Monday, May 17, 2010


When Paul Collingwood announced that England would field after winning the toss, many minds (atleast in India) went back to that crucial day in March 2003 when Sourav Ganguly had made a similar decision against the same opponents at the Wanderers, Johannesburg. It was arguably the worst decision that Ganguly took in his stint as a captain.

My mind went back to another big final on the same ground at Johannesburg not so long back ago. In the finals of Indian Premier League 2009 held in South Africa, Anil Kumble took the same decision as Paul Collingwood (and Ganguly before him) against another Australian captain. And well, the result was not good for him either.

But the two Aussie captains then were strong players... they led from the front. Unlike the younger Michael Clarke, who, simply put, lacks the ability to play good Twenty20 cricket. So despite his leadership abilities, he will always be a liability to any batting lineup. Ponting scored a World Cup winning century after lossing the toss and batting first. Adam Gilchrist may have gone for a duck... but he had played an IPL semi-final winning knock just one match ago... when his whirlwind knock toppled the table-toppers and the favourites Delhi Daredevils. Clarke scored a laboured innings, ran out David Warner, and his eventual 27-ball 27 turned out to be his highest of the tournament. See the difference?

And now I'll come to another point that few have highlighted. Clarke's captaincy. I have read a lot of bloggers, media reports and articles that have found his captaincy impressive. In this tournament as well, many have lauded him for his rotation of bowlers and field settings. It was bound to happen considering that Australia was unbeaten till the finals. But for me, Clarke's captaincy was rubbish.

Firstly, in my books, a captain's position in the team should be without doubt. Pup's case is a whole lot different. He himself doubts his place in Australia's Twenty20 squad going by what he had to say to the press after the loss.

Secondly, a captain should be able to come up with a strong Plan B when his Plan A is not working. All through the tournament, Australia's game plan has been to unleash its fearsome bowling attack on batting lineups... and watch them disintegrate. When for the first time in the tournament, a team found a solution to this strategy as Pakistan did in the semi-finals, he looked clueless and allowed Pakistan to score a massive 190+ score. Had it not been for the brilliance of the freak Mr. Cricket Michael Hussey, Clarke would have boarded an earlier flight back home (there is no volcanic ash on the way)!

Thirdly, any player should be able to learn from his mistakes... more so a captain. I had the same complaint of some of the Indian players in this World Twenty20... I have the same complaint of Clarke. He had chance to formulate a string Plan B after scraping through against Pakistan. But he did not. Was it overconfidence? We may never know. But England exploited his lack of Plan B to attack his backup bowlers like Watson and finished the match as undisputed champs. Doesn't look so good when he is under fire, does he, Watson! It's very good to bank on the pressure created by your extremely good fast bowlers and take wickets. But it takes greater ability and a bigger heart to create the pressure yourself and take wickets.

Paul Collingwood, on the other hand, did a far better job. He entrusted with Luke Wright with the 16th over... when Australia had started gaining momentum with the help of their future captain, Cameron White. Wright, who had not bowled a single ball in the entire tournament, bowled a tight 5-run over that also included the wicket of White. Many would pin it down to luck. But what Collingwood did next was not luck... it was I believe the best move he made! Many captains would have been tempted to give Luke Wright another go in the 18th over and maybe, even the 20th over.

We will never know if that would have been a good move or not. But very often, we have seen the backup bowlers smashed at the death on being given that one additional over. Collingwood avoided that fate. The 18th and 20th over went for 21 runs in total, with a wicket of David Hussey... but we never know what Wright would have conceded. It's always better to trust the performers who have brought you to that stage, rather than do something different and mess it up.

Sachin Tendulkar promoted Harbhajan Singh up the batting order in the finals of IPL 3... in a move that backfired horribly. Questions were raised about why you'd want a Harbhajan batting before Pollard. Collingwood ensured that such questions would not need to be answered.

Little less than a week ago, I had predicted an Australian win over Sri Lanka at Kensington Oval in the finals. My prediction went horribly wrong. But I am still happy... because the better team won! Australian supporters may say that they were better than England through the tournament... and that England were almost knocked out of the tournament by Ireland. But had they gotten two full matches at Guyana, you never know what would have unfolded. In my opinion, England was better than Australia through the tournament because better teams may lose sometimes... but never with 3 overs to spare!

No comments: