A mixed bag

It was a World Cup that shattered a few reputations and broke some hearts. It was also a World Cup that saw new stars making waves, to usher in a new chapter in international cricket.

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

It was a World Cup that shattered a few reputations and broke some hearts. It was also a World Cup that saw new stars making waves, to usher in a new chapter in international cricket.

Andy Bichel and Andrew Symonds really revelled in the World Cup. They definitely are the stars to watch in the future. — Pic. AP-

The World Cup saw the cricketing fraternity grow. Empty stands, at matches involving the minnows, might not be a healthy advertisement to the game, but there was no doubt that the occasion meant a lot for teams like Kenya, Namibia and Holland. It was a pity that Bangladesh, a Test nation, learnt nothing as it plummeted to the depths.

The duration of the tournament was hard on the players, but profitable to the organisers. The game is all about money now, with many aspects of the sport undergoing changes, some good and some not.

The World Cup was the platform for the unsung and underprivileged members of the fraternity to seek recognition. Australian coach John Buchanan admitted that the big teams of the world had a responsibility to share their experience and knowledge with the minnows of the circuit. "We do have a duty towards the weaker teams and we should do our best to bridge the gap for the benefit of the game,'' was Buchanan's observation at the end of the biggest ever World Cup in terms of participation.

For a team like Namibia it meant a lot to be at the World Cup. For a nation, which had to pick its team from a pool of just five clubs, to rub shoulders with the best in the business was itself a great achievement. The same could not have been said of Zimbabwe, which suffered a dent to its reputation, despite having made it to the Super Six stage. The confident wicketkeeping of Tatenda Taibu was the biggest gain for a team, which obviously needs a thrust at the grass root level for the game to thrive. The retirement of Andy Flower was a big blow to Zimbabwe.

For Namibia, the star was the hard-hitting Jan Burger with an aggregate of 199. The wide range of shots he played against England, at Port Elizabeth, showed his potential to grow as a batsman. It also spoke well of the game's infrastructure in Namibia.

Kenya made the biggest impact, thanks to the combination of experience and youth. In Aasif Karim, the team had the experience to guide young Colins Obuya, who scripted a glorious chapter at the Nairobi Gymkhana. As Kenya coach Sandeep Patil remarked, "Collins has an awesome potential to develop into a match-winner. He has the heart of a spinner and I can say with confidence that he has a great future. He can fox the best of batsmen and his spell against the Sri Lankans was a revelation to many of us too. I haven't seen such talent for a long time.''

The gangling Obuya is keen to visit India and learn the finer points from former greats like Bishan Singh Bedi, B. S. Chandrashekhar and Erapalli Prasanna. Spin bowling is an art he can develop by playing regularly and it is this factor that he wants to concentrate on. The Kenyans have always looked up to India for support and extending coaching for their promising cricketers.

Holland too had a star in J. F. Kloppenburg, who hit a century against Namibia in a high scoring match at Bloemfontein. There was another century maker for Holland in J. Van Noortwijk. It was Holland's glorious hour in a World Cup as it rattled a total of 300-plus and tamed a fightback from the Namibians.

For South Africa, the young Graeme Smith took the mantle of captaincy. The sacking of Shaun Pollock as captain was on the cards and Smith, who figured in the crucial match against Sri Lanka at Durban, was given the task. He did not make any great impact on the World Cup, but gave enough glimpses of his quality in that knock against Sri Lanka after he had warmed up with a half century against Canada. The South Africans had little to showcase as new talent.

Chaminda Vaas and Marvan Atapattu, veterans both, carried Sri Lanka to as far as the semifinals, before they ran out of steam. The team did not make any gains in terms of discovering youth power and it was essentially a show managed by veterans like Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva.

The team to disappoint most was the West Indies, after Brian Lara gave them a sensational winning start with a century against South Africa. Once again, there was a dearth of potential with the exception of Ramnaresh Sarwan who distinguished himself, playing consistently well.

Shane Bond and Jacob Oram shared the limelight for New Zealand, accounting for 31 wickets between them. Bond, with the clean action among the top three fastest bowlers in the world, was outstanding with his accuracy and set up an exciting battle with Australia, but the batsmen let the side down. He did consolidate his status as one of the exciting bowlers in the world cricket.

Bangladesh was an embarrassment for a Test nation. The failure of the team was perplexing as it gave its worst performance in the World Cup, after having created a sensation at the last edition in England when it beat Pakistan. But that victory evoked suspicion among the cricketing fraternity.

John Davison, an Aussie who played for Canada, was a revelation in the championship. His feats with the bat and the ball were laudable and he vouched for the quality of domestic cricket in Australia. A man who hit the fastest ever century in the World Cup, bats only at number nine for South Australia. His was a new face and a true sensation of the World Cup. The seam bowling of Austin Codrington was the feature of Canada's upset win over Bangladesh in Durban. With roots in the Caribbean, he was delighted to receive the Man of the Match award from former great Michael Holding. Pakistan and England had no new talent to offer even though James Anderson gladdened the hearts of the English with his bowling. That he could generate pace meant the team had a bowler who did not follow the age old seam and swing variety to make an impact. His spell against Pakistan was one of the features of the tournament.

India did well to make the final. It gained from the progress made by Yuvraj Singh, who came up with two outstanding innings in the middle order and to some extent Mohammad Kaif, who showed his ability to improve by adapting quickly to the number four slot. On the bowling front, it was Ashish Nehra who made an impression with his swing at an effective pace. He easily was the outstanding bowler for India.

The Aussies were the best, and as skipper Ricky Ponting noted, they discovered a trusted match-winner for the future. Andrew Symonds produced two innings at critical stages to hog the limelight and Andy Bichel, ever waiting for an opportunity, grabbed the chance with both hands. His all-round's show was one of the highlights of Australia's comprehensive victory.

The World Cup took its toll on some of the established names. They faded without much impact. It was a World Cup which gave the cricketing world only a few names to look forward to in the near future.