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Money rules, game has lost its credibility

This has been the most tragic World Cup in my experience, writes Barry Richards.

india Updated: Mar 24, 2007 02:56 IST

This has been the most tragic World Cup in my experience. However, Bob Woolmer’s shocking demise will not be the end of the matter. As the investigation progresses, we will almost certainly see a resurrection of the Hansie Cronje affair, and the twin spectres of betting and match-fixing will once again rear their heads.

In any case, we’ve been lurching from one controversy to another. The Darrell Hair episode split the cricketing fraternity into two camps, and then there was the drugs scandal. I think we must accept that cricket has lost its credibility, so much so that every upset victory needs to be treated with suspicion, and while that is understandable for those outside the game, what is truly sad is that people inside the game now profess that attitude too. That is what happens when a game succumbs to money.

Despite all this, a World Cup is still on — though a ridiculously bloated one — and one of the biggest matches of the group stage is coming up. Given the batting strengths of both Australia and South Africa, neither Ponting nor Smith can be certain about what target would be suitable for the opposition.

Given the smallness of the grounds, a bowler will go for runs unless he gets it dead right. So bowling in the block- hole may not be the most preferred strategy. Batters are actually hitting sixes off the toes of their bats, and straying even a centimetre outside leg will invite a severe punishment.

In such a situation, the likes of Boucher, Kemp and Smith will target the likes of Hogg and Tait. The grounds are too small and even a mishit off Hogg can go for a six because the batsmen have to only hit the ball over 50m or so for it to reach the boundary.

Moreover, there’s the Symonds conundrum. Even if he is fit enough to take the field, the South Africans will make him throw as much as possible to put pressure on his injured arm. Should Australia risk a more damaging injury considering they are already through to the Super Eights? I would assume not.

Then there is Shaun Tait, whose reverse swinging abilities would have been a potent weapon but for the fact that batsmen today have gotten smarter. At the first hint of reverse swing, they are talking to the umpires about how how difficult it is to spot a scruffy ball, so that unlike the old days, the new ball is now taken after the 35th. So Tait is a huge gamble.

For South Africa, Pollock is a weak link, because the 6-2-2 format of his overs means he is not around to bowl enough at the death, and if the Australians can destabilise him early on, who knows how the rest of the bowlers will fare? We can only wait and watch.