FINALLY, the exercise is over and we can get back to the game again. The World Cup took up a month and a half which could have been much better utilised and it is with a sigh of relief that one contemplates the fact that Test cricket will be getting under way again. After the thrillers in the Caribbean, this was like old soup, this World Cup. And stale stuff at that.
What did the Cup produce this time? Lots of boring, predictable results, the odd thriller and a final that was as flat as a pancake. Even Australia would not have really relished winning a final that ran this way; any team likes to win a hard-fought game. When the other team just lies down and dies, the fun goes out of it.
The script for the World Cup seems to be boringly similar: last time, the semi-final which pitted Australia against the West Indies was the best match, the closest and the most nerve-wracking. This time that description could be again applied to a semi-final which saw Australia and South Africa match wits. For the rest, there was little of note. The upset or two always happens -- last time Kenya provided the regulation upset, this time Bangladesh and Zimbabwe did.
The hype aside, was this really Warne at his best? What did he bowl besides leg-breaks? Was he fully in control of the degree of turn he imparted to each ball as he has been before the surgery? I saw the ball which got Gatting and also one which got Chanderpaul in the second Test in 1996-97; those were great deliveries. He really let them rip and knew that they were going to turn like a top. Let's put this issue in perspective: if Warne himself really believes he is back to his best, why is he thinking of quitting?
It was an eminently forgettable final though some scribes may try to have us believe otherwise. There were a lot of soft dismissals in the Pakistan innings -- Wasim, Mahmood and Razzaq. Inzamam was unlucky. Which brings me to David Shepherd -- he goofed up in the semi-final twice (Cronje's catch off the boot and a seven-ball over) and yet stood in the final. Why? Was it the case that, since the tournament was in England, an Englishman had to stand in the final? Matter of prestige, old boy? Venkat or Koertzen would have done a better job.
There were 42 matches to suffer through, contests that generated reams of copy with many folk penning daily reports that were longer than the tournament itself. Verbiage is obviously a word that these scribes are not familiar with; many of them are unaware of the word hype and the meaning of malaprop either.
The commentators were at their brilliant best again: we had gems like "the two openers" (this from Ian Chappell who seems unaware that there are generally two people to open the innings); "the team which wins will be the one which holds its nerve" (this from Simon O'Donnell) and the usual surfeit of superlatives. The myth that retired cricketers make the best commentators is just that -- a myth. If any evidence was needed, it came when one radio station in Australia replayed the commentary of the closing stages of the 1975 final -- Brian Johnston at his brilliant best. Now that is commentary, sir, from a master of the art, a professional commentator. His language and clever use of words -- can any of today's hacks hold a candle to him? They would shrivel up. Today, we have to listen to the kind of drivel that is spouted by the likes of Tony Greig, Ian Botham and their ilk.
That's why I thank my stars it's all over. We can look forward to some cricket again, the stuff which tests people and ensures that the best is brought out of them. What really scares me is the fact that one Australian journalist has in all seriousness written a long piece proposing that the World Cup be held every two years. If that happens, I'm outta here!!!