mystery," the only obvious and relevant question I have is why does the ICC have to throw 2.5m/40cm measured curveballs into a legendary game full of historic milestones that are forever yardsticked by wickets 66 feet apart? It's a game of inches, isn't it?

  • nalin on March 14, 2011, 13:16 GMT

    Unlike rediculously marginal decisions made in tennis the UDRS is incorporating a benefit of doubt system that is appropriate for cricket where an umpires decision is reversed if the decision is incorrect beyond a reasonable doubt. I liked the system in Australia where the 3 aspects of LBW was given a green [not out], yellow[marginal] or red[out] and a bat pad was excluded. If the umpire said not out you need 3 reds to reverse or if given out there has to be a green to exonerate the batsman worked well.The 2.5 meter rule should be worked into the hawkeyes strikezone and a determination of red, orange or green should be stated automatically rather than 2 umpires trying to grapple with the 2.5 meter rule.

  • Andrew on March 14, 2011, 10:59 GMT

    @Duncan Munro McLeod - Ponting has actually been the only player to argue BOTH sides of the debate - but you'll believe whatever you want to believe. @JesseG - I can quite confidantly say that NO side has cruised through the games as comfortably as Oz. EVERY other side has showed vulnerability - EXCEPT Oz. All due respect to Kenya - but that was a training match!

  • Cricinfouser on March 14, 2011, 10:24 GMT

    Ian chappel sounds too arrogant.. But I cant wish pakistan good luck against them..I wish the game is a wash out as SL one. The best thing will be both not getting match fit before the crucial QF

  • Jasigan on March 14, 2011, 8:23 GMT

    I would love to backhand Ian Chapell, Australia will not win this world cup...their team isn't strong enough...that was shown against Kenya...

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