| Ricky Ponting with the trophy in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday. (AFP)
Kuala Lumpur: A couple of poor decisions, one each from Asad Rauf (Chris Gayle, sent back off a no ball) and Mark Benson (Brian Lara, ruled caught behind when the bat made no contact) didn’t help, but the West Indies should still have made a fight of the tri-series final Sunday. The Australians won the DLF Cup big — by all of 127 runs, but Ricky Ponting acknowledged fine-tuning will be needed as the season gathers momentum.
“We didn’t play to the best of our skills and one-day cricket is such that (regular) fine-tuning is required... One has to get used to the tempo... I believe we’ve got a pretty good structure in place, but players have to keep challenging themselves and improving individually,” the World Cup-winning captain pointed out.
Spearhead Brett Lee, incidentally, bagged a double — Man of the Series (12 wickets, including four in the final, in a mere three games) and Man of the Match. The wicket, which had already been used four times, wasn’t ideal. However, some may argue there’s no point offering featherbeds which don’t challenge batsmen.
While the Australians are heading home in batches, the West Indians are going to stay put in the Malaysian capital for a week-long camp ahead of the Champions Trophy in India. They will be using the facilities at the Kinrara Oval, which houses the Malaysian Cricket Association Academy.
The following, meanwhile, are excerpts from what the captains as also the MoS and MoM had to say after the rather boring final:
PONTING: We didn’t play our best cricket, but it’s a good result... Our game plan was to be circumspect at the start and, then, give the later batsmen the freedom to play shots... The wicket wasn’t easy as there was no pace at all with the new ball... Simon Katich struggled (he scored his only boundary on the 52nd ball), but laid a good foundation... It was important for Damien Martyn to spend time at the wicket and he did... I think we’ve been very successful with our experimentation and got a look at guys we otherwise wouldn’t have seen... We’re pretty close to our best XI, but Matthew Hayden (who isn’t in the Champions Trophy 14) is somebody we’re going to look at... I wouldn’t say the West Indies surrendered, at this level, nobody does... They haven’t been chasing well and things fell in place for us...That we haven’t won the Champions Trophy is something that keeps cropping up... We’ve got time off between now and that tournament and the guys will be working at the club level and with their state teams... I’m not concerned about my own form (just one fifty in four matches)... That’s cricket, I guess... Glenn McGrath had very fine figures (once again), but he won’t be jumping up and down... He needs more overs... Andrew Symonds is pretty much a complete player and it’s nice to have versatility in the team... Leaving out Brad Hogg was tough, but only XI can be played... He took it on the chin today, but is going to celebrate like the rest...
LARA: Wouldn’t agree we surrendered, for we’d worked hard in the first session... We just didn’t get our act right... Yes, I was disappointed to get out, but wasn’t looking at the umpire to call me back (like Sachin Tendulkar)... Finishing second best in a three-team competition, with the others ranked above us, is creditable... I have faith in my players... You can’t be playing for the West Indies if you don’t have the desire to work hard... Some players have limited skills and, so, we’ll be working with them (in the camp here)... Indeed, some players have to give that extra effort themselves... We’ve got to put this tournament behind us and take to the Champions Trophy full of bubble and zest — after all, we’re the defending champions... We’ve got to qualify, but I see that as a bit of a plus — unlike most teams, we’re going to have the opportunity of taking to the competition with matches under our belt (in Indian conditions)...
LEE: I really enjoyed bowling in the tri-series... I was rested in the first two matches and that allowed me to work on my fitness... It was nice to get a wicket (Gayle’s) off the first ball... I’d actually set out to bowl one which would swing back in...
Footnote: Neither Ponting nor Lara concurred that the West Indies gave in meekly, admittedly on a difficult wicket, but former quick Ian Bishop said as much. “Who would’ve thought the West Indies would get only 113' I expected the final to be competitive,” he told The Telegraph. He wasn’t alone in looking forward to a down-to-the-wire finish.