Thursday, October 19, 2006

The CT does not sleep anymore

Jerome Taylor, the most promising young fast bowler outside of the 2 Ashes playing nations, goes back a few steps from the crease to bowl his last delivery. Australia need 12 runs to win off one delivery against West Indies, and the young-man-with-a-glacier-inside realised he just needed to ensure this one to be the last for the evening.

He achieves that goal by bowling Trevor Chappellesque slow medium off a few steps. [I ask Greg about it and he confessed that Taylor's delivery has bounced infinitely higher than Trevor's.] In leading his team to an improbable win Taylor makes a statement as poignant as that last delivery is unexpected of any genuine quick bowler, least of all a Caribbean one. Essentially that he would rather be part of a painstakingly improving team of proud contributors than get sucked into the familiar "image trap" that lies ever so near his newly achieved place in a game that still worships its fast bowlers and reserves instant stardom for them. [No prizes for guessing who I am referring to..]
The ICC Champions' Trophy race is suddenly getting very hot as an expected consequence of the first 4 group league matches producing 3 upsets (2 mini and one major). There can be only one better way to get those disgruntled cricket lovers around the globe glued back to their TV sets than a cricket tournament that throws up upsets: a cricket tournament yielding closely fought medium scoring upsets. Precisely the description
befitting yesternight's
Pak chase and today's Windian heroics..
I have made 2 posts on CT matches in the past couple of days: The Eng-v-Ind and SL-v-Pak matches. Instead of delaying the inevitable I hereby declare this current post on the Aus-WI thriller as a kick-off post on Pavilion View to launch the "CT Awakes" series that will cover ICC Champions' Trophy 2006 events.

Did I mention the Aus-v-WI result to be an upset? To be honest I felt sort of odd saying that. I checked up on a few statistics and they all supported that odd feeling. Inspite of their continued batting fragility this West Indian lot is arguably the most competitive side we have seen from those islands since the turn of the millenium. That was not good enough, I reckon. Okay then: They are amongst the most competitive teams today, period.

The Australians are having their own one day batting woes of late as are the CT hosts, India. They were the two best batting sides in ODI's even a few months back but their batting form has dipped significantly since they began running into the West Indians every now and then.

It would be both unfair and foolish to ascribe that likeness in batting decline of the two higher-ranked, smoothly chugging teams after facing Lara's men to coincidence and / or slow pitches. If you so wish, you are allowed to dismiss India's (remaining) claims to formidability on grounds of inconsistency. But the all-conquering cricketers from Australia give you no such leeway and a good show against them must be a reflection of cricketing ability. Ask Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman. We can take another example.
Dwayne Bravo was an unknown threat when Yuvraj Singh and his teammates struggled against the Trinidadian's slower yorkers in the Caribbean a few months back. But after Kuala Lumpur and Brabourne you realise that for all the support staff at their disposal a middle order like Australia's is yet to find an answer to Bravo and his mates on slow-low pitches. With a World-Cup-ful of slow and low tracks around the corner, that translates to a longer duration of 'slower' rule by Caribbean medium pacers than most reckoned.
Let us assess the West Indians in light of their recent performances against the Killer Kangaroos.

Since they crashed to 0-4 in the midst of a 7-match ODI series back home immediately after the 2003 World Cup, the West Indians have been regrouping themselves and proving to be a constant thorn in the flesh of the world's most awe-inspiring ODI team.
The Calypso boyz won the last three matches of that 2003 series on the trot, and since then they have returned a respectable won-2-lost-4-noresult-1 scoreline playing against the Aussies over 3 separate tournaments in 3 countries. That summarises to 5-4-1 (Win-Loss-NoResult) in their last 10 ODI's versus Ponting's men since 25th May 2003 till date.

Corresponding figures (Win-Loss-NoResult) for other major teams in their last 10 games against the Australians:

South Africa: 5-5-0
England: 2-7-1
India: 1-7-2
New Zealand: 2-8-0
Pakistan: 1-8-1
Sri Lanka: 3-7-0

Surprise, surprise! So the 'struggling' West Indians have won as many games against Australia in their last 10 encounters as the 3 sub-continent majors put together and compare rather favourably with the famously Aussie-baiting South Africans.

It is high time that credit goes where it is long overdue. That Jerome Taylor last delivery was an outcome of a process of rebuilding techniques, attitudes and minds. The next post of 'CT Awakes' series shall be dealing with a man integral to that rebuilding process.

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