The mighty Australians are beatable in their own backyard

Mudassar Nazar

December 6, 2001

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Nirala Sweets
It's a fair assumption umpire Robinson will not be invited to the Black Caps' Christmas party. New Zealand had made most of the running in the drawn third Test, and had it not been for the two umpiring errors they would have walked away with a series win. Unfortunately, rain and some sub-standard umpiring marred the whole series. To cap it all, Brett Lee was fined 75% of his wages for behaving badly. I wonder what Virender Sehwag has to say about this punishment? He had to miss out on two matches (one an unofficial Test and the other a 'real' one) after a show of mild resentment. I think it is high time ICC takes control of the situation and ensures that referees mete out fair and even punishment to players.

Mudassar Nazar
Mudassar Nazar
Photo © CricInfo
While the New Zealanders came very close to clinching the series, they also showed the rest of the world that the mighty Australians are vulnerable in their own backyard. Australia did not play as well as they were expected to. Glenn McGrath seemed out of sorts all along and looked increasingly frustrated in the last game. Jason Gillespie seemed tired after the first Test. Maybe it was because the Australian Team has not had to endure too much hard work recently. It must feel strange to them to field for two consecutive days in a Test match. Brett Lee too has not performed as well as was expected of him in the last six months. A year ago he looked likely to beat the 100 mph barrier, but instead his pace has dropped, which must be worrying for Steve Waugh as he prepares to take on the South Africans. Shane Warne, who often bails his team out, was handled extremely well by the Black Cap batsmen. If Chris Cairns had bowled well in the last game, New Zealand would have won the series irrespective of the poor umpiring.

Allan Donald
Allan Donald
Photo © CricInfo
I have been watching Pura Cup (previously Sheffield Shield) games for the last two years, and can safely say that Australia's dominance of the cricket world will come to an end within a year or so. The standard of play in the Pura Cup these days is not as high as it used to be. Being Australians, the players are still aggressive but the competition is not as strong and seems devoid of fast bowlers. Once the likes of McGrath, Warne and Waugh brothers leave Australian cricket it will be very hard for them to be replaced. In the past, Australia has comfortably overcome the loss of players like Lillee, the Chappells, Marsh and Border because enough class players were competing in their domestic tournaments. I guess Australia will be looking to their Cricket Academy for some talent. It will not be easy since their best coach, Rodney Marsh has already moved on.

Jacques Kallis
Jacques Kallis
Photo © CricInfo
South Africa, who arrived in Australia last week will give Australia a much tougher time. They are a class above the rest and have their best fast bowler, Alan Donald, fit and eager for a final assault on the Aussies. I know for a fact that Alan Donald would love to beat Australia in Australia and then happily retire from Test cricket. South Africa also possesses the finest all-rounder in the game today, Jacques Kallis, who is set to become one of the best all-rounders of his country, if not the world. His batting is a class act with only Inzamam, Tendulkar, Lara, Steve Waugh and Mahela Jaywardene to match him. He can also bowl quicker than Allan Donald and maintains a nagging off stump line. To top it all, he is brilliant in the slips and if he has a decent series in Australia, I can see his team returning triumphant. In either case, Australian players will have to raise their game to beat South Africa.

After our trip to Bangladesh in January, the Pakistan team will be taking on West Indies at home. While it was heartening to see Brain Lara back in form it is also a warning to our bowlers to start planning and getting ready for the maestro. In prime form, Lara is the most exciting batsman in the world. As he showed against Australia a few years ago, he can win a Test match all on his own. West Indies are clearly rebuilding their team and rest assured will be very keen to do well in Pakistan after their dismal showing in Sri Lanka. They have some very promising players in their squad and it's only a matter of time before they start performing. Apart from Lara, Hooper, Gayle, Sarwan and King, others too will have to play a major part if West Indies are to win in Pakistan.

Virender Sehwag
Virender Sehwag
Photo © CricInfo
Pakistan have an excellent chance to try out some young players on their tour of Bangladesh and then give them an extended run in the home series against West Indies so that they have enough time to establish themselves in the team. It will be very difficult for us to try new players against Australia in September and apart from anything else, it'll be too close to the World Cup. The key to winning the World Cup would be to have a settled and well-knit team.

I was relieved when the impasse between India and ICC was over as I feel it was unnecessary and rather silly. While Mike Denness might have been a bit harsh, it was India's duty to accept it and get on with the rest of the tour. They could easily have played under protest. The only person who lost out in this affair is young Sehwag who had to sit out an extra game.

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