Arjun Raja is a NRIOL featured sports columnist. To read about Arjun Raja, please Know more.
After a welcome break from cricket, both for the players as well as the general public (the World Cup and all the hype generated from it led to a feeling of saturation as far as the interest levels were concerned) another tournament kicks off on Aug 22nd in Colombo.
This time however, it will be played in familiar sub-continent surroundings for both hosts Sri Lanka and India. The third team is World Champions Australia who must fancy their chances on the sheer weight of their brilliant performance in the last few games at the World cup, where they won seven matches in a row including the final.
The Aiwa tournament is crucial to players from both India and Sri Lanka, if not for anything else, to win back the confidence and support of their cricket crazy public for whom the disappointing show in the World Cup was an embarrassment to say the least.
In light of the poor show by both teams from the sub-continent in the World Cup, new captains have been selected by both of them to give a fresh look to the teams. Sri Lanka have a new captain in Sanath Jayasuriya - the explosive left-handed opener and India have chosen Sachin Tendulkar - the only post-war batsman to be compared to Sir Donald Bradman.
The Indian team for the Aiwa Cup has three changes from the team that went to the World Cup which is baffling especially considering that the changes were forced on the selectors - Azhar,... Mongia and Agarkar are forced out due to injuries.
Does this mean that the selectors do not feel the need to make any changes to a team that failed to qualify for the World Cup semi-finals? I am not advocating wholesale changes bordering on an attitude of vengeance for the failure in the world cup. But considering the Aiwa Cup is being played in conditions completely different from England, I would have thought a couple of suitable changes would have been made.
I most definitely do not see the need for so many fast bowlers in the squad as the conditions are not going to be friendly to the quickies. If the selectors were satisfied with Debashish Mohanty's performance, then surely instead of Laxmi Ratan Shukla, who has replaced Agarkar, a spinner should have been picked - to my mind Sunil Joshi.
Now that Vinod Kambli is back in the side, I do not see Amay Khurasiya getting a game. Isn't that a waste of a spot? Considering that Khurasiya didn't get a single game even in the World Cup, I reckon he is excess baggage.
Tendulkar has very categorically stated that he will open the batting with Saurav which means Ramesh may end up watching from the sidelines. So basically both reserve batsmen are wasting time in the squad. Their places could have been taken by another spinner and an all-rounder, which would have made sure the spinners and allrounders in the playing eleven didn't relax.
India's batting looks great on paper and with Tendulkar looking to atone for his failures (by his standards) in the World Cup, both Sri Lanka and Australia better watch out. It is the bowling that is the problem. If Srinath and Prasad bowl well but do not get the required support from Shukla or Mohanty, then things could go awfully wrong. India will surely look to play both spinners - Kumble and Chopra, in the hot, humid conditions of Sri Lanka.
The new wicket keeper is from Andhra Pradesh - M.S.K.Prasad .He is the first player from that state (Hyderabad is part of A.P. but fields a separate team in the Ranji Trophy championship) to represent India and that is a good move by the selectors. If he can play a few cameo innings towards the closing stages and keeps well, then Mongia will find it difficult to get back into the side.
Sri Lanka are also fielding a totally new look side. Both Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda D'Silva have been dropped from the one-day team to make way for a couple of youngsters, a move that could prove disastrous as the Sri Lankan batting lacks experience. Only Jayasuriya and Atappattu have any major experience and this could prove dangerous in a tight situation.
However, the Sri Lankan public must be banking on new coach Dav Whatmore to turn things around as he did in 1996 when Sri Lanka were crowned World Champions at Lahore.
Australia seems to be the best-settled side at the moment and are my favourites to win the Aiwa Cup especially as Shane Warne is fit again and rearing to go. He is a match winner and the Aussies could use him for sure.
All in all it promises to be a cracker of a tournament with three teams who have won the World Cup at one time or another vying for honours. Read more
- Arjun Raja in Dubai, UAE1999
The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.For a listing of past columns by Arjun Raja, please Know more.