Cricket: The old world order
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31 March 2015

Isn't it just antithetical at the end running contrary to the well laid plans, that a tournament that has opened up the floodgates on the run flow, straitjacketing the bowler in the worst ways possible, be eventually decided on superior bowling performances? It made sense too. All teams being equal (in their abilities to clear the in-field, which even the Associate nations were able to do with considerable ease against the Member nations), the one that finally lifted the cup pulled away from the others by its explosive and exhaustive fire power in the bowling department. It is quite ironic that even after all the changes that lopsidedly tilted the scales in favor the batsmen, matches are won and cups are lifted riding the back of the age old maxim - bowlers win matches. Did the cricket council shoot itself in the foot here by wanting the make the games more exciting (read, boundaries and sixers) that it essentially created an all or no deal for its batsmen who can now only hit out or get out with no third, fail safe option? Save for the 2011 edition that was decided on which team kept on firing its batting cannons till the end, every other edition of the cup was an even contest between the bat and the ball, sometimes more in favor of the latter, which is how it is supposed to be in the first place. If there is one key takeaway from the current edition that can be rolled into the future plans for subsequent conquests, it is that the teams better stock up their bowling plans much more than bulking up the already fattened bats, for it becomes a tall task to lay claims on the top prize relying on offence alone (listening SA?)

As much as DeVilliers cried from the rooftops over and over again to everyone who was listening that they indeed had the lineup in the tournament (almost implying that they 'deserve' the cup more than the others), it was amply clear that it was the eventual champions that had it all, with batting firmed up and anchored by Smith, and bowling rallying around Starc and the fielding...well, just about everyone that made the roster on the game day. The surprising aspect is this team has no named superstars, yet the ease with which they blew away their opponents in the group stage belied their below the radar individual ratings. But for the stumble against the Kiwis during the group stage, even which they made a match of defending a paltry score, the Aussie engine chugged along with little to no hitches at all. This is particularly impressive of a team that got the boot in the quarters in the previous edition, went through a lot of personnel changes and yet found it stride back in less than a couple of years to crawl back to the top of all tables. The talent cupboard that laid bare post the retirement of the greats now seem to runneth over, which talks about the strength and the resilience of the Aussie system that keeps churning out strong players that quickly turn from impressive to menacing to downright fearsome in a short period of time. So this crown is as much a for the players who have persevered till the end, as much as it an ode to their setup that created such causation. So Hail to both the Kings and the KingMakers!

India's creditable run in the tournament was a surprise to everyone (save for the tall talking Ravi Shastri). This is a team that was down and out, done and dusted till a few days before the start of the campaign and yet found the hunger and the anger to devour every team in its path, before it finally met its match in the penultimate bout. All of a sudden, the lines, lengths and the discipline that were largely found wanting in the run up to the cup suddenly made an appearance in the armory. Added to that a consistent batting display by the top order and a fielding unit that even surpassed the best ever that took the field for India, saw it coast through the final four with no perceptible weakness. What is interesting this time around was that no one discipline had to double down on its own, the batting didn't have to get colossal every single time to cover for the lack of penetration of its bowling, nor the bowling had to quickly get into a containment mindset than go all out attacking not able to count upon its fielding brethren. Even more than in 2011, this edition saw India finally achieve the near perfect harmony among its playing units....that is, until it found itself on the collision course with the juggernaut. In the end, India was just beaten by a better team, not a team that simply played better on that day. When faced up against such an adversary, the odds are much worse counting on the other's failure on that day than relying on one's own strength to come good on the same.

And likewise with the Kiwis, India's doppleganger in the opposite pool, which relied more on the momentum to tide them over than on their own depth (not to mention, the baffling one sided nature of their grounds). Like all other teams (honorable exceptions: Aus and Ind, sometimes) Kiwis relied a tad too much on their explosive batting to come good on every single occasion...and it almost did, except when in the final, the Aussie attack was too planned, probing and predatory to the Kiwis' liking, which once again emphasized that teams with great bowling attacks tend to trump almost every time sides with phenomenal batting attacks. Speaking of batting records, the tournament saw orgies of run-fests, more so when the opponents lacked any toe-crushers or wily-curlers. Records were breached and created almost every other day, courtesy the mace-like bats and ICC's hare brained idea of not allowing the ropes to be manned by more people, rapidly ensuring that ODI batting turn into a regular T20 slug fest, just as meaningless, just as boring and just as inconsequential. When the supposedly best bowler in the trade, Steyn, gets taken to the cleaners with relative ease, even by wild card entrants, that's quite an indictment on ICC's policy of not just tying the bowler's hands behind their backs, but blindfolding them in the process for good measure.

And that's why the current Aussie victory is not just a celebration of the current moment, but an important statement for the future strategy and survival of the game, for this is a team that refuses to be bullied by the batsmen, or get bogged down the by the rules, or beaten down by the restrictions or cowered into submission by the policies. This team forces the opponents to win the traditional way - survive, build and accumulate - than through the nouveau technique of taking chances every single ball by trying to merely clear the in-field and let the ICC deposit the run in the batsmen's accounts. This win is a slap in the face of such coddling measures. And in claiming the top prize yet again and continuing to be a dominant force for well over a couple of decades, Aussies can pride themselves of not just rebuilding a champion side in record time, but in doing so they have created something that would seal their legacy in the history books - a dynasty. Like the Windies of the 70's and 80's, the Aussie team, system and setup will be looked up to in awe and admiration for achieving the kind of consistency and domination that all teams across all sports dare only dream of. And the icing is, they have done all of this in the old fashioned way - contaning runs and taking wickets. Well, welcome back, it's good having you again!

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