The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Revival of swing bowling in a crazy Super Six format
Cutting Edge / Bobby Simpson

The ICCís decision to take points won in the first round of the World Cup into the Super Six has destroyed the drama of the Super Six competition. It is a crazy set-up when you enter the second phase of a competition and the accepted rules of one-day cricket have changed.

The current Super Six stage held very little interest to me, and no drama what so ever. One-day matches can be very boring if you donít get close finishes. All interest in Australian matches went out after they won the first round, for this was all they needed, to progress to the semi-finals.

Rahul Dravid, who the author thinks is a symbol of solidity, with Mohammed Kaif in Centurion Friday

Kenya were in after two of their three matches as were India. I am delighted that Kenya will appear in their first semi-finals, but would they have done this if they hadnít taken points into the Super Sixes and in particular the four they got after New Zealand refused to go to Nairobi'

It seems a strange set-up when you advance to the Super Six and only play teams from the other group. I personally feel that if the ICC wants more matches, and the Super Six rounds surely are designed for this reason, then it should be a round-robin style with every team meeting and the leading two play the final.

To me however the best format was when the two top teams in the early rounds from each half progressed to the semi-finals. One of the great attractions of one-day cricket is there are few draws or ties.

Basically one-day cricket was designed to produce a winner in a knockout situation. The popularity of this form of the game dictated that cricketís controlling bodies added more teams to competitions and finals were introduced. I am quite happy with this providing that we donít get too greedy in seeking extra money and flood the world with meaningless one-day fixtures to the detriment of this wonderful game.

The talk of the World Cup is the great form of the Indian team. Interestingly, this has focused for a change on the Indian bowlers and not the star batsmen. And rightly so, for the Indian attack has been superb. This hasnít surprised me as the readers of this paper may remember that I had predicted swing bowling and left-arm swing bowlers in particular would play a major role. Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra have learnt quickly and they have been superb. I assume that coach John Wright has convinced them to bowl fuller and this accounts for why they are swinging the ball more.

Having been brought up in an era where average length of pace bowlers was at least a yard further up than now, swing bowling had become a lost art because of this.

Khan and Nehra are now restoring this most dangerous of all methods of new ball bowlers and their late in-swing is catching right-handers unaware as they are perishing leg-before or bowled. The greatest of all left-arm swing bowlers, Alan Davidson swung the ball in to right-handers a huge amount but never tried to swing it away.

He reasoned the slant away would create problems and be harder to pick. It worked wonderfully well for Davidson, and Nehra and Khan have adopted the same method.

By electing not to try and swing the ball away from right-handers the left-arm bowlers can virtually bowl the same line whether they are trying to swing the ball in, or just pushing it across the batsmen. As a result the batsmen find it harder to pick which way the ball is moving and of course the bowlers find it easier to be more accurate if they only have one line to bowl.

Apart from the left-armers India have much to be grateful to the wonderful accurate bowling of Jawagal Srinath.

His accuracy has allowed Khan and Nehra to attack from the other end. Harbhajan Singh is now also bowling beautifully.

It is a pleasure to see him flighting the ball more and prepared to bowl his full variety of deliveries. Early in the tournament he was negative and seldom looked like taking wickets. It is a different situation now and all Indian bowlers are looking dangerous.

Undoubtedly, India and Australia have the finest attacks at this yearís World Cup. Perhaps the other pleasing performance against New Zealand was young batsman Mohammed Kaif.

Coming in when India had lost wickets quickly he showed common sense and maturity. He was of course aided a great deal by Mr Reliable, Rahul Dravid.

I have lost count of the times that Dravid has hauled India out of trouble in the last 18 months. What a blessing it is for India to have Dravid batting with the youngsters.

He is the perfect partner for a new batsman. His temperament is top-rate, dedication unmatched and he reads situations as good as any one in the game. Wrightís back-up staff has done a wonderful job. I have never seen an Indian team fitter and who are obviously enjoying their cricket. They look a first class combination at present. And there is little doubt that India want to be joined by Sri Lanka in the final.

While India are thriving Sri Lanka are struggling, particularly with the bowling. Left-armer Chaminda Vaas is enjoying his bowling and he is by far their most dangerous bowler.

It seems inevitable that Muthiah Muralidharan will get wickets, but I donít think he looks as dangerous as in the past. His action looks more disjointed than usual and most of the experienced batsmen seem to pick the direction of his spin. Sri Lankaís back-up bowlers do not have the penetration or threat of India and Australia.

For my money it will be an India Ė Australia final.

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