Wednesday, February 16, 2011

GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:STEVE WAUGH-1999

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He came into the Australian squad as an all-rounder during the test series down-under versus India. He was a member of the team that won the World Cup in 1987. Within a few years, he lost his place in the test team to his twin brother who scored a century on debut in the Ashes of 1991. The player is Stephen Rodger Waugh who went to become one of the best batsmen of his generation and also one of the best captains in the game.

Following his exit from the team, Steve had a change in his approach to batting. The comeback into the team witnessed a different batsman who started to score runs in torrents. The opponents seemed to bring the best out of him and no one can forget the double hundred in the West Indies in 1995 that gave Australia the Frank Worrell trophy after a long interval.

Some of the most famous innings of Steve Waugh have come in the longer version of the game.For someone who batted down the order, big scores in the one-dayers were not always possible.

In the Reliance World Cup of 1987, Steve Waugh could not make a big contribution with his bat but on more than one occasion, took crucial wickets. Waugh was a very clever bowler who varied the pace much to the surprise of the batsmen. In the semi-finals versus Pakistan at Lahore, Waugh scored 18 runs off Salim Jaffer in the 50th over of the Australian innings.Those runs proved to be the winning margin for the Aussies. Later when Pakistan batted, he took a couple of wickets.

In the Wills World Cup of 1996, Steve Waugh had a few memorable outings like the half-century versus New Zealand at Chennai. In the semi-finals at Mohali, he produced a great delivery to stop Brian Lara who was well set to take the Windies to the finals.

But it was the ICC World Cup of 1999 that saw Steve Waugh’s emergence as a great captain.The Aussies had to really sweat it out after the initial stages.It was in the super-six match versus South Africa at Leeds that the famous Waugh magic came to the fore.It was a now-or-never match with Australia needing to win in order to have any further say in the tournament.

South Africa made 271 with Gibbs making a century. In reply, the Aussies had a poor start but Waugh went for the shots making a 50 off only 47 balls.When on 56, Waugh had a reprieve, thanks to Herschelle Gibbs.Legend has it that Waugh made a comment to Gibbs about the drop. Waugh went on to make 120 and took his team to the semi-finals. After a couple of days, the same two teams contested the semi-finals which ended in a tie and the Aussies went to the final on a better run-rate.

Waugh was not picked for the World Cup of 2003.He had to make way for new and younger players.But no one can question the part played by Waugh in the making of a strong Australian team.

I was fascinated once to learn that Steve Waugh played with a bat that was shorter in length in relation to the bats used by other players.The famous red hankie in the trouser pocket and the worn out baggy green are still fresh in my memory.

More than the style it was substance that was more important.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:ANDREW SYMONDS-2003

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He first came into the picture when the Indian team was at the receiving end on a tour game in England facing a county side. He had the great ability to hit the ball to great distances. The same person also toyed with the Indian bowling on a tour to down under. He had the opportunity to play for England but declined in order to play for Australia.

For most of the Indian followers, he became a hate figure following the on-field events involving Harbhajan Singh.

It was only when Andrew Symonds got into the Australian one-day side that the world started to take note of the prowess of the man. Not only could he bat but also he was a tremendous fielder and a more than useful bowler. Symonds was powerfully built and when song could take on any bowler in the limited overs contests.The dread locks gave way to the clean shaven head and yet there was no change in his style as far as cricket was concerned.

He had a disastrous start to his test career facing the likes of Muthiah Muralitharan on the turning wickets of Sri Lanka. Symonds was dropped from the test team while he was a regular for the one-day team. He got a lucky break to play test cricket once again and he scored a fine century versus the visiting English team. However, things began to become difficult for him as the cricket administrators were forced to take disciplinary action following many ‘incidents’. All these culminated in Symonds not being picked up for the Australian sides and he announced his retirement from the international game. These days, he is a freelancer for the different teams in the T20 competitions.

The ICC World Cup of 2003 provided the platform for Symonds to display his talent in a big way. The defending champions Australia faced Pakistan at Johannesburg and Wasim Akram sent back Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden back to the pavilion early in the game. Damien Martyn also could not trouble the scorer as he was bowled by a Akram special. Jimmy Maher was out to Waqar Younis and only Ricky Ponting was holding fort tackling the Pakistan bowlers when Symonds came to crease.

Within no time the shots began to flow from the bat of Symonds and the pressure was on Pakistan. The ball kept racing to the boundary with the fielders joining the ranks of the spectators. Even the dismissal of Ponting could not deter Symonds from attacking the bowlers. Symonds made 143 runs from only 125 balls. The Pakistan bowlers had no answers to this onslaught and the frustration was reflected when Waqar Younis was stopped from bowling following two beamers bowled at Symonds. Thanks to Symonds, the Aussies scored 310 runs and Pakistan fell short by 92 runs.

In the semi-finals at Port Elizabeth, the Australians took on Sri Lanka. Chaminda Vaas had the Aussies in all kinds of trouble with excellent support from Aravinda DeSilva and Sanath Jayasuriya. None of the famous batsmen could stay long at the wicket and there was a real possibility of Sri Lanka upsetting the top ranked team. But Symonds had other ideas and in a display of controlled aggression scored 91 from 118 balls. This was a slow effort and Australia laboured to 212 from 50 overs. Following a rain disruption, the Sri Lankans had to score 172 runs in 38 overs. They could only score 123 and the Aussies went to the finals for the third time. In the finals versus India, Ponting and Martyn trashed the Indian bowlers leaving very little for the likes of Symonds.

Symonds was a part of the Australian team that won the World Cup again in 2007.By this time, he was an established member of the squad who had many years of top class cricket left in him. But things did not go according to the script and now when Australia is desperate to re-establish its superiority, Symonds is on the sidelines.

Symonds would have been a wonderful addition to the Australian side for the World Cup of 2011.His ability to clear the boundaries would have been a great asset on the smaller grounds of the subcontinent.

It is a pity that a man with so much ability would be restricted to the IPL and other such T20 events.

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GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:CHETAN SHARMA-1987

 

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He is best remembered by my generation for that full toss that was whacked out of the ground at Sharjah by Miandad for an improbable win for Pakistan. That one ball overshadowed all the other important contributions mostly with the ball and on occasions with the bat from this player. Weeks after the incident at Sharjah, this man had a great part in the famous series win by India in England in the test matches. In the very first test, this player took India to the doorstep of a win with splendid bowling.

I am talking about Chetan Sharma, who was small in stature but had a big heart. He was a member of the Indian team that won the Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1985.Sharma played the finals in place of the ill Roger Binny.

Chetan Sharma also a few times was capable of making runs with the bat in the one-dayers even once when promoted up in the batting order during the Nehru Cup. But my abiding memory was the hat-trick achieved by him during the Reliance World Cup in 1987.

India played New Zealand at Nagpur and the visitors batted first. None of the Kiwi batsmen could play a long innings and a modest target awaited India. Rutherford, Ian Smith and Ewen Chatfield were dismissed by Chetan Sharma in successive deliveries for a hat trick. All the three were clean bowled.

But the efforts of Chetan Sharma were completely overshadowed by the batting of Sunil Gavaskar and Srikkanth with the former getting his only century in limited overs. Even earlier, the superlative batting of Dilip Vengsarkar on the tour to England relegated the efforts of Chetan Sharma into the background.

Luckily, things like match-fixing and spot-fixing were not around during the last ball full toss incident at Sharjah, otherwise, Chetan Sharma would have been hounded for all the wrong reasons. Even the government of the day would not have hesitated to constitute an enquiry committee to find the truth!

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Monday, February 14, 2011

GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:STEPHEN FLEMING-2003

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He came on to the international scene as an unknown and surprisingly, was made the captain of the team. He was tall and lanky and unlike many left handers, did not show much grace at the crease. But with the passage of time, he showed tremendous application as a batsman. If I remember correctly, Fleming decided to open the innings in the test matches on a tour to Sri Lanka and went on to make a double hundred.However, it is as a captain that he showed great skill and at times plotted the downfall of much more accomplished teams and opposing players.I remember a series played in Australia where he employed a specific field for Damien Martyn and the batsman got out playing the same shot on more than one occasion.

I am talking about Stephen Fleming. It was not an easy task to lead the New Zealand who did not possess any great players after the retirements of the likes of Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe. It is to the credit of Fleming that at times the Kiwis made a mockery of their standing in the international arena. The battles with the traditional rivals the Aussies were always something to look forward to even when the Kiwis were beaten.

The 1992 World Cup with Martin Crowe at the helm saw New Zealand make the best use of the home conditions with the team going all the way to the semi-finals. But in the later editions, the team could not make much of a progress despite the sterling performances of a few individual players.

Few gave a chance to the team led by Fleming in the 2003 edition of the ICC World Cup. But one innings from Fleming showed his intelligence much to the chagrin of the home team, South Africa at Johannesburg.

The Proteas were under great pressure after the narrow loss to the West Indies. They had to win in order to have any chance of going forward in the tournament. The team led by Shaun Pollock scored 306 with Gibbs scoring 143. All the bowlers suffered including the likes of Shane Bond and the normally reliable Daniel Vettori.

The target of 307 was always going to be something of a mountain for the Kiwis to climb. But then there was always a possibility of rain intervening and the DL method deciding the outcome of the match. This was kept in my mind by Fleming and he went on to play shots. Always the Kiwis were ahead of the required runs and when the rains came and put a halt to the proceedings, the Kiwis got home comfortably. The home team was caught unawares about the score they had to defend and let Fleming to call the shots.

Stephen Fleming made 134 in only 132 balls and controlled the chase beautifully. Testing my memory I recall one incident where the ball ricocheted off the bat of Fleming following a throw from a South African fielder. Normally, the batsmen don’t run but Fleming calmly took the runs on offer.It might have been unsportsmanlike, though not illegal but it just shows the determination of Fleming to win.This innings was called the ‘innings of a lifetime’.

I have read somewhere that Fleming was a student of Economics and that is how probably he mastered the technique of getting the best out of his team with limited resources. It is all the more satisfying since yours truly also is a student of Economics

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Friday, February 11, 2011

GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:HERSCHELLE GIBBS-1999 & 2003

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He was considered one of the finest fielders at the position once graced by Jonty Rhodes. On his day, he could take apart any attack out of the ground.

Recently, he came out with a tell-all autobiography that did not show his teammates and the coaching staff in a good light. He also was not ashamed to reveal his weakness for the good things in life.

He was infamously part of the few players who confessed to taking orders from Hansie Cronje to throw away matches. After the ban, he came out with the jersey having two 0s on it to signify his intentions of starting afresh.

As far as the World Cup is concerned, Herschelle Gibbs is best remembered for the dropped catch that gave Steve Waugh and his team the opportunity to go all the way to winning the Cup. The innings of Steve Waugh and the dropped catch overshadowed the fine effort of Gibbs with the bat earlier in the day at Leeds. Gibbs made 101 and this helped his team to post a score of 271. The match was inching towards South Africa until Gibbs in an attempt to hurl the ball into the air dropped it. Steve Waugh took full advantage of the reprieve and made the South Africans pay dearly. It is said that Waugh had a jibe at Gibbs for not just the catch but the World Cup being dropped. The Aussies beat the Proteas and went to the semi-finals where the same two teams came face-to-face.

With Shaun Pollock putting up a great display, the Aussies could only muster up a score of 213.This was not a target beyond the reach of South Africa even when the Australians had bowlers of the caliber of McGrath and Warne. Gibbs was playing well until he was bowled by a Warne special and South Africa found it difficult to score. Even Klusener’s late heroics could not help the team and match ended in a tie. The Australians went to the finals on the back of their earlier victory over South Africa.

In the World Cup of 2003, South Africa faced New Zealand at Johannesburg. South Africa needed to win the match to progress further in the tournament since they were defeated by the West Indies. The home team was off to steady start and Gibbs was in his elements taking the Kiwi bowlers to the cleaners. He made 143 off only 131 balls with 3 sixers. South Africa scored 306.

The target of 307 was always going to be a difficult one for the Kiwis. However, the New Zealand skipper, Stephen played the innings of a lifetime. Rain caused a reduction in the number of overs and the Kiwis were always ahead of the required runs as stipulated by the DL method. South Africa lost again.

Gibbs finished on the losing side twice in the World Cup even when he made great contributions with the bat. Of course, Gibbs made amends during the famous chase of 434 versus Australia.

Gibbs would be the first person to admit that the World Cup was a much greater stage than any other.

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GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:SUNIL GAVASKAR-1987

It is a pity that by the time cable and satellite television made its presence felt in India, this man stopped playing cricket. That certainly is a reason why the cricket followers of this age only talk about things like the IPL –the auctions, the cheerleaders and the intrigue surrounding it and not about the great players of the past. The players of yesteryears are relegated to some dusty pages or some sepia tinted photographs.

He has the habit of ruffling many feathers particularly the Aussie ones. He has managed to stave off all the criticism resulting from his association with the IPL and one of the teams. He had a big role in the selection of the coach for the Indian team from John Wright to Gary Kirsten. In this exercise, too he was thought of as the hand that could rock the cradle of Indian cricket.

However, there is beyond any doubt that he was a great player not just for India but one of the truly all time greats. It is he who for a long time stood as the only symbol of resistance as far as the Indian team was concerned. I am talking about the peerless Sunil Manohar Gavaskar.

Just as millions worship Sachin, there was a time when Gavaskar occupied the same pedestal in the hearts and minds of Indians. He was often criticized for being too defensive but again his methods saved the team in a number of test matches both at home and abroad. He had a particularly tremendous record facing the best of the bowlers-both spin and pace. He took on some of the most fearsome fast bowlers of all time without ever donning a helmet. All he had was a skull cap under the floppy hat.

A lot of clicks of the keyboard would be necessary to speak of the exploits of Gavaskar in the test matches. I remember vividly his knock of 188 at Lord’s for the Rest of the World team facing the MCC. There was no live telecast but the commentators on the BBC Test Match Special made it really memorable. This was Sunny’s last outing in a first-class game when he signed off in style by scoring a 100 for the first time at the most famous cricket ground in the world.

A lot of praise is showered on the innings of 96 that Gavaskar played in his last test innings at Bangalore versus Pakistan. Many argue that this was one of the finest coming from the blade of the ‘liitle master’.

History tells us that Gavaskar remained 36 not out while India was facing a target of over 300 runs in the 1975 World Cup. Gavaskar himself famously wrote years ago about this innings. He could not make much of an impression in the later editions of the World Cup in 1975 and also in 1983 when India won the Cup.

Gavaskar could not get to the 100 mark in the limited overs version of the game and the Reliance World Cup of 1987 offered him the last opportunity. India took on New Zealand at Nagpur.

The Kiwis batted first and could only score 221 thanks to the hat trick of Chetan Sharma. With the asking rate of less than 5 runs per over, India was expected to have an easy win but few could predict the storm that hit everyone that day.Gavaskar opened the innings along with Krishnamachari Srikkanth and immediately both of them decided to go at the target. None of the bowlers including the normally economical Ewen Chatfield was spared. The ball kept going to the boundary and the Kiwis could do little even as they had a reputation as good fielders.

Gavaskar and Srikkanth seemed to compete with one another as far as the shots were concerned. Just as the fans were dreaming of a 10 wicket win, Srikkanth got out. But that did not deter Gavaskar from scoring his first and only 100 in the one-dayers. Gavaskar who rarely lofted the ball hit 3 over the boundary. His strike rate was only marginally inferior to Srikkanth’s.

After the match, one Kiwi bowler quipped that bowling to Gavaskar that day was like watching the highlights. The match was over with India winning by 9 wickets and with over 100 balls to spare.

Gavaskar could not repeat the heroics in the semi-final versus England and that was the last innings of the great man on Indian soil. Even the best also sometimes fail.

Legend has it that Sunny got exchanged for the child of a fisherman at the time of his birth in the hospital. It was only his uncle who detected this mistake and got the right one to the right place. It was maybe destiny that helped his uncle for that would been a sad loss for the game of cricket.

Monday, February 07, 2011

GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:BRIAN LARA-1996 & 2003

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Few players have in the modern era have been as entertaining to the true followers as the left-hander from the tiny island of Trinidad and Tobago. Yes, I am talking about Brian Charles Lara, the only man to have made 400 in a test innings and 501 in a first class innings. His highest score before the quadruple hundred was 375. It was a pure delight watching Lara bat whether in a test match or in limited overs. But he could never be a part of a World Cup winning team.

But there have been a few innings from the flashing blade of Lara that spelt doom for the opponents in the World Cup.

Lara was a part of the West Indies team that took to the field in the World Cup of 1992 but apart from the half-century against Pakistan there was very little from him. But by 1996, Lara was clearly the most accomplished batsman of his team. The team was not a favourite but managed to reach the semi-finals.

In the quarterfinals the West Indies took on the mighty South Africa at Karachi. Few gave the West Indies any chance considering the Proteas had it very easy against all opponents in the earlier matches. The West Indies batted first and made 264 with Chanderpaul and Lara scoring the bulk of the runs. Lara played as only he could, scoring against all the bowlers with his 111 coming off only 94 balls. The ball kept eluding the fielders and speeded away to the boundary on both sides of the wicket. Worse, Jacques Kallis a very reliable catcher, dropped Lara and the batsman took full advantage of the reprieve. Once these two batsmen departed, the innings folded for a score that was not seemingly enough. However, the South Africans have been showing us again and again as to why they are called the ‘chokers’ and they fell short of the target and were knocked out off the World Cup.

In the semi-finals, the Australians struggled to score freely against the likes of Bishop, Walsh and Ambrose. The West Indies seemed to have the match in their grip until Lara tried to manufacture a shot and was bowled by Steve Waugh. It was only then that Warne took over and hastened the demise of the West Indies. But for that fateful shot, the West Indies could have been in the final.

There was very little of note as far as Lara was concerned in the World Cup of 1999.By 2003, there was little expected from the West Indies. South Africa was the host and even as the team was just rebuilding following the aftermath of Cronjegate, the West Indies was not considered much of a challenge.

The hosts took on the West Indies in the first match of the ICC World Cup of 2003 at Newlands in Capetown. Gayle and Hinds departed early and Lara took to the crease. He received good support from the other batsmen like Chanderpaul, Sarwan and Hooper. Lara made 116 and the West Indies put up 278 runs on the board. Lara started cautiously, but as more time was spent at the wicket, the shots started to flow from his bat. Once again, the ghosts of the past caught up as South Africa fell short of 3 runs. This defeat did not knock South Africa out of the World Cup but as things transpired was one of the factors for the first round exit of the hosts.

A month ago, Lara expressed his desire to take part in the Indian Premier League much to the surprise of everyone. The team owners had other ideas and decided not to ‘buy’ Lara. Does Brian Charles Lara require the approval of the ‘chaddi’ cricket to cement his place in the hall of fame?

Wah Lara, kya mara!

 

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GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:ASHISH NEHRA-2003

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In recent times, India has won matches both at home and away, thanks to the emergence of quick bowlers .One such instance featured the match between India and England in the ICC World Cup of 2003 at Kingsmead, Durban in South Africa.

India batted first and made 250 a score that seemed defendable considering the difficulties of batting second under the lights. But there was anxiety over the ability of the Indian bowlers.

Marcus Trescothick was snared by Zaheer Khan and the other opener Nick Knight was run out. Then it was the Ashish Nehra show all the way. The left-armer from Delhi was always regarded as a talent but then has the uncanny knack of getting injured at the most inopportune time. However, on that balmy night, everything paled before the magnificent show put up by Nehra. He made the ball and the English batsmen dance to his commands. The balls to dismiss Nasser Hussain and Alec Stewart are still fresh in the memory. There were 6 wickets for only 23 runs and that sealed the win for India despite some typical powerful hits from Flintoff.

In between his bowling, Nehra had a brief stint of throwing up his food and drink but there was no respite for the English. On one occasion, the speedgun reported a speed of over 150 kmph much to the surprise of everyone. Even if there was some error, nothing can be taken away form Nehra.

The showing of Nehra seemed to have brought some relief to the minds of the followers of Indian cricket who were fed up with their batsmen brought down to the knees by the swinging ball on tours to England.

Hope Nehra comes up with a similar spell in the ICC World Cup of 2011 even as the conditions at home are radically different from those that evening at the Kingsmead.

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GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:GRAHAM GOOCH-1987

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India was one of the favourites to go the distance in the Reliance World Cup of 1987.In the semi-finals in Bombay, India had to face England led by Mike Gatting.

The Indian team was rocked by bad news even before a ball was bowled with Dilip Vengsarkar out of the match with tummy trouble caused by ‘Bombay Duck’. It became the most infamous dish of the time, considering Vengsarkar was in fine form and much was expected of him on his home ground. Even then, there was still a lot of firepower left in the Indian arsenal to reach the final.

But India did not account for one of the finest performances of the World Cup coming from the bat of Graham Gooch. Gooch started his test career on a pair facing the likes of Dennis Lillee. There was also a ban on him following a trip to South Africa on a rebel tour. However, after the ban was served, Gooch returned to the English team and there were enough indications of his prowess.

Gooch had this way of facing the bowlers with a very high backlift. He always seemed to a good player of pace bowling but on that day, Gooch took on the Indian spinners and broke a lot of hearts.

Ball after ball and over after over, Gooch swept the spinners and the Indian team seemed to be completely bereft of all ideas. Maninder Singh who once was talked of as the natural successor to the legendary Bishen Singh Bedi was swept out of the attack. The other spinner, Ravi Shastri also did not have any clue to stop Gooch.

The Indian chase was not successful with the loss of key wickets at crucial junctures and the final nail in the coffin was struck when Kapil Dev holed out to a fielder in the deep. The bowler was Eddie Hemmings and the fielder was Gatting. This marked the end of tenure for India as the holders of the World Cup. There was so much anger and frustration that Kapil was made the scapegoat and he lost the captaincy.

Graham Gooch once again blew the Indian team away in a test match in 1990 when he scored 333 in the first innings and a 100 in the second.

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Sunday, February 06, 2011

GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:GEOFF ALLOTT-1999

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With the ICC Cricket World Cup only a few days away, most of the news and sports channels are making us ‘relive’ the past action. There are highlights, sidelights and also the visions from the experts.

In between the not-so-busy schedule of mine, I find time to remote through the different channels and a couple of days ago, I happened to stumble upon the match between India and New Zealand in the World Cup of 1999 in England. Geoff Allott the left-arm fast from New Zealand took advantage of the conditions and had Saurav Ganguly in a great deal of discomfort and finally yorked the batsman out.

Allott had a great World Cup with 20 wickets in the competition but that was not enough for his team. Shane Warne also took the same number of wickets in that tournament. Against Australia and Pakistan the finalists of the World Cup, Allott took 4 wickets each. Cricket as a team game can be very cruel in that great individual performances do not get the attention they deserve in view of the team’s lack of success.

Allott could not take his career to greater levels due to persistent injuries and finally in 2010, he decided to call it a day.

 

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GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:SHANE BOND-2003

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The name with the surname Bond always has a special ring to it having grown up on a number of films showing the adventures of the super spy created by Ian Fleming.So when someone with the same surname came on to the cricket field, there was a natural curiosity.What made it even more interesting was the fact that this gentleman was a fast bowler.

I am talking about Shane Bond, a real life policeman who was armed with the cricket ball licensed to end the stay of the opposing batsmen at the crease. Bond was a pace bowler in the real sense of the term; the adjectives like medium-fast or fast-medium did not apply to him, he was a fast bowler.But unlike other fast bowlers, Bond did never use his mouth on the field.Those qualities made him more endearing for me.

Like most from New Zealand, Shane Bond relished playing against the traditional rivals, the Australians. There have been a few occasions when the famed Australian line-up was battered into submission by Bond.

The Indian team which toured New Zealand before the ICC World Cup of 2003 in South Africa found it almost impossible to counter the pace bowlers of the home team led by Bond on green and drop down wickets.

But for me, the best that Bond bowled was in the 2003 ICC World Cup versus Australia at Port Elizabeth. The first four batsmen consisting the likes of Gilchrist, Hayden, Ponting and Martyn in batting order all fell to the pace of Bond. Hogg and Ian Harvey also became the victims of genuine pace coupled with bounce and movement. The scoreboard read 7 wickets down for only 84 runs and Bond’s figures read 6 for 23.That day, Bond was unplayable.

Once Bond finished with his spell, things became cooler and the Aussies recovered thanks to the efforts of Bevan and Bichel.That speaks volumes of the impact of Bond. The Aussies with a much greater dept in their bowling could successfully defend a small score.

Recurrent injuries put Bond more in the confines of the surgeon’s table and less on the cricket field. After a while in the T20 circus, Bond called it a day.

Sadly, this Bond did not have a victorious ending as is the case with the other Bond.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:ARAVINDA DE SILVA-1996

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Aravinda De Silva had made a name for himself much before the Wills Cricket World Cup of 1996.As an Indian and a fan of Kapil Dev, it pained me a lot when De Silva hit the great bowler for a six in a test match.

Aravinda made the headlines for his ability to take on the best of the bowlers-both pace and spin. He was not afraid to play the horizontal shots when the ball bounced. He was all power and at times, the ball just sped to the boundary seemingly at the slight wave of the bat. Aravinda seemed to infuse the finesse of some his predecessors like Roy Dias with power. As was the case with most of his teammates, Aravinda too did not mind having a paunch.

The 1996 World Cup saw Sri Lanka in its full glory where everything seemed to work for the men from the small island nation. The batsmen could score runs; the bowlers took the wickets while fielding was top class. Every member of the team contributed to the ultimate triumph while the class of Aravinda came into its won during the semi-finals and the finals.

Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana gave their team flying starts and most opponents were too shell shocked to trouble the rest of the Sri Lankan team. But in the semi-finals versus India at the Eden Gardens, things went from bad to worse for the islanders. Srinath sent the opening pair back to the pavilion with very few runs. Asanka Gurusinghe was given a rough time before he too fell to Srinath. Things started looking really rosy for India and a spot in the finals at Karachi seemed very real.

I can still remember the day of the match. It was the day when examinations were going on and every now and then I went away from the examination hall to get the latest scores. The first three wickets were followed by three crackers and after a while there was an eerie silence. The reason was Aravinda was taking on the Indian bowlers. There was a cover drive that looked ominous and in the company of Roshan Mahanama, De Silva took Sri Lanka to a good total. As it turned out, this total was beyond the reach of India and Sri Lanka was in the finals.

The finals featured Sri Lanka and Australia in the city of Karachi in Pakistan. The Aussies did not go to Sri Lanka for the preliminary round of matches citing security reasons. There were the usual mind games before the big match. The Aussies appeared confident while Arjuna Ranatunga did not blink. History had favoured the Aussies to win the World Cup for a second time. I had not fully recovered from the trashing India received from Sri Lanka but I did not want the Aussies to win.

The Aussies could not post a good total. The famed batting line-up boasting the likes of the Waugh twins, Stuart Law, Michael Bevan, Ponting and Healy failed to make a big score. The spinners of Sri Lanka made it difficult to score freely and Aravinda had a big role taking 3 key wickets-Mark Taylor, Ponting and Healy.

The target was not stiff but Shane Warne was expected to make the ball talk but the genius of Aravinda put an end to all such speculation. Like in the semi-finals, Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana failed.Aravinda scored a century and along with Gurusinghe put the match beyond the reach of the Aussies. There were all kinds of shots-the powerful and also the subtle ones.

Truly a great World Cup for a great player. Like Mohinder Amarnath in 1983, Aravinda contributed immensely with both the bat and the ball.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:DAVID HOUGHTON-1987

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I did not watch the Prudential Cricket World Cup of 1983. My father watched the match live and he provided the report. Of course, there were the newspapers.

For me and my brothers, the Reliance World Cup of 1987 was truly the first one. It was only the World Cup that prompted my parents to accede to out demand for a colour tv at home. With the cable connection, it was time to sit back and enjoy.

While the World Cup was going on, I had to accompany my mother to Hyderabad to pay a visit to my grandmother. My uncle did not and still does not have a high opinion of cricket and also the followers of the game. But the day before the match featuring New Zealand and Zimbabwe at the Lal Bahadur Stadium, he wanted to know if I needed a ticket to watch the match live. With two teams that were not expected to put up a good show, I declined the offer and instead preferred to watch the match on the tv. Even after all these years, I still regret the decision for the match featured on the best innings ever played in the World Cup.

New Zealand batted first and put up a good score for in those days even an asking rate of 5 runs per over seemed to be a tough task provided the bowling attack was decent. Snedden made a half-century and Martin Crowe batted like only he could.

Zimbabwe was not expected to do much. My only interest was to follow the progress of Kevin Curran. He was one of the bowlers to wreak havoc on the Indians in the previous World Cup and Curran was rated one of the good allrounders in the English county circuit.

Zimbabwe lost wickets early with not many runs on the scoreboard. The match seemed to be going in one direction-New Zealand. But one man-David Houghton had a different idea. In the company of Iain Butchart, Houghton took his team very close to the target. The end for Houghton and his team came when Martin Crowe came up with the catch of the World Cup.

Houghton played every shot and it was really incredible stuff. The ball kept going to and over the boundary.

It was a truly remarkable innings and once again I regret having missed out on that.

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