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Three teams besieged by their woes

India, New Zealand and Zimbabwe have a similar disquiet in their dressing rooms ahead of the ODI series.

india Updated: Aug 23, 2005 18:28 IST

Three nations have a similar disquiet in their dressing rooms ahead of the triangular one-day cricket series starting on Wednesday.

Zimbabwe have spawned an industry of cricketing jokes but New Zealand have no less problems of their own and for India, it takes only a puff to remove the gloss.

Then there are the new Powerplay and Super Sub rules which are stretching these teams' wits to the end.

In Zimbabwe, the entire team pads up and not just the next batsman when it is time to bat in the middle.

They lost two Tests to New Zealand within five days, the first one in two, and now another joke doing the rounds is that the ICC is waiting for them to lose a Test in a day before treating them as a problem.

Their administrators are adding their bit to the tragiccomedy. There was no review of batsmen for the second Test despite scores of 99 and 59 in two innings. Convener of selectors Mascoond Ebrahim said this was the best team they could muster from 80-odd first class cricketers.

On the surface, Zimbabwe seem to have recovered from the past of players' boycotts, suspensions and self-imposed exiles. The old stars have returned but the rumour mills are suggesting they are in there for money and not national interest.

The opposition is now able to beat them with eyes closed. In the last seven Tests, Zimbabwe have lost five by more than an innings, including one to Bangladesh, who until then were still awaiting their maiden win.

New Zealand, on the other hand, are struggling with their top order. An immediate overhaul is not possible either as New Zealand do not play another Test in the next seven months!

That New Zealand were 113 for 5 against Zimbabwe in the first Test does tell a story about its top. After four different opening pairs in five Tests, New Zealand have gone back to Lou Vincent, a move which has been described by the sharp-tongued Chris Cairns as "putting a band-aid over a gaping wound".

The game behind the play on the field is no less messy. Government has forced New Zealand Cricket's hands on Zimbabwe's visit in December. The South African Board has postponed the Test series in October so that a few of its players could take part in Super Series in Australia. New Zealand now play a Test against the West Indies only in March next year!

About the woes at the top, former Test star Ken Rutherford wonders why NZC has not sorted itself out through their academy, development programmes and officers around the provinces. Former batting legend Glenn Turner has no doubt the technical aspects of the batting has deteriorated.

"There's been a tendency for batsmen to loosen up and look for boundaries to the detriment of their technical ability," Turner said.

Ganguly has been on trial like never before but the same could be said about the other top batsmen with the exception of the admirable Rahul Dravid.

Fast bowlers shine only for a season or two before injury and survival instincts return to haunt them. In the field, most are good enough only to chase a tortoise.

Amidst all this, new coach Greg Chappell starts with noble intentions and futuristic vision. No sooner than he lifts the broom, scorpions from under the carpet gather and aim to leave their marks on his skin. This tour is important for knives are already out for Chappell, ironically, not from media but from the very people who brought him aboard in the first place.

The new one-day rules afford these teams options. However, It is a pity though there are not enough talented reserves to make the best of Super Sub rule.

New Zealand coach John Bracewell would go for a batsman which given their plight at the top is understandable. Chappell is for five bowlers at least in the line-up and it is sure to raise a derisive laugh from one who is not in the squad, Anil Kumble, and no less from Zaheer Khan and Laxmipathy Balaji.

As for Zimbabwe, their chief selector with his statement has closed the door on any new options.

These teams could thump their chests as much as they want at any positive signs emerging from this one-day series. But in essence it would tell little if they have hit the road in earnest for the 2007 World Cup.

First Published: Aug 23, 2005 18:28 IST