Archive for the ‘australia’ Category

… or some may say, the lack of it!! Strategy, I mean..!

Maybe I am just too much of a fan of Sri Lanka’s, or maybe I am able to see another perspective, which I present here.

Before that, for those of you who came in late, here is what happened.
Sri Lanka was playing Australia in one of the tougher Super 8 games in the World Cup. Both teams have more or less confirmed their positions in the semi-finals, so it was not a crucial game from the semi-finals point of view. But it was an important game for each team to get a psychological advantage, as they are quite likely to meet each other again, in the semi-finals or the finals.

Then, in what looked like a very strange move, Sri Lanka ‘rested’ their top 3 bowlers, for this game, Muralitharan, Vaas and Malinga. Malinga, to be fair, had not played the previous game too, as he was injured, so we can assume that he still needed to get well. But Vaas and Murali had been playing all along, and of course, performing very well too, and so it was a surprise to not find them in the eleven, for this crucial encounter.

The captain, Jayawardene, explains that these two chaps have had injuries earlier and in order to ensure that they do not develop any problems, and considering that the place in the semis was settled, he chose to rest them.

Experts like Ian Chappell and Arjuna Ranatunga were shocked beyond words. Chappell went to the extent to suggest that the ICC’s anti-corruption cell should enquire with Sri Lanka, as to why they did not play their best team. He was also upset for the sake of the fans, who had come to see the best teams play.

Well, here is what I feel about this matter.

Sri Lanka have a good team, but of course, Australia is a different peak to climb! For ANY team to beat Australia, whether in the Super 8, or in the later knock-out stages of the World Cup, they would need to do something different. Kind of bring in a surprise factor and hope to upset Australia’s rhythm. And Sri Lanka as a team and perhaps with Tom Moody’s inputs, might have worked on this gamble.

Think about it:
1. If, without the key bowlers, Sri Lanka managed to beat Australia, what a phenomenal boost they would have got, and how depressed Australia would have been, in that case,

2. If, without the key bowlers, Sri Lanka managed to take the fight to Australia, and lost, then too, they have a psychological advantage. They tell themselves that ‘they lost because the stars were not there, and yet, without the stars, they gave a tough fight to Australia’! And what does Australia think? That Sri Lanka, minus their extremely good three bowlers, were a handful. What will happen when we meet them again, in the knock-out stage, and when those top bowlers will also be there??

This, in fact, is what happened. That Sri Lanka fought back from being 24-3 to post a total of 220+ was a big thing. At a time when Jayawardene and Chamara Silva were going strong, it appeared that Australia were clearly lost on ideas. Similarly, with a rank ordinary attack, to get Hayden and Gilchrist thinking about the bowling initially, and also picking up both of their wickets early, was also creditable. If Australia wanted to make an impact, they should have been able to take the game with 10 wickets to spare.. they could not do that!

3. All these three bowlers have different styles and are a handful to cope with. For the best of batsmen. There is so much in ‘studying’ their styles on video and there is a different sense of confidence in playing against them, and overcoming the mystery. Not getting that opportunity in the Super 8 ensures that when they meet in the knock-out, the Sri Lanka bowlers start with the upper hand. Why?

– if the batsmen try to be aggressive and aim to dominate say, a Murali, he is quite likely to pick up wickets
– if they play watchfully, they will let a lot of economical overs come and go

This, then becomes the surprise plan that Sri Lanka spring on Australia, and give them their best chance to beat Australia in the semis or the finals!

I think it was a smart move. Also speaks for the confidence that Sri Lanka has. That they were willing to take the risk of losing this game, in the larger interest of winning the tournament later.

I continue to back them to be the ultimate champions this time..! Yes, inspite of Australia’s amazing run. I mean, backing Australia to win does not require any imagination, but thinking that there is a team, in this case, Sri Lanka, who can possibly upset the Australian team, requires a little specific conviction. I have that!!

After losing the previous game against New Zealand, losing the number one ODI team ranking to South Africa, and getting loads of criticism in the media and blogosphere (refer my earlier post), Australia apparently came back all charged up and roaring, for the final one day game against New Zealand, in the Chappell Hadlee Trophy.

Led by a stupendous batting effort from Hayden (an unbeaten 181, the highest ever ODI score by an Australian, carrying his bat through), Australia topped their previous game score and posted 346 runs in the 50 overs. NZ had rested their main strike bowlers, Shane Bond and Vettori. For Australia, McGrath was not playing.

When NZ started their reply, they lost 4 quick wickets for around 40 something, and then the 5th for a little over 100. It appeared to be an all too familiar setting, with Australia coming back big time, to assert themselves with a thumping victory, following some losses.

But things took a different course. Led by a phenomenal belligerent innings by McMillan, and supported very well, by McCullum, NZ turned in a fantastic batting performance, to pip Australia at the post, AGAIN! Thats the fourth big score of Australia that has been chased down, by an opponent, this year.

To add to the worries for Australia, they now have Hayden on the injury list too. How bad is his injury will be known soon. But that is one more concern for Australia anyway.

As for the Australian bowling, it keeps looking worse. At the end, with Franklin at the crease, at 8 wickets down, and still a lot of runs needed to be got, it was the Australian bowlers who let it go, it would appear!

And poor Hussey.. his surprise captaincy elevation, has certainly not got off to a good start, losing all three games that he lead in..!

Hopes for the other teams sore high, in the midst of this continuing Australian debacle.. !

The Australian cricket team has been playing with what looks like its bench, against New Zealand, in the Chappell Hadlee series. And they have got beaten twice in a row, and have also lost the number one position in international ODI ratings, to South Africa, in the process. They lost the first game big time – by 10 wickets, after getting bowled out for under 150. And then in the second game, they put up a big total of 336, and New Zealand chased it down!

It tells me a few things.
So much for Australia’s famed bench strength. Perhaps its not quite as great as its been made out to be. The little that I saw of these games, I could sense that there were just 2-3 batsmen who looked good (Hussey, Hayden – both regulars, and Hodge), and in bowling, there was not much to offer beyond McGrath and Bracken. Watson also got hit and Hogg got thumped big time. The rest of the guys looked quite ordinary.

A much stronger Australian side got beaten by England in the tri-series finals. Ponting, Lee, Clarke, Gilchrist were all there then. And still they lost – in straight games. Which proves that they are certainly beatable. Over the recent years, they had created a feeling of invincibility. Heck, that is out of the window now.

And I am going to stick my neck out and say that they will NOT win the World Cup. I am not saying who will win; at this time, all I am saying is that Australia won’t.

Which brings the question of the quality of the Australian team, over the next couple of years. With Warne, Langer and Martyn already gone, McGrath to go after the WC, there are going to be few new faces there.

Clarke and Hussey look like great inheritors of the Australian spirit. Of course, Ponting will be around for a while. And Hodge holds a lot of promise. There is of course, Hayden, Gilchrist (don’t know for how long, though) and Symonds should get fit soon. So the batting looks okay as long as all of these guys maintain decent form. But its the bowling that looks pretty vulnerable.

Lee appears to be the only real strike bowler. Bracken, Stuart Clarke in pace, or Hogg in spin, don’t look like matchwinners by any circumstances. I don’t know what has happened to Stuart McGill. He should finally get his chance without Warne’s shadow lurking behind him, and he can be a good prospect. But overall, if a team wants to beat Australia in the next year or two, they have their best chance in out-batting Australia, by going after a weak bowling attack.

Meanwhile, the eternal underdog down under, New Zealand, should be feeling fabulous, and so also the traditional arch rivals, England, both of them having beaten Australia, going into the World Cup!