All entries for Friday 16 February 2007

February 16, 2007

It's here, but what does it mean?

It was bound to come. Sooner or later it had to. For too long they have got by without it. There were glimpses of it in 2005 and yes, it had an effect but it soon righted itself. I am of course talking of an injury ravaged Australian side. Glenn McGrath suffered two separate injuries in the 2005 Ashes which caused him to miss two tests, the two that England won. But that was just one player. This is something more.

Ricky Ponting is currently out of the Chappell Hadlee Trophy in New Zealand with a sore hip and back. This is not expected to keep him out of action for very long and he should return to the side in the Caribbean with full fitness but it will no doubt hinder his preparations for the tournament.

Andrew Symonds, the big hard-hitting all rounder from Queensland, is recovering from an injury he picked up late in the Commonwealth Bank tri series. His surgery was a success but he is still likely to miss the best part of the early stages of the series.

Symonds was instrumental in Australia’s success in the 2003 World Cup. He was not a sure starter for the tournament, and many were calling for him to be dropped but he stepped up to the mark and produced an outstanding century to win his team’s first match of the tournament against Pakistan.

Australia were 4/86 at the fall of Jimmy Maher’s wicket and looked in trouble. But out walked the Andrew Symonds who, rather than bedding in and consolidating, counter attacked taking a particular liking to Shahid Afridi’s spin. From 40 balls faced against Afridi he smashed 51 runs on his way to a blistering 143* from 125 balls. This innings set the tone for his tournament as he finished with a tournament highest batting average of 163.

The fast bowling has also taken a blow, with Brett Lee injuring his ankle in training in New Zealand and admits himself that he is only 50-50 for appearing in the tournament. Lee, one of the fastest bowlers in the world, is an instrumental part of the Aussie bowling attack. With a career record of one wicket every 28.9 balls he is number three on the list of all time strike rates, the only current player above him is the Kiwi paceman Shane Bond whose career has also been dogged by injury.

Australia’s vice captain for the series in New Zealand, Michael Clarke has also missed the first match of the series with a hip problem. Again, although there are no signs that he will miss the World Cup, he is losing valuable match practice ahead of the World Cup that could have helped him to regain some form and confidence following the defeat to England just last week.

Finally, Adam Gilchrist. Gilly is a hard hitting opening batsman in limited overs cricket. He holds the Australian record for the fastest ODI century. He holds the world record for the most number of sixes in limited overs internationals. Not only that he is a world class wicket keeper, a top class motivator and a handy vice captain. The birth of this third child has meant that he will miss the first 3 weeks of the World Cup, a time when Australia will be hoping to make their mark on the tournament.

His leave of absence will bring Brad Haddin, his long term understudy into the side and the lack of Gilly’s hard hitting approach to the top of the order will be a major blow to the side.

The effects of this are already starting to show. Just today Australia were crushed by New Zealand by ten wickets in the first match of the 3 match series at Wellington after being skittled for 148. The top order burst, the safety net offered by Ricky Ponting and Clarke and the attacking talents of Symonds are not easily replaced, neither is the fire with the new ball that was obviously lacking as the Kiwi openers knocked off the runs with ease.

This does not remove from the fact that Australia have vast banks of quality players in their ranks, but much of it is inexperienced at the highest level. There is still over 3 weeks until the start of the tournament and a few of these injured players will have recovered. The sensible money will still be on Australia for the world cup: they have been world beaters for many years and have shown themselves worthy of overcoming many tough obstacles but it’s not the ideal lead up to a World Cup campaign. That much is certain.


World Cup Squads Round Up

The deadline for the world cup squads has come and gone and all the teams have now announced the 15 players they are going to be taking to the Caribbean next month. There are few major surprises all round. The minnows on the whole picked the same squads they took to the ICC World Cricket league, a one day tournament set up by the ICC this year to give the non test playing nations some match practice before the World Cup, while Bangladesh selected a team most would have expected.

One of the first to release their squad details was New Zealand who picked a fairly uncontroversial side. The squad is almost the same as that which played the CB series but with one addition, Daryl Tuffey has been selected for the first time in two years. The 28 year old seam bowler tore a shoulder tendon two years ago and has not managed to break into the national side since. He has a chance in the forthcoming Chappell-Hadlee Trophy, having been selected for the 13 man squad there.

Friday Kasteni has been included in the Zimbabwean squad after making his debut last weekend. The left hand batsman is only 18 years old but he has played well for Zimbabwe A and the selectors have put their trust in him despite only making 9 on debut.

The Indian selectors have taken a conservative approach and picked no surprise candidates either. One contentious issue is that of the place of Virender Sehwag, who was dropped a month ago and is currently struggling for form. The selectors have, however, shown faith in his abilities to score big runs quickly when in form and are taking him to the World Cup. This must surely be the best decision; a Sehwag on full form can take any line up apart. As a potential match winner, he is a must for such an important tournament.

Few surprises too in the Pakistani squad, but there are question marks a plenty. There are rumours going around that Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif have recently failed a seconds drugs test done privately by the PCB. If this is true then their selection for the World cup is certainly dangerous. If they fail an ICC drugs test before the World Cup, they will almost certainly face bans; Shane Warne copped a 12 month suspension for taking a banned diuretic before the start of the 2003 World Cup and didn’t play a game in the tournament.

The two are also carrying injuries, along with Umar Gul who is also in the squad, which have not yet been cleared for the tournament. Gul missed the entire ODI series in South Africa recently due to an Ankle injury and Shoaib is currently in London to see specialists about his knee injury.

Perhaps one surprise addition to the Pakistani squad is the Leg spinner Danish Kaneria. Kaneria has been a key player in the Pakistani Test side for six years now but has rarely been considered an ODI bowler. He has only played 16 ODIs to date and only seven in the past 3 years.

Sri Lanka announced a strong squad, with Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan returning from being rested for the series against India recently. Vaas, the reliable left arm seamer, memorably took a hat trick with the first three balls of the innings in a match in the last World Cup. Coupled with such a devastating spinner as Murali and the difficult slingy seam of Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka have a formidable bowling line up. The batting too is strong, with Jayasuriya the veteran opener who starred in Sri Lanka’s unexpected 1996 world cup win and top players such as Sangakkara and Jayawardene also playing.

Sri Lanka are not a team to be underestimated, as England showed in the CB series, it only takes a few players to perform well to win ODIs and with just some of Murali, Vaas, Malinga, Sangakkara, Jayasuriya and Jayawardene on top form, Sri Lanka could be devastating.

The Australian selection was always going to cause a few upsets. The current Australian domestic set up has so many high quality cricketers the ACB have the kind of selection problem that most countries dream of. Most of the Australian side pick themselves; it would be foolish to leave out names such as Gilchrist, Ponting, Hussey, Symonds, Clarke, McGrath and Lee while other names such as Brad Hogg, Nathan Bracken and Shane Watson had booked their places months back.

Matthew Hayden staked a claim for his place back in the DLF Cup tri series in Malaysia and secured it in the recent CB series, as did Brad Hodge with a stunning 99 not out against New Zealand to secure a victory that at times looked unlikely.

The birth of Adam Gilchrist’s third child has meant that he is expected to miss the first three weeks of the tournament which made Brad Haddin, Gilly’s long term understudy, an automatic selection. So with 13 out of the 15 places virtual shoe-ins, only two spots were left up for grabs and with the possible injury of all rounder Andrew Symonds, it seemed the obvious choice to fill the gaps with fast bowlers. Mitch Johnson, the nearly man of the Ashes series who carried the drinks for all five matches has made the squad as has Shaun Tait, who made his ODI debut in the CB series. Stuart Clark, the fast bowling star of the Ashes was unlucky to miss out, having not put a foot wrong since breaking through to the international side after his debut against the ICC World XI.

I’m sure many of cricket’s great minds would struggle to understand the England One Day selection of late, let alone the general public that are supposed to support the team. It seems however, that with a sudden turn around in form, and a series victory in Australia, some sense has been brought to those charged with finding 15 men suitable to attempt to become World Champions. That does not mean that the selection has been devoid of contentious decisions.

Michael Vaughan, the under practiced top order batsman has been given a place and, as expected, the captaincy to go with it. Vaughan has a poor record as a limited overs batsman, in his international career he is yet to make a one day century and only has an average of 27. This aside, he is the captain who won the 2005 Ashes and an inspirational figure in the team. His captaincy has a calming influence on the side and he seems to have a way of getting his players to perform. He is of course, currently out of action with a hamstring injury but that should be out of the way by the World Cup and he didn’t seem to suffer from his knee which he had surgery on earlier in the year. Or so England hopes.

Mal Loye was arguably unlucky to miss out, having made his debut in Australia and been a part of the team throughout much of the CB series. However in 7 matches he failed to register a half century and many fear he is too keen to unleash his trademark slog sweep off the fast bowlers and hasn’t shown enough all round abilities with either the bat or in the field.

Ed Joyce made the cut after having impressed the selectors with his 107 against Australia to turn their CB series fortunes around. He does have a tendency to throw his wicket away at vital opportunities (in 12 innings he has made only 1 fifty and 1 century) but he has the capacity within him to make hundreds against good opponents and that makes him a potential match winner.

Stuart Broad, who made his debut last summer against the Pakistanis, was unfortunate to not find a place but he is only young and will have plenty of time to prove his worth. Altogether, the squad contains no one in it who was not in England’s CB series winning squad; a sign that the selectors feel that stability is the key to success.

Having just come off the back of a 3-1 series win against Pakistan, South Africa have wisely chosen the same squad of 15 that has proved successful there. Makhaya Ntini though, will not be with the squad as they arrive on the 28th February as he will be staying to attend the birth of his child. There’s a lot of it about at the moment, there must be something going on in May that the rest of us are missing. Ntini will join the squad on March 9th for the second warm up match.

All eyes have been on one man’s name in the lead up to the West Indies’ squad announcement. Marlon Samuels is currently under investigation by the ICC and the Indian Police for supplying squad information to Indian bookmakers. Many felt that because of this, he should be left out of the squad so as not to draw any more attention to the issue. The selectors however have shown their faith in his innocence.

On the whole the squad selection seems to have followed a theme of no surprises all round. This is a sign that most teams feel comfortable within their own ranks at the moment and hopefully there will be a great deal of confidence going into the tournament.

Let’s hope, for the sake of a tournament that lasts about a month and a half long, that this is not a theme for the tournament as a whole. A few more upsets like Kenya provided in the 2003 World Cup would do world cricket the world of good and show that the boys can really stand up to the men.

Squads:

Australia:

Ricky Ponting (capt), Adam Gilchrist (wk), Nathan Bracken, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin (wk), Matthew Hayden, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Andrew Symonds, Shaun Tait, Shane Watson.

Bangladesh:

Habibul Bashar (capt), Shariar Nafees, Tamim Iqbal, Aftab Ahmed, Saqibul Hasan, Mohammad Ashraful, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Mohammad Rafique, Abdur Razzak, Mashrafe Mortaza, Shahadat Hossain, Tapash Baisya, Syed Rasel, Rajin Saleh, Javed Omar.

Bermuda:

Irving Romaine (capt), Dean Minors (wk), Delyone Borden, Lionel Cann, David Hemp, Kevin Hurdle, Malachi Jones, Stefan Kelly, Dwayne Leverock, Saleem Mukuddem, Steven Outerbridge, Oliver Pitcher, Clay Smith, Janeiro Tucker, Kwame Tucker.

Canada:

John Davison (capt), Qaiser Ali, Ashish Bagai, Geoff Barnett, Umar Bhatti, Ian Billcliff, Desmond Chumney, George Codrington, Austin Codrington, Anderson Cummins, Sunil Dhaniram, Ashif Mulla, Henry Osinde, Abdool Samad, Kevin Sandher.

England:

Michael Vaughan (capt), Ed Joyce, Ian Bell, Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Paul Nixon (wk), Ravinder Bopara, Jamie Dalrymple, Monty Panesar, Jon Lewis, James Anderson, Liam Plunkett, Sajid Mahmood

Ireland:

Trent Johnston (capt), Kyle McCallan, Andre Botha, Jeremy Bray, Ken Carroll, Peter Gillespie, David Langford-Smith, John Mooney, Paul Mooney, Eoin Morgan, Kevin O'Brien, Niall O'Brien, William Porterfield, Boyd Rankin, Andrew White

Kenya:

Steve Tikolo (capt), Thomas Odoyo (vice-captain), Ravindu Shah, Tanmay Mishra, Collins Obuya, Peter Ongondo, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Maurice Ouma, Malhar Patel, Hiren Varaiya, David Obuya (wk), Rajesh Bhudia, Jimmy Kamande, Tony Suji, Lameck Onyango.

Netherlands:

Luuk van Troost (capt), Peter Borren, Daan van Bunge, Ryan ten Doeschate, Mark Jonkman, Muhammad Kashif, Alexei Kervezee, Tim de Leede, Adeel Raja, Darron Reekers, Edgar Schiferli, Jeroen Smits, Billy Stelling, Eric Szwarczynski, Bas Zuiderent.

New Zealand:

Stephen Fleming (capt), Shane Bond, James Franklin, Peter Fulton, Mark Gillespie, Michael Mason, Brendon McCullum (wk), Craig McMillan, Jacob Oram, Jeetan Patel, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Daryl Tuffey, Daniel Vettori, Lou Vincent.

India:

Rahul Dravid (capt), Sourav Ganguly, Robin Uthappa, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel.

Pakistan:

Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), Younis Khan (vice-captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Nazir, Mohammad Yousuf, Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul, Danish Kaneria, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Rao Iftikhar Anjum

South Africa:

Graeme Smith (capt), Loots Bosman, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis, Justin Kemp, Charl Langeveldt, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Robin Peterson, Shaun Pollock, Ashwell Prince, Roger Telemachus

Scotland:

Graeme Smith (capt), Loots Bosman, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis, Justin Kemp, Charl Langeveldt, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Robin Peterson, Shaun Pollock, Ashwell Prince, Roger Telemachus

Sri Lanka:

Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga, Marvan Atapattu, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Russel Arnold, Chamara Silva, Chaminda Vaas, Farveez Maharoof, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Nuwan Kulasekara, Muttiah Muralitharan, Malinga Bandara.

West Indies:

Brian Lara (capt), Ramnaresh Sarwan, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Smith, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Ian Bradshaw, Corey Collymore, Jerome Taylor, Denesh Ramdin, Devon Smith, Lendl Simmons, Daren Powell, Kieron Pollard

Zimbabwe:

Prosper Utseya (capt), Gary Brent, Chamu Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura, Keith Dabengwa, Terry Duffin, Anthony Ireland, Friday Kasteni, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Christopher Mpofu, Tawanda Mupariwa, Ed Rainsford, Vusi Sibanda, Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams.


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