From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.42 :: Oct. 17, 2009

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CRICKET / SOUTH AFRICA TOUR DIARY

An event of surprises

A dazzling display of fireworks announces the conclusion of ICC Champions Trophy 2009. The competition, well organised and seldom short of drama, is a success. Fifty50 cricket cannot be displaced in a hurry, writes S. Dinakar.

AP

Nathan Hauritz ... evolving as a cricketer

The 2009 ICC Champions Trophy has been one of surprises. Fancied sides have been beaten. And the dark horses have galloped. Rather, the flight of the Kiwis has been enthralling. A side ripped open by injuries stays together to consistently buck the odds.

Underlining New Zealand’s resurgence are belief and resolve. This is a tale within the larger story of the competition.

“I am keeping my fingers crossed,” admits former New Zealand paceman Simon Doull ahead of the semifinal against Pakistan at the Wanderers. The Bull Ring is swarmed by Pakistani supporters. Younus Khan’s men are expected to end the stunning Kiwi run in this last-four duel.

Seeing the juicy surface at the Wanderers, Doull says, “My arms and fingers are itching to bowl.” Then he remembers that his playing days are behind him. He smiles.

It’s another night of the unexpected. Skipper Daniel Vettori epitomises the inspirational captain and the Kiwis — they prefer to be called Black Caps these days — celebrate under the lights.

In the media box, Ravi Shastri finally wades into non-vegetarian food. The former India all-rounder turns a vegetarian during ‘Navaratri’. Harsha Bhogle, a staunch vegetarian like yours truly, has turned rather philosophical these days about the quality of food of his choice on offer.

Shastri also dwells on the consistency of the Indian ODI side of the mid-1980s. “We won just about everything during that period. The World Cup in ’83. Then we claimed the World Championship of Cricket, virtually a mini-World Cup, down under, won the Rothman’s Cup and the Asia Cup,” he says.

That versatile outfit bristled with all-rounders and multi-dimensional cricketers. And it had a sense of occasion.

The current Indian team, desperately seeking all-rounders, is stumbling on the big stage. The ‘youth euphoria’ following the ICC World Twenty20 triumph in 2007 has all but vanished into thin air. It was a period when accomplished Indian cricketers were subjected to humiliation — spin bowling giant Anil Kumble was repeatedly asked in press conferences as to when he was quitting the international scene until the genial man, the then Indian captain, finally lost his cool. This is no way to treat Indian heroes.

Some of the half-baked young cricketers have subsequently come up woefully short in the international arena. “Too much easy money, too little substance and not enough hunger,” points out one former Indian cricketer.

Meanwhile, former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar has a different subject to talk about — a speedboat that he has recently acquired.

Still on speed and movement, a bunch of aircraft — flying in harmony — greet the final. And a dazzling display of fireworks announces the conclusion of ICC Champions Trophy 2009. The competition, well organised and seldom short of drama, is a success. Fifty50 cricket cannot be displaced in a hurry.

I catch up with the Aussies, who had overcome a Vettori-less New Zealand in the summit clash the previous night, at the airport on October 6 afternoon. Brett Lee extends a friendly hand and then says, “Namaste and Shukriya”, impressing yours truly with his Hindi. Lee is affable; he is also smart.

Nathan Hauritz and his wife Dianne are around too. Hauritz has been on the road with the Aussies for over five months now. It’s been a long, seemingly endless journey. He appears a little tired but is not complaining. Along the way, he has evolved as a cricketer. The off-spinner does bowl a fine spell in the final against the Kiwis.

“You see, when you are a professional, you cannot drum up excuses,” says Hauritz. Despite the long hours of travel and heaps of matches of all forms, the Aussies are on the ball. And they are still winning.



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