Friday, January 05, 2007

Taking on the post-War-post-Pigeon Kangs

India have managed a slender but potentially critical 41 run lead at the end of 3rd day’s play at Cape Town. Barring a wretched capitulation on 4th day, they would expect to end the Test series on a high note and, maybe, even a high voltage series win. That bodes well for the big series awaiting them in Australia later this year. That is if the overdose of one-day matches in the next few months can be survived and the primary aim of doing well at the World Cup can be achieved with little or no focus loss from the other long term aims.

The 2006-07 Ashes ends on the 6th Jan as per official schedule but the match ispoised to be over by the 4th day - tomorrow. On this day will occur the 2nd great mass exodus in Australian cricket since the present Indian coach walked into the sunset. The present lot of wavers includes two bowlers, Shane and Glenn, who are good enough to fancy their chances of qualifying in an all-time XI across the ages and continents.

During the late 90’s there was widespread concern in the Australian Cricket Board about an early millenium mass exodus when Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh, Ian Healy and Shane Warne were ageing simultaneously. Well, Warne preserved himself and refused to join that one. History says that the changeover was seamless and – unthinkably– revitalising to the Baggy Greeners.

Common sense says the transition will be tougher, a lot tougher, this time round just like Chappelli had predicted at the time dismissing the late 90's ACB concerns. He had predicted that the real challenge to Australian supremacy will come when McGrath and Warne leave the scene.

That time is upon Australia. In another 1 year and 1 day’s time from tomorrow, the world will either learn that Australian Cricket has indeed established an inconceivable, foolproof system that functions in a Matrix-like realm beyond the influence of even the greatest individual performers, or it will get confirmation of the age-old concept that any sporting team, even THE Australian team, is only as good as its present bunch of players are.

I guess we know now why Lara wants to play Tests till he is forty. Ever since that series 14 years ago Lara never found himself on the winning side of a Test series against the one time he craves to beat. To be factual his team hasn’t even come close to beating them.**
Lara must fancy his chances now. He has expressed a burning desire to play for Australia but that would perhaps rank a distant 2nd highest in his priority list, after his desire to win against them.

The impossible is turning into possibility as West Indians continue their upswing and the day of an Australia without Warne and McGrath is nigh. His expression of this upcoming Australian problem betrays a suppressed glee. Make no mistake - that is not Lara the batsman, who will miss the perennial challenge from his old foes, but Lara the West Indian. But people who expect Lara to retire from both forms after the forthcoming World Cup may be missing out on this angle.
As I read his intentions, he will wait for one last crack at Australia the next time they tour his part of the world.

** His side was well placed on one occasion when West Indies were leading 2-1 in a 4 Test series with one Test remaining in 1999 before they lost the last one even as Lara scored a breathtakingly quick century in a losing cause. But then the series had earlier seen Brian Charles Lara follow up a match-winning 213 with a 4th innings 153 not out for the very next match to earn a 2nd victory – the second greatest Test knock of all time according to a Wisden exercise.

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