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Champions Trophy: India and Pak knocked out

By Anil
September 23 2004

After all the hype of the India-Pakistan match, won narrowly by the latter, both teams are knocked out of the Champions Trophy to leave surprise finalists from among the weakest of the teams in the draw. For all the enthusiasm of the sold-out crowd at the Edgbaston clash of the two cricketing arch-rivals, the match did not live up to its billing.

Ganguly, losing yet another important toss, was forced to bat in conditions helpful to seam bowling. Not unexpectedly given their recent form, the entire Indian top order collapsed in helpless fashion as Ganguly, Sehwag, Laxman, Kaif, and Yuvraj set up a procession back to the dressing room. Rahul Dravid batted as if he was fighting to save a test match, and it was not until the mercurial Ajit Agarkar came out to the middle that it started looking like a game of one-day cricket. Although Shoaib Akhtar was in fine form, the conditions were not bad for batting and the day was bright and sunny for a change. India ended the match with 200 runs on the board, thanks to the efforts of a single batsman and a single bowler.

Irfan Pathan struck back splendidly to send back Pakistan's top order back in the hut for next to nothing. He was supported by an inspired Agarkar at the other end, bowling very well to restrict scoring and also firing out the dangerous Inzamam-ul-Haq. Nehra was ineffective, bowling wides and 4-balls at will, allowing Pakistan to get off the hook. Although it looked like India would make a match of it, Pakistan squeezed past the target in the 50th over by 3 wickets, largely due to a slow and steady effort from Yousuf Youhana, who was cramping by the end of the innings.

In the end it was a close match as expected, but the quality of play had been underwhelming. It was always obvious that whoever won it would have trouble advancing any further in the tournament.

Meanwhile, England won their match against Australia, the first ODI they have won against their nemesis in 5 tortuous years! As unexpected and sweet as the victory was for the host nation, it was greeted by thin crowds, in stark contrast to the turnout for the India-Pakistan match.

With Windies thrashing Pakistan today, the final takes place between two teams that were both languishing at the bottom of the rankings prior to the tournament (not counting minnows like Kenya and Bangladesh): England and West Indies.

Australia, which have never won this Mini World Cup, will proceed to India on the back foot, having been knocked out by a team they could not have imagined would even put up a fight. To add injury to insult, captain Ricky Ponting broke his thumb during the match and will drop out of the tour to India, leaving the reins to Adam Gilchrist. This change of leadership, not to mention the prior record of Australia in the Gavaskar-Border Trophy, should leave India favorites again in the 4-Test series coming up.

In conclusion, it is critical that ICC improve their preparation for future editions of the Mini World Cup. It was scheduled in England at a time when the weather is often uncooperative, and while not all matches have been disrupted, the conditions and pitches have been wholly unsuitable for one-day cricket. This is also a big part of why all previous champions in the tournament's history were knocked out before the semifinals. Originally scheduled in India, it was moved to England at short notice because the ICC wanted the income from the tournament to be entirely tax-free. Perhaps the ICC should put the interests of fans, of cricket, ahead of their own financial considerations in future.

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