With India out of the competition, the tri-series has turned into a party minus hosts. Quite likely, Australia and the West Indies will produce a cracking final but somehow, with the absence of India’s star power, the buzz is missing.
The final brings together two teams that are totally dissimilar in style: In some ways, there is a delicious irony in this because the contest is between science and art.
Australia is all about planning, preparation and process, resulting in performance. They are wedded to method and look at the larger picture, in which individuals are important only up to a point.
The West Indies reject this method and remain stubbornly divorced from regulation. They are solidly non-aligned in cricket ideology and lean heavily towards free-spirited flamboyance. Chris Gayle is an example.
A short ball outside the off stump will instinctively invite the big strike from Gayle, regardless of the sweeper-cover fielder. Gayle is a creative entertainer who plays audacious shots, apart from some that seem to be from golf and tennis.
For the West Indies to threaten Australia, Brian Lara must fire and lead from the front. Lara is domineering by nature, which shows in his captaincy and batting. As captain he is autocratic and forceful; he will take on his Board, the selectors and teammates, depending on where his machine gun is aimed.
As a batsman, he is dictated by his mood and always looks to impose his will on the game. Lara decides where the bowler should bowl and when at his best, he is in such control that it appears he even determines the behaviour of the pitch.
But the problem, considering their inconsistent streak, is that the West Indies are as capable of creating magic as of self-destruction. Their performance can swing wildly from fantastic to pathetic, and this impacts their cricket administration as well.
In their set-up, the sacking of top officials, players and captains is not unusual, and as players and officials keep squabbling, disputes have often led to polite boycotts, mild industrial action threats and open rebellion.
For them, a win in KL before the World Cup will be a major boost. For Australia, much less is at stake — for their well-oiled cricket machinery, this is just one more elaborate net session to check that various elements are in place.