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Australians playing quite another game

The one lesson opponents haven't learned even after the ICC Trophy is how to compete with Australia in big matches, writes Ian Chappell.

india Updated: Nov 16, 2006 11:41 IST

Most players quickly adapted to the conditions at the Champions Trophy but the one lesson opponents haven't learned yet is how to compete with Australia in big matches.

The last three major ODI finals are an indictment on the other major teams, as they appear to be waiting for Australia's standard to slip rather than trying to attain their level of excellence. Australia won the 1999 World Cup final by eight wickets with Pakistan bowled out in 39 overs. India was only marginally better in 2003 being beaten by 125 runs and they capitulated in 39.2 overs. And seven years on, in the 2006 Champions Trophy final, Australia again won by eight wickets as the West Indies collapsed in only 30.4 overs.

This is not Australia versus Holland or the USA these are finals, supposedly between the two best sides in the tournament. Lop-sided finals should be a concern to administrators and a sharply worded 'please explain' letter would be on it's way to all the major countries bar Australia if the ICC was really a ruling body and not just a gathering of officials mainly interested in politicking, power broking and the bottom line.

When the West Indies was the dominant team in world cricket at least there were some serious challenges to their supremacy in the One-Day game.

The current situation is bleak, with no indication a team could seriously challenge Australia at Kensington Oval in five months time.The aftermath of the Champions Trophy was dominated by reports of Australia 's behaviour at the presentation ceremony; any problems with a superiority complex are the result of too many crushing victories over opposition that folds too easily.

The tournament itself was an eye-opener; cricket is always at its best when tactical battles are involved and thanks to the even nature of the contest between bat and ball these were regular rather than rare occurrences.

The most important lessons to be learned were at the Mohali Stadium. In the Australia versus India match the pitch was a cracker and gave every player a chance to display his skills. Apart from that lesson (wherever possible cricket should be an even contest between bat and ball), the other notable aspect of the game was the number of sixes hit - none.

Minimal boundaries encourage even the shortest hitters to consider clearing the rope. On the other hand, decent-sized boundaries deter most players, because they feel a miss-hit could be caught and only the seriously long hitters attempt to clear the rope.

If the administrators are trying to attract people to ODI's who are mainly interested in big hitting they will soon discover the bulk of the audience is the "in crowd". The types who frequent an establishment because it's the place to be seen and, when a better option comes along, quickly take their custom elsewhere.

Larger boundaries like Mohali not only encourage an even contest between bat and ball, they also allow players to display skills in out-fielding and running between wickets.

The other aspect that should be concerning the officials is the matter of television rights. If the cost of the rights is such that the television companies can only re-coup their outlay by adopting a policy of ‘the cricket is an interruption to the ad breaks’ then a lot of fans will literally turn off.

This is a serious consideration when new fans are mainly attracted to the game by first seeing it on TV. Big money is required to develop the game but it's hard to believe the cash is being spent wisely when one team is dominant.

The administrators would do well to remember why the Ashes series has sold out in a hurry; because the cricket in 2005 was exciting and competitive.

First Published: Nov 16, 2006 01:02 IST