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Windies will be hard to beat

india Updated: Nov 02, 2006 02:31 IST
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It was ironical that the pre-tournament favourites, Sri Lanka, and the defending champions, West Indies, were made to play qualifiers for the Champions Trophy.
Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, they made a quick exit from the tournament, but the West Indians have played positive cricket and made it this far.

They must have lost a little momentum against England, but they did not play too badly in that game. Most of the West Indian batsmen have had at least one big knock in the tournament, and the bowling, barring the last few overs versus England, looks adequate.

The defeat in the last game means that West Indies stand second in their group, and meet South Africa rather than New Zealand. I don't believe there is a weaker or stronger opponent at this stage, and if West Indies want to do well, they will have to beat the best teams.

However, they should gain strength from the fact that they have beaten two really strong teams in the competition. Brian Lara has been inspirational because he has played two games even though he was far from fit. The rest of the guys also look far more motivated and involved than they usually do.

The wicket at Jaipur is not an easy one to play on and I guess the team winning the toss will prefer to chase. This might be a good plan for Lara as his slow bowlers, Marlon Samuels and Chris Gayle, have played a crucial role in the tournament.

The good news is that both managed to bowl well even when they bowled in the evening, against Australia. However, I am sure the team management will be monitoring the dew situation every evening before they decide on what to do on Thursday.

The South Africans have a very good One-day team, and their only concern will be the fact that their top order has not done too well so far. They did get a couple of rough wickets to play on, and it remains to be seen whether their batting stars will come good in this big game.

One of the factors on their side is their excellent record against the West Indians in the recent past. Their bowling is also in good form, with both Makhaya Ntini as well as Shaun Pollock bagging a Man of the Match award each.

I would still not write off the West Indies. In fact, their current form and attitude excites me. The team went to India as one that relied heavily on Lara and Gayle. However, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jerome Taylor, Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan and the effervescent Dwayne Bravo have all made their contribution in the team's progress through this tournament.

They now look like a unit that enjoys each other's success rather than a bunch of individuals depending on the stars to perform. If they continue playing like this they will be hard to beat, past records notwithstanding.

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