Winners and losers of the Cup

ROHIT BRIJNATH

Andy Flower (above) and Olonga sacrificed their careers for a cause; more cannot be asked of them. — Pic. AFP-

WINNERS

In a time of little moral clarity, Andy Flower and Henry Olonga are the men of this Cup. So lost is cricket in petty politics that few men find the need or strength to make bold statements. Flower and Olonga sacrificed their careers for a cause; more cannot be asked of them. Alas, there are no fairy tales in sport, and Flower left a stage he has graced, not with a century but with a dubious lbw dismissal.

LOSERS

The idiotic mobs who trashed Dravid's car and hurled oil on the walls of Kaif's house. If nothing else, it shows they know nothing of cricket, for through the Cup both batsmen have advanced India's cause with a quiet maturity. It proves that some of India's watchers are not even remotely interested, or educated, in cricketing matters. It is the tamasha they are after, most of it created by themselves. India deserves a better audience and enquiring, discerning spectators must make their voices heard.

WINNERS

Although grudgingly, the world's press has discovered that underneath the horns Ganguly has been said to occasionally sprout, lies an ambitious, forceful captain. The captain has always been a captivating mix of vice and virtue, but the West has been too concerned with the latter. It is easier to write of a man's sins than his quiet deeds, and for all his batting woes Ganguly's head has stayed cool. Now all critics have turned admiring, but he is too experienced to be seduced.

LOSERS

Jagmohan Dalmiya's decision to grant Bangladesh Test status looks more and more like the political stunt it was. This is not Test cricket for sure, but India's neighbours left no memory except that of ineptitude.

WINNERS

People grudge Kenya their luck and that is absurd. After all, most sporting successes are built on fortuitous circumstances. Men like Barry Richards (and what is it about older South African players with their unseemly self-righteousness that grates on the nerves) say of Kenya: "I am not sure if it's good for cricket.'' Why not? The African nation rode its luck and nerve to get to the semis and the underdogs should be met with a resounding bark of approval not a whine.

LOSERS

Maybe Richards just can't stomach the fact that South Africa isn't in the final. Problem is the hosts weren't victims of bad luck but unimaginative play. For the 1996 World Cup, the Proteas toured with a coach, manager, physical trainer, psychologist and podiatrist. Now they should add a mathematician and an abacus.

WINNERS

Everyone hates Mr. Duckworth and Mr. Lewis but after all the muttering and moaning is finished I still can't see a better system.

LOSERS England came, saw and carped. WINNERS

John Davison. Eight fours, six sixes, and a century in 67 balls. It would be nice to say that he's a Canadian lumberjack, who exchanged axe for bat, for the way he plays suggests a man intent on cutting down bowlers. But in truth John Davison learnt his craft in Australia, where else. Still, thanks for dropping by mate, that 100 was worth the wait.

LOSERS Everyone who mocked India's bowling. WINNERS

The West Indies may have not made the Super Six, but there were signs, a few at least, that finally, the world's most exiting team had re-found some of its splendour. It can be only good news for cricket.

LOSER

First it was his mummy. Then he said, oh, by the way, I forgot, I took some diuretics before as well. Finally, he told a TV interviewer, who asked if he was stupid, that no, that's a harsh word. No mate, it's not. Shane Warne quickly learnt the brutal reality of sport: no one is missed, the Cup goes on.

WINNER

Bruised forearm, fractured thumb, fragile team, up and down form, but Sanath Jayasuriya had a bigger heart than people gave him credit for and took his team further than everyone believed.

LOSER

Jonty Rhodes, who kept even the dullest game alive with his athletic charm, made a quiet exit for a chirpy fellow. Sad that we will remember him for wearing an armband that read Rest in Peace Hansie, paying homage to a captain whose hidden bank accounts no doubt have embarrassed him.

WINNER

From an Indian team room, from where whispers, rumours, innuendo, gossip, bitching, discontent used to flow in a surge that made the Niagara Falls seem like a trickle, there is silence. Now they huddle, compliment each other at press conferences, bolster each other's nerve, and even praise the physios who don't let them eat samosas. India has found a spirit it needs to keep. Extending John Wright's contract (and Andrew Leipus and Adrian Le Roux's as well) would be a good start in that direction.

LOSER

Cricket needs strong silent types like Tendulkar, and also garrulous fellows like Shoaib Akhtar. Except the Pakistani fast bowler, who talks faster than he bowls, never knows when to shut up. He threatened, warned, targeted batsmen, then got dispatched into the stands by Tendulkar. And if his action is clean, then I'm Jan Zelezny.

WINNER

Say what you will about the format, it worked out OK. Unlike previous Cups, towards the end of the pool stage each match became, in cricketing terms, a life or death occasion. Sport is best when there is something to play for.

LOSER

Memo to Chris Cairns: if you're going to have a few drinks, take off your shirt and do a haka in a South African bar, just make sure you have a couple of heavyweight All Black rugby players with you. Else, a bruised jaw will be your abiding memory of the cup.

WINNER

Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar .... is there anything left to say.

LOSER

Inzi came into this Cup, he said, 10 kilos slimmer, keen to re-find the form that made him a star at the 1992 World Cup. Instead he went home with an average of 3.16, with scores of 6,4,0,0,6,3. We take no delight from his fall from grace, for he is a terrific batsman. But let it be said that there is no such thing as a slim aloo.

WINNER

So his team mocked its dark horse label, but Stephen Fleming's 134 (132 balls) against South Africa defined the captain's knock. "I've waited a long time for an innings like that,'' he said. So have we.

LOSER

South African Airways, whose advertisements apparently carried a picture of Allan Donald taking a wicket with the accompanying line: "Prepare for early departures''. Alas, it was the Proteas who crash-landed.

WINNER

Australia's Brett: quick, accurate and dead-Lee.

LOSER

Matches at the 2007 World Cup will be played in Disney. In America? With Mickey Mouse as umpire? And Donald Duck-ing for cover? Surely the ICC is kidding?