The good, the bad and the ugly
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The good, the bad and the ugly

Incredible as it seems, the 2003 World Cup, which looked like an unending stretch of games, spread well over six weeks, has finally come down to the last two games.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2003 02:18 IST

Incredible as it seems, the 2003 World Cup, which looked like an unending stretch of games, spread well over six weeks, has finally come down to the last two games, and by this time this goes into print, possibly into the last one.

Almost all of South Africa has gone quiet, as centres pick up the pieces and go back to being normal. The only two places still active are Durban and Johannesburg, and that too will die down in less than a week.

This is a good time to go back and take a look at things, how they turned out, and the highs and lows.

The high, from an Indian point of view, is the way the team picked up after beginning on an ominous note. Insults and abuse were hurled at them, not only by TV commentators and some misguided morons back home, but also the other media, which is now waxing eloquent about their abilities. The boys picked themselves up admirably, and played some of the best cricket in the tournament.

What makes their performance even more attractive is their fallibility. They have been human, in their emotions, their celebrations and their performances. They look like a set of players who are playing well.

In contrast, Australia look like a well-oiled machine, with high-performance parts that back up each other in case of a system failure early on. Maybe we are biased in our assessment, but the Australians do not really reflect any human weakness.

The lows are the total lack of enthusiasm in this country. It seems like the tournament has already been abandoned by South Africa, irrespective of how much the organisers shout from the rooftops. Life is back to watching rugby games and the daily chores. The only thing of interest left is if anyone will beat Australia, and that too recedes with every game.

Another aspect of this tournament is the number of top players who are not going to be in action any longer.

The whole process began with the unsavoury incident of Shane Warne being found guilty of using masking agents, and subsequently being banned for one year.

Then came the sad end to Jonty Rhodes' career.

Then, with South Africa's World Cup hopes being destroyed by the most abysmal interpretation of the rain rule that you'll ever see, out went Allan Donald. The fast bowler, nicknamed White Lightning, left as a mere shadow of the fierce competitor that he was, a failure here.

Another man who has played a big part in the team, Lance Klusener, was cold shouldered when the squad was selected for the tri-series in Sharjah. It is doubtful whether he will be seen in the national colours again.

Pakistan saw Wasim Akram cross the milestone of 500 one-day wickets, but too much fighting in the dressing room, and too little on the field, saw them go out, quietly, a rather sober end to the great fast bowler's career.

Another great player whose innings ended on a sad note was Aravinda de Silva. Recalled to the side, he was a tremendous presence in the Sri Lankan middle-order and many uppity and high-profile bowlers felt the power of his shots. Sri Lanka were always in the game till De Silva was at the crease in the semi-finals, but tired legs let him down.

His exit was also restricted to a quiet comment or two at a post-match press conference. Some of us made it a point to shake his hand after that. Thank you for the entertainment, Aravinda.

Zimbabwe cricket will be poorer for the absence of Andy Flower. The left-hander was one of the best in the business, more often than not carrying the fragile structure of his country's cricket on his shoulders. His tiff with the regime in Zimbabwe also made a lot of headlines, as did those of Henry Olonga, who too bid goodbye.

Carl Hooper may never play World Cup again, and one never knows when Brian Lara hangs up his boots.

Captaincy was a big casualty. Shaun Pollock had to make way for young Graeme Smith, while Waqar Younis was replaced by Rashid Latif, who ironically, had also announced his intention to quit after the World Cup.

England skipper Nasser Hussain made all kinds of noises of not leading the one-day side, and he too is waiting for the blue slip.

Coaches too will change. Sandeep Patil brought Kenya till the semi-finals, and has already announced his decision to go back home. Dave Whatmore's contract with Sri Lanka ends in May, but under the circumstances, it is unlikely that they will look for a replacement.

Richard Pybus got the sack in Pakistan, and Javed Miandad is back in business.

It has been a turbulent World Cup, for several reasons, and a very, very long one. The ICC has to address this time-frame, and if promises, or rather threats, of having 16 teams in the West Indies in 2007 come true, the chaos will be complete.

Still, it will end, come Sunday. For us, it will all be worthwhile if India win. Otherwise, it will soon be just memory, of places we visited and of cricket, good, bad and ugly.

First Published: Mar 21, 2003 02:18 IST