The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Passion and enthusiasm make Australia what they are
Bobby Simpson

Australia’s wonderful undefeated record in the World Cup and domination over India in the final proved that they are, by far, the best team in both forms of the game. Their efforts have also raised the old chestnut as to whether they are the greatest one-day team ever.

Personally I have always tried to avoid comparisons, like the best team, the best bowler of all types, the best fieldsman and the best tiddle winks player. Firstly, teams and players from one era to another are impossible to compare.

There is no even playing field to compare for times, pitches, laws, weather, attitudes, opposition and a hundred other things make comparisons impossible. My answer has always been why compare, why not enjoy the only talent you can and they are the ones you can watch now.

coming of age: Zaheer and Nehra

In this cricket lovers of the world have much to enjoy about this Australian team. While many may find them a little brash, loud and cocky there is much to enjoy about the way they played cricket. Their greatest strengths are undoubtedly their passion, enthusiasm and love for the game, and not forgetting their great skills.

This current group is also well trained, experienced, know how to win and have great confidence. Perhaps their greatest asset though is their desire to attack and produce exciting cricket for the public. In this, they are a vital asset to the modern game and a fighting prospect for the opposition.

In the finals against India there was a great deal of hype and bravado from both camps and in particular the captains. They talk about psychological wars these days when talking about cricket. I personally think this part of cricket is over covered by the media and always worked on the theory that empty vessels make the most noise and all your talking should be done on the field.

India lost the finals from the first over, not because Zaheer Khan had conceded 15 runs and Sourav Ganguly had won the toss and sent Australia in to bat. Personally, I thought he made the right decision and gave India their best chance of winning the game. Unfortunately the Indian bowlers, bowled poorly, and without a great deal of heart, control or understanding of how much there was in the pitch for them. Instead of dropping their heads of seeing 15 come from the first over they should have been elated that the only two balls that Khan got in the right spot cut and lifted to beat the defensive prods of Mat Hayden and Adam Gilchrist.

There was much to be excited about, but unfortunately the opening bowlers squandered a wonderful opportunity. Instead of remembering the game, and how they had bowled for almost all of the tournament, they tried for extra pace and forgot the vital principle of bowling, on a good or bad wicket, of line and length and flung the ball short into the pitch and were flayed all over the field. Talk about playing into the opposition’s hands.

While I support Ganguly’s decision to bowl, I felt he didn’t captain the team well.

He waited far too long too change his new ball bowlers and I felt that he should have replaced both the new ball bowlers after two overs each with Nehra and himself. Nehra was about the only Indian bowler who emerged from the final with his record intact, but Ganguly didn’t bowl an over in the match.

Ganguly has the knack of moving the ball off the seam on almost every pitch. He also inevitably keeps the ball up, exactly what was required on the Wanderers wicket. I have no doubt he would have been a handful on what was a very helpful bowling strip.

Strangely there was also a lot of spin and bounce in the pitch. While Harbhajan Singh will take comfort with two wickets, he too lacked consistency and line and length.

The Australian openers read the situation well. They know that if the Indian bowlers got enough balls in the right spot they would be dangerous and went straight onto attack in a bid to unsettle them. It worked beautifully and under this assault too many four balls were bowled and a victory was set up.

While I know that whole of India will be disappointed and feel let down by their team, now is not the time for recriminations. India had an excellent tournament, they were beaten only twice in the tournament, both by Australia.

A lot of good things have come out of this tournament. Perhaps the most important being the realisation that they can perform overseas. Pitches in this tournament were not good. The ball did far too much on many occasions and it also swung in the air. The Indian batsmen handled this well and really only failed against the Aussies.

While there were some disappointments by the younger batsmen, they are undoubtedly a talented group. They must be persevered with and allowed to prosper along side the full bloom batsmen, Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly. For many reasons batsmen worldwide are taking longer to develop. Teenage champions appear to be a joy of the past.

The Australian team is a prime example, with players like Darren Lehman, Damien Martyn, Mat Hayden, and Justin Langer not securing a permanent berth in the Australian team until they were in their late twenties.

India’s bowling looks promising — left hand twins Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra were a revelation. Not since Kapil Dev have we seen an Indian bowler swing the ball so consistently. Providing no “expert” tries to make them quicker they will be vital parts of India’s attack for years to come.

India’s loss will be mourned in India. I hope the Indian selectors realistically look at the situation with knives sheathed and not start looking for scapegoats as Pakistan have done. India have much to be proud of with how their team performed in Africa and a bright future to forward to.

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