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No End In Sight To Australia’s Dominance

By Orin Davidson

It was only a test run, but the just concluded DLP Tri Nations series proved Australia would have to undergo a severe meltdown to prevent them carting off their first ever Champions Trophy title next week.

Whether they were at cruise control, half pace or full blast the Aussies were awesome and for the most part left West Indies and India wallowing in their wake at Malaysia’s Kinrara Stadium the last few days.

Frighteningly they showed off 18 players in the series and never looked like ending any place other than in winners row.

They were clinical in winning three games while losing one along with a no-result when employing their first eleven, second eleven or weakened squads.

Even so, they were never 100 percent strong as their most valuable One Day player over the years, Adam Gilchrist was absent for the entire competition.

The India Cricket Board, officially known as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) can pat themselves on the back for staging a successful competition at short notice, and at the same time put the world on notice it might require a combined World XI to stop Australia taking their dominance to new levels in the World Cup less than six months away.

When it mattered most Australia crushed both West Indies and India severely at different stages of the competition.

Needing a victory in the series’ penultimate game to secure a place in the final, Australia disposed of India handily. Similarly, West Indies met their fate in the final, when they were trounced by more than 100 runs.

What was very evident was the powerful display of Australia’s bowling which proved they are stronger now in that department of the game, than any other.

Brett Lee showed his ferocity is still strong and can get the job done whenever he wants to. Without a doubt he is the team’s attack spearhead and fittingly cleaned up West Indies in the final to earn his main strike bowler title.

Glen McGrath is back and seemed to lose none of his incisiveness after a layoff of close to six months. But at this stage of the game, he most likely will be consigned to the foil-role to Lee from now onwards. Whether by design of not, such was the case in the final when he set up Lee for the kill by tying down the West Indies batsmen for latter to finish them off in two spells.

Then there is Shane Watson who held his own throughout and should’ve cemented his position as a regular in the much vaunted attack while Brad Hogg also demanded an automatic place for his left arm wrist spin. And to add insult to insult to injury, Australia showed the depth of their bowling power in Matthew Johnson who destroyed India in their first game and was promptly put back in cotton wool and sent home to prepare for his debut call up for the Champions Trophy.

Whether Johnson is the long sought new fast bowling find the Aussies desire, the answer will be had in due time. But at this stage it is clear, he has all the attributes to fill the slot.

After the final captain Ricky Ponting said he was happy the team rounded back into their winning ways so soon after their longest break in several years, but when a squad always has the appetite for victory, nothing could stand in their way.

The same cannot be said of West Indies while India will be perturbed to discover their much touted batting lineup has lost much of its sting.

Brian Lara said his West Indians are happy to take the runner up spot, but in reality he should be worrying about their continued inability to play to their full potential.

There were too many flashes of brilliance and not enough consistency in both batting and bowling departments, which should’ve had Lara fuming about wasting a good opportunity to beat Australia in a ODI series for the first time in 11 years.

Although they won the Champions Trophy the last time around two years ago, West Indies’ triumph was not crowned by a win over the world’s number one team. They beat England who had gotten the better of the Aussies and while the former’s triumph should not be considered hollow as a result, their success over the years is always sweeter when Australia is a scalp.

What they need to do to correct their batting frailties now, is anybody’s guess because it is difficult to figure out a remedy for their spectacular collapses when well set.

None was more absurd than their demise in the series opener against Australia when an opening partnership of 117 was sabotaged by a subsequent meltdown that ended at 200-odd all out when chasing 272 for victory.

Again against India in a game they were expected to cruise to victory, they fooled around and eventually failed to raise 160-odd after splendid bowling seemed likely to condemn the organizers’ host team to a winless series.

It was a collapse malaise that plagued West Indies throughout the competition as even in their solitary full victory, they seemed in danger of throwing it all away in that vital return game against Australia that they scrapped out in the end.

A few umpiring gaffes might have contributed to the mess but it does not detract from the reality that the team failed to bat as a unit throughout the series.

Chris Gayle used his explosive power to full effect and enjoyed a consistently good series until he was torpedoed by a big time lapse from umpire Assad Rauf who upheld a dodgy lbw appeal after missing a clear no-ball by Lee, first ball in the final.

Lara rebounded well after a sorry first game but as has become customary around the world, he was broadsided by a flawed umpiring decision in the vital final game.

For Shivnarine Chanderpaul it was a case of inconsistency and one of complacency by Ramnaresh Sarwan.

Chanderpaul did not bat to his potential when it was necessary to pool his strengths with Gayle and Lara. After his blinder of 92 in the first game, the ex-captain failed the remainder of the way. Sarwan helped post the Duckworth and Lewis win over India and when he decided to show up, he ran him self out in the final.

As for the fringe players, Wavell Hinds was dismal and should consider his place in the Champions Trophy side, one of default. Marlon Samuels seems to have lost the ability he possessed before a series of knee surgeries made a favorite of Steve Waugh and Carl Hooper, while Dwayne Smith still is defenseless and Carlton Baugh simply a lesser batsman than his rival wicketkeeper Dinesh Ramdin.

India had everything in their favor, but a seemingly bad batting patch, which began in the Caribbean earlier this year, ruined a morale boosting preparation for the Champions Trophy they will host.

More than anyone else coach Greg Chappell will be desperate to dispel the bad vibes, because if it carries over to next year’s World Cup, he will be out of a job by April.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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