Australians already planning for the next World Cup

WHILE the rest of the cricket world wonders how they are going to catch them up after their demolition of India in Johannesburg on that Sunday, Australia are already planning for the next World Cup.

WHILE the rest of the cricket world wonders how they are going to catch them up after their demolition of India in Johannesburg on that Sunday, Australia are already planning for the next World Cup.

Australian coach John Buchanan watches Glenn McGrath during a training session at the Wanderers. Buchanan feels the next move is to get players to use both sides of their body. "It may challenge some of the game's laws and interpretations, but I believe players will begin to use left-right combinations when batting and fielding by the next World Cup and in bowling for the one after that,'' says the coach. — Pic. AFP-

According to their coach John Buchanan, the next move in the pursuit of excellence is to look at the basics of the game and work out how they can be done differently.

A think-tank is planned, its goal to find ways of challenging accepted practices within cricket. At the moment, Australian innovations have included the use of an American baseball coach, Mike Young, to improve throwing and ways of defending areas of outfield, but Buchanan feels the next move is to get players to use both sides of their body.

"It may challenge some of the game's laws and interpretations, but I believe players will begin to use left-right combinations when batting and fielding by the next World Cup and in bowling for the one after that,'' said Buchanan the day after Australia's victory celebrations.

Shots such as the reverse-sweep have been around since the early Fifties, when the Pakistan batsman Hanif Mohammed played it along with an array of other fancy shots. If Buchanan's words sound radical, it is worth bearing in mind that his nickname when he played was Pluto, on account of his ideas being too far out.

Those ideas, like the use of baseball techniques, are not new to cricket. Where Australia differ is in their questing spirit to pursue them properly, something English cricket lacked at least until Rod Marsh was appointed director of the Academy.

Buchanan said: "English cricket has some very good young players, and if Rod Marsh can make an impact on them as well as among coaches, and that whole system is well supported, then things are bound to change.''

He added, in an oblique reference to county cricket: "My one concern is when those at the Academy return to a system that fails to continue their direction impetus.''

This World Cup tournament lacked three vital ingredients to be considered an unmitigated success. Although the International Cricket Council and the organisers led by Dr. Ali Bacher point to a financial bonanza, the absence of Shane Warne, close contests and commonsense meant the event did not capture the imagination as it might have.

While the organisers cannot be blamed for Warne and close matches, they can for attitude. The six-man World Cup technical committee — comprised largely of ICC and Bacher patsies — lacked any sense at all.

Their intransigence over the Zimbabwe issue was clumsy and crass and it paled in comparison to Andy Flower and Henry Olonga's bold black armband protest against Robert Mugabe's unscrupulous methods of remaining in power.

Egos and African politics were clearly involved despite the ICC's insistence that they were not. The mess brought players, particularly England's, into close contact with the game's administrators, with neither party particularly liking what they saw.

When the ICC President Malcolm Gray stood on the winner's rostrum last Sunday, he said the World Cup was about cricketers. That was a massive fib.

This World Cup, with its interminable number of games — 54 were scheduled over 6 weeks — and its wilfully opaque Super Six stage, was only ever pandering to television and global sponsors, the main sources for the pounds 118 million generated by this tournament. Everything else was subservient.

In future more than one game must be played on the same day, which would allow rain days for all matches. Knockouts must come earlier than the semi-final stage to heighten tension. The trouble with the Super Six was that too much emphasis was placed on the results of group matches.

Kenya's progress, although pleasing, came to a juddering halt just when the tournament needed a good match. In hindsight it really needed two of England, South Africa or West Indies to be in the shake-up for the semi-finals.

Really cracking matches, as opposed to superb individual performances, were rare. The opener between West Indies and South Africa in Cape Town set a pace that was not really followed, though England's defeat by Australia was tight and the West Indies game against Sri Lanka went to the last ball.

Perhaps the re-introduction of one bouncer per over meant that sides with fast bowlers lorded it more than usual, though Pakistan were a glaring exception, a failing that cost most of the senior players their places.

Waqar Younis was not the only casualty of the World Cup. Nasser Hussain and Shaun Pollock ceased to be captains; Sanath Jayasuriya had his offer of resignation rejected and Carl Hooper considered stepping down. Allan Donald, Jonty Rhodes, Aravinda de Silva, Flower and several coaches all saw their internationals careers bite the dust.

On the ground the tournament worked well. The grounds and most pitches were superb, as were media facilities. The volunteer system, cribbed from the Sydney Olympics, added a "have a nice day'' touch appreciated by Americans, and while security checks occasionally proved tiresome, they were largely efficient.

The tournament was well branded, its themes and logos recurring until well entrenched in the mind. Crowds though, especially later in the tournament, were disappointing. South Africa's early exit was a major factor along with ticket packages designed to get gate revenue up front.

Money in the end was what counted, with commerce and greed trouncing cricket's subtler requirements.

Note: Shane Warne will receive a share of Australia's pounds 1.3 million prize money, despite his 12-month suspension after testing positive for a banned substance during preparations. The amount is to be decided by his team-mates.