Arrogance versus Confidence

Updated on Mar 30, 2007 04:55 PM IST
Ponting may be breaching the thin line between the two, writes Atul Sondhi.
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None | ByAtul Sondhi

The winner has always a license. To say what he feels like. Many world-beaters believe that they have the moral right to demean any 'fallen' opposition. Ponting may be no different.

Now Ponting might be lacking the humility of a Roger Federer or Tiger Woods, but if he says that India and Pakistan did not deserve to be in the Super-Eight, then so be it. So what if the teams were good enough to be in the title clash against the Australia in last two editions. So what if both are the former World Champions. So what if even before the tournament started, many Australians experts too believed that these two were very competitive sides.

There is very thin line between arrogance and confidence. Buoyed by the euphoria of some easy wins in the Cup, Ponting seems to be crossing that. One wonders what he will have to say about the opposition before the title clash, if the World Champions indeed qualify for that.

Arrogance never pays. If slightly humble Australia will be a great side to win the Cup, a verbally arrogance Australia will just be good enough to make the grade. They might even lose as happened to the Australian side in 1996, or the West Indies in 1983.

Arjuna Ranatunga, captain cool and the one who turned the tables on the Aussies at Lahore in 1996, confesses in a recent column that all Sri Lankans were all very tense when they went for breakfast on the morning of the final match.

''But then we saw the Australians arguing with a Pakistani Carpet dealer as if they were here to play a masala match. We were very, very relieved. The world knows what followed,'' rubs in Ranatunga.

Way back in 1983, Australia, powered by the genius of Lillee, Thompson, Allan Border and Kepler Wessels, took India for granted before losing the final group match and a place in the semifinal, England thought they had a guaranteed place in the final before some tight Indian bowing did the trick, and twice-champion West Indies batted as if they were in a hurry to finish the match in 30 overs for an early evening stroll. Probably, they even went without dinner that night!

Before the 2005 Ashes, many Australians were predicting a comprehensive win for the Australians and the win in the first match at Lords made England job all the more difficult. But then came one of the most thrilling Ashes victories. A narrow 2-run triumph for England in the second test at Edgbaston saw them eventually wrapping the Ashes by 2-1 margin. They proved that Australians did not just need to take the field to win. They had to work for it.

Australia will do well to recall that it was not just their genius, but some bad luck for the opposition as well which had led to all three title triumphs at the World Cup.

In 1987, England were the favourites to win the Reliance Cup after beating India at Mumbai. Some English players, clearly underestimating the young Australian side led by Border, were even planning celebrations after winning the title. That they were not facing Pakistan in the final was a big relief and the Australians would be easy picking. That is what they thought. But how things turned!

Gatting's reverse sweep in the final with England comfortably placed for a win was more of an arrogance, than a proper cricketing shot in the circumstances. More than Australia's will to win, it was the shot which contributed to England's fall.

In 1999 semifinal, a 'moment of indecision' of Alan Donald halted South African victory charge and eventually led to the second title for Australia. Ditto in 2003. Sri Lanka had Australian almost on the mat in the semifinal, restricting them to around 200, before suffering a batting collapse.

So it is not that the Australians have always had it easy in the World Cups. But had they lost, they would still have been the losers who deserved to win the cup.

There is no guarantee that it will be easy any more this time round. That the Australians will reach the semis is no surprise. They have reached six semifinals and five finals in last eight attempts. But then they have lost twice as well in the title clash. The teams of 1975 and 1996, the losing finalists, were extremely good as well. Saying they did not deserve to win the Cup will probably be as cruel as saying India and Pakistan did not deserve to be in Super-Eight.

There are no easy picking in a World Cup. Australia have won only two meaningful matches so far - against South Africa and the West Indies. And they have forgotten the sequence of five losses in a row while coming into the World Cup!

In life things may get even sooner than expected. Probably the Australians will realize that by the evening of April 28th.

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