Friday, April 27, 2007

The World Cup Final - May the best team win

The battle royale begins on the 28th. The battle for the crown of the champions of World Cricket. What has been a very damp world cup so far, a supposed carnival that was played out in front of empty stands and without a Caribbean fanfare of trumpeting and drumming fans, has gotten a final between the two most deserving finalists, the Australians and the Sri Lankans.

For the sake of World Cricket, one hopes that this would be a cracker of a match. If there is one team that deserves to be world champions, it’s the Aussies, but the game of cricket badly needs another world champion. And if any team can dethrone the wizards of Oz, it is the Sri Lankans. Australians in cricket have been what Lance Armstrong had been in Tour De France, what Pete Sampras had been at Wimbledon, what Roger Federer has been at Tennis at large and what that mighty Michael Schumacher had been for formula one. What makes this Aussie team special is that they have been able to work magic as a team, and not as an individual, except for Schumi who was in a team sport of sorts.

Its only poetic justice that a team would have to be world champions by beating the Australians at the finals. The greatness of this Aussie side lies in the fact that they have made a mockery of the phrases, ‘cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties’ and ‘the law of averages’. It will take more than uncertainties to dethrone the champions, it will take a miracle.

And the Sri Lankans have a few miracle workers. Murali, Jayasuriya, Malinga, Jayawardane, Sangakkara. If they were to work a miracle, they need to take a leaf out of the book of their amazing opponents, i.e. to raise the levels of their game when the big occasion arises. The Lankans did that against the Kiwis, and there is no reason to believe that they cannot do the same against the Aussies. But it will not be easy. It will not be easy to dethrone a team that has annihilated every opposition in this world cup and that too by not even breaking a sweat.

As a cricket fan, who do I want should win the world cup? I haven’t been able to find an answer, to be very honest. Should I support a team that is unbeaten for 28 matches, or should I support the most improved and skillful team of this tournament? I don’t really know. A Sri Lanka triumph should be good for world cricket, but do the Australians deserve to, forget losing, have even a thought of losing? I don’t have an answer to that either.

For sure, Glen McGrath deserves a victory in what would be his swansong in what has been a fantastic career. His last ODI match in Australia ended up as a defeat for his team, he surely doesn’t deserve that one more time in his final international match. But the Sri Lankan nation also deserves this win. This is a beautiful island nation which is now embroiled in a civil war. Innocent people are losing their lives, and the only thing that can bind them together again is a world cup victory.

Whatever happens on the 28th, we shall all be watching. Before we hold our breaths, let us spare a thought for the people in the Caribbean who couldn’t enjoy this cricketing carnival because of the insipid organizers, despite being the most colourful of cricket followers. And whoever lifts the world cup, be it Ponting or Jayawardane, would be deserving winners. So, let s say a small prayer so that we get a match worthy of a final, and let the battle royale begin.

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