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    Coups in cricket

    Coups in cricket

    by Tunku Varadarajan who writes a column on cricket for CNNSI.com.

    Pressure in Pakistan; Sri Lanka ousts Australia

    Posted: Friday October 15, 1999 03:43 PM

    There have been two coups this month, by
    my reckoning. There was the one in
    Pakistan, when a big, bad General -- of the
    sort which that country throws up as
    effortlessly as it now does fast bowlers --
    produced a bit of political reverse-swing and
    rocked the elected Government out of power. And then there was the one in
    Sri Lanka, when the strutting Australians were sent packing by Sanath
    Jayasuriya's rejuvenated band of cricketers. It may have rained a lot during
    the Test series, but oh, what a deeply satisfying result that was for the more
    neutral cricket fan!

    On to Pakistan: I'd like to think that the impact of General Musharraf's coup
    on Pakistani cricket would be minimal. After all, what has martial law in
    common with off-spin and cover drives? But the history of the game in
    Pakistan is littered with examples of political interference, with selectors and
    captains sometimes sacked by Presidents and Prime Ministers, not to
    mention the campaigns of accusation and vilification that are a seemingly
    permanent part of that country's cricket.

    It would be a terrible shame for the game of cricket, if politics in some ugly
    form, were to trample upon the turf just as Wasim Akram and his squad are
    preparing for their foray to Australia later this year.

    Wasim is now back at the helm, exonerated of all those oh-so-tedious
    match-throwing allegations, and leads a side that seems to be putting behind
    it, the trauma of its World Cup Final hiding at the hands of none other than
    the Aussies.

    If left well alone, he will take his team into what will surely be one of the
    raciest Test series in a long time, one in which the Aussies will be quite
    out-gunned in the bowling department.

    And what of the Australians? Seldom has their bowling looked so
    threadbare.

    Glenn McGrath will of course torment the Pakistanis, but the kind of bouncy,
    fast tracks that he so revels in, will also cause a collective burst of
    mouth-watering in the Pakistani ranks.

    This could be the series in which Shoaib Akhtar -- fitness permitting --
    comes of age as an all-time great fast bowler. It's a pity, therefore, that the
    two sides will only play three Tests, not five.

    These are delicate times for Steve Waugh's side, whose "World Test
    Champion" crown -- always worn a little unconvincingly -- looks ready for
    the snatching.

    Geoff Marsh, their doughty coach, has now moved on to other things and
    [Steve] Waugh -- on whose captaincy my jury is still out -- must team up
    afresh with Alan Border, the stop-gap replacement. These are two
    hard-headed men, who'd rather be dead than on the losing side, but they're
    much too similar in their mental make-up for there to be the sort of effective
    cross-fertilization of ideas that comes with the best coach-captain combines.

    But Australia's present problems stem not so much from strategy as from a
    curious brittleness under pressure. And this is where Border's steel, and his
    undoubted cussedness, could prove to so valuable. Australia's batting line-up,
    which is high-class on paper, wilts far too often for a side that sees itself as
    "great", and Mark Waugh's recent run-drought has hit his captain [and twin]
    hard.

    The bowling, too, is deeply unsatisfactory, and any side that plays Colin
    Miller for quite so many Tests cannot have our highest regard.

    Australia has to blood a new fast bowler against Pakistan: it is not
    cost-effective, in cricketing terms, for McGrath to shoulder the entire
    burden, especially as Warne will be bowling to batsmen who are quite
    familiar in dealing with spin bowling.
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