Big two bow out

Australia are in trouble at 3/10 when Ricky Po...Image via Wikipedia

The winner of the cricket world cup of 2011 is still to be decided, but for two of the big teams of world cricket it's all over.

Australia's demise was no big surprise. The slow decline of Australian cricket has been oft reported, and though still competitive they have have lost that fearsome cutting edge they once had. In this tournament they never really seemed to get going in the manner we have come to expect. As if believing reports of their vulnerability they often played tentative, unambitious cricket. Batting particularly they seemed more concerned about protecting their wickets than pushing the scoring rate along. In days past a departing batsman was replaced by someone just as capable – I think that is still true, but I don't know if the squad retains that faith. And so they played smaller when batting. It was enough to win; in past days winning was not enough, Australia sought to dominate.

Confusing instructions didn't help much. Haddin, a very capable, but occasionally dumb cricketer seemed unsure as to what his role was. A natural stroke-player he seemed to reign himself in when the occasion demanded he should go for it, only to generally get himself out stupidly when the discipline got to much for him. He should have been told to play his natural game, which is to blaze. Statistically Haddin had a good tournament, yet his contribution should have been greater.

Cameron White was disappointing. A very astute leader of men and cricket brain he seems robotic sometimes batting. He's in the side for his big hitting, but with that deserting him he had no other gear. As a batsman he seems to be fully on or switched off altogether. He seemed incapable of pushing for the quick single and rotating the strike, and seems never to be to encoraged to do so. In hindsight he was clearly a handicap to the team and though I'm a fan, persisted with too long.

The biggest deficiency in this side was the lack of a quality spinner. Australia was unfortunate to be queered by injuries and forced into a bold bowling strategem. It might have worked had the missing ingredient – a decent spinner – had been in the team. No offense to Krezja but he lacks control and, in 50 over cricket at least, venom. Ultimately our part time bowlers looked more threatening than him, and that's why we bowed out at the quarter final stage. Give me a hald decent spinner and we would have reached the final.

Still, I can't be too disappointed, and if I sound harsh then I don't mean to be. For all the shortcomings in the squad the team fought tooth and nail to the end, as they always do.

Leadinmg the way was Ponting. He's a divisive figure Ponting. I love him, but many don't. Women particularly seem to take against him while men, more attunmed to that spirit, are more forgiving. Ponting is a warrior. He's the toughest cricketer in world cricket and has been for many years. He's one of the best batsmen of all time, which he proves again and again by rising to the occasion again and again. His century in the QF after being besieged in the weeks before is just the latest proof of that.

Ponting is a great leader. Criticised from outside he seems genuinely loved by those in his charge. It's easy to see why – he's one those strong, unflinching types who lead by example. He's an ordinary on-field captain however – which leads now to the next big decision.

In the wake of the Ashes disaster a review was initiated. My hope is that it goes deep. I want Ponting to stay in the side, though I think he drop down the order in tests. I think he should be replaced as captain though, if only because the next generation needs to step forward. Selection policies and selectors themselves should be reviewed. And Tim Nielson as coach – a great disappointment in my book – should be replaced. Off field there seems insufficient guidance outside of Ponting, and some of the things Australia have traditionally been so good at have slipped back in standard.

I'll take the quick single as an example – once upon a time it was the corner-stone of the re-build of an Australian team by Bobby Simpson. The game has moved on, big hitting is much more prevalent, yet running between wickets is one of cricket's one percenters. They seemed to have been overlooked or forgotten, yet it is in the combination of these that is often the difference between winning and losing. Australia used to be way out in front in this area. Today, we're probably the best fielding side in the world still, but otherwise have become much sloppier than we once were, and someone has to be accountable for that.

If Australia's loss was no great surprise, South Africa's loss was – in a way at least. Probably the tournament favourite they went into the QF final playing the only other team never to have won a knock-out match in the comp. That's an astounding statistic. Australia have probably lost 3 over the distance, and won about 15. South Africa, perpetual favourites, seem always to fall away when the pressure is on. And so in a way their loss was no great surprise either.

Australia and South Africa leave the tournament in different states. Australia knows it must re-build, but at least there is an exciting batch of youngsters coming through. And our rich tradition of tough, uncompromising cricket has been upheld – we lose, but with our heads held high.

On the field South Africa appear to be in a much healthier state than us. They have a strong batting line-up with a good sprinkling of youth, and they have the best bowler in the world. I have a lot of time for Steyn as bowler and as a man. But they leave also with this sorry record of underperformance – let's face it, of choking – underlined once again. Amazing. The monkey on their back must be the size of a gorilla. For the likes of Kallis and Smith that's probably it – they won't be around next time. In any case, how do they recover from this.

So that's where it is. Australia, the West Indies (who have won a combined 6 of the 9 previous world cups) and South Africa out. I think Sri Lanka will win it. They've been my pick from the get-go. They're a well balanced team with good hitters, some sublime batsman (Sangakkara is world best imo) and a potentially potent attack. They'll likely play India in the final, who I'll be glad to see lose. I don't mind they beat us, but I mind the typically ungracious way so many of their supporters celebrated it. We won't forget.

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