World Cup captains: Cup of Worries
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World Cup captains: Cup of Worries

From the history of one-day cricket it is clear that there can be no real favourites. If that was the case, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India would not have won the World Cup once each.

india Updated: Jan 25, 2003 20:10 IST

From the history of one-day cricket it is clear that there can be no real favourites. If that was the case, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India would not have won the World Cup once each. Australia and West Indies were of course the favourites during the two occasions when they won, but favourites have always been given a run for their money.

A team or rather at least three or four players in a team have to peak at the same time for a team to win a one-day tournament. Among the top six or seven teams today, any one can beat the other.

Luck plays a crucial part, form and peak-factor matters and finally comes the captain’s on-field strategizing. One bad over and its all over. One dropped catch and its trauma. A split second lapse and the world will come crashing.

Should the opening bowler be changed at the fifth or sixth over or should he be allowed to finish his quota? Should a pinch-hitter be sent in? Should the batsmen be asked to cut down on risky singles?

It is on such decisions by a captain that the fate of a one-day match hangs. And to think that the man who makes it mostly does it by instinct. There is no science and little reason to back him.

These are all part of the number of seemingly easy decisions which will have a profound effect on the team performance on a given day. Few captains for instance will have the guts to send in a pinch-hitter in a crucial league tie and see him get out for a naught. If the team is out of the cup, he will take the flak.

A look at the strategising abilities of the captains and the role they are likely to play in the World Cup brings up some interesting possibilities.

Shaun Pollock:
ODI Matches: 180 Wickets: 260 Runs: 1822

Being captain of the host team means a lot of unnecessary pressure on the captain. Apart from national pride and all that stuff, there is the immediate problem of supporters and the local media the host captain has to deal with.

There is of course local support as well but it all evens out since a loss will mean a disastrous future for the captain as well. A visiting team captain has that much less on his hands.

Pollock has been a graceful captain, mostly restrained, never the chest-thumping absolutist who wants certain things done his way. Pollock has managed to hold the team together during a very crucial time when the positive discrimination policy of the South African government in favour of blacks in the team, threatened to tear asunder the team. Now he seems to have a grip on the team and players seem willing to put their best foot forward for him.

Pollock looks laid back but is very competitive as Barry Richards has commented. He has been fairly conservative in strategizing. In this World Cup he has to deal with his own lack of form apart from that of Lance Klusener and Allan Donald,three senior players who at one time carried the team on their shoulders. The team of great all-rounders now has just one in-form—Kallis.

Should Allan Donald play every match? How many matches can spinner Nicky Boje be put in? If the in-form Herschelle Gibbs

fails to score in the initial matches who will hold the batting together apart from the ever-reliable Jacques Kallis? These will be Pollock’s main worries.

Ricky Ponting
Matches: 154 Runs: 5473 Centuries: 10

The Australian captain has to bear the burden of being a favourite. But this 152-match veteran who has taken over from Steve

Waugh is not coming to South Africa hoping for a cake-walk. He has too many unexpected problems in his hands. The injury to Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath will be paramount in his mind and is going to affect his plans for the World Cup. It is clear now that neither McGrath nor Warne are going to be fully fit and even if they play they will be performing at much below peak level.

Ponting’s problem will center around whom to play instead of these two bowlers in crucial matches. There will also be the

psychological issue of not having the Waugh brothers, Steve and Mark who would have been tremendous presences in the team,

Mark Waugh especially had one more World Cup in him. Ponting will be wondering why Mark was dropped.

Ponting, will go to the Cup with the best team on paper but will have problems aplenty. Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya

showed in the VB series that the second string attack can destroyed. The Australians are aggressive on the field but this time they will have more to do than just sledging to cow down the opposition

Nasser Hussain
Matches: 80 Runs: 2.261 Centuries: 1

He is by far the most daring captain in the World Cup. He is the most thinking captain as well, and fits well into the long

tradition of brainy captains that England has had.

Hussain devised the leg-side theory for preventing Sachin Tendulkar from going bersek when they toured India last year. It

helped to a certain extent in disturbing Tendulkar’s equilibrium. The leg-side attack of Ashley Giles, no doubt rattled

Tendulkar. It is this strategy that infused that element og self-doubt in Tendulkar for the first time in his blistering

career and it can be said that Tendulkar has not fully recovered from that. So Hussain is one captain who will bring up something surprising in terms of tactics.

Yeah but what about the playing part? Not too impressive one must admit. The batters’ averages are all too dismal with

Hussain himself averaging 32.42. Hussain has no bowlers worth talking about. The batting will revolve around Michael Vaughan, (who is a Test batsman rather than a flamboyant One-day player) Marcus Trescothick and Nick Knight with Hussain himself holding out for 50s and 40s if the pattern of England playing is anything to go by.

Hussain will be happy if the team can make it to the Super Six. If he
doesn’t Hussain will most probably bid good bye to captaincy as well.

First Published: Jan 25, 2003 20:10 IST