Home > Cricket > Asia Cup 2004 > Column > Bob Woolmer
Sri Lanka did the little things better
July 21, 2004
The culmination of the first round or Phase 1 of the Asia Cup ended in a dramatic win over favourites India by the host nation Sri Lanka. Watching it I thought India were well out of the game. Indeed, at one stage, India were 96 for 4, but the form of Rahul Dravid is quite awesome at the moment and the batting line-up of India can never be underestimated.
Particularly impressive, however, was the accuracy levels of the Sri Lankan bowlers led by Chaminda Vaas, who bowled extremely accurately, inspiring his younger bowlers, especially Farveez Maharoof, the under-19 World Cup captain and fast bowler, who I thought bowled excellently.
Impressive too was the Sri Lankan running between the wickets, as they were very fast, and the fielding, with their speed to the ball. These are areas that all teams need to improve on and Sri Lanka won, in my opinion, because they were better in these areas.
Modern one-day cricket ensures that coaches have to pay attention to these details and extras especially, as no-balls and wides can easily cost a team the game. Our slogan that 'one run can make a difference' is based on that infamous game at Edgbaston in the 1999 World Cup (which South Africa lost by one run)!
These are the areas where I will be looking for major improvement with the Pakistan team. But like most areas of cricket, this will come in time.
Following my experiences with the ICC High Performance role, it was really nice to see Hong Kong and the UAE being given a chance to play in this competition. This is in line with the ICC's globalisation of cricket and trying to improve the next level of cricket below the Test-playing nations.
It is becoming increasingly clear that there needs to be three tiers of cricket — first tier of eight teams, second and third tiers six teams each, with a four-year cycle of promotion and relegation between the top and bottom nations of the various tiers.
The difference in the top Test-playing nations and the minnows is in the batting and the teams that only have one-day cricket as their base are at a disadvantage to those that have a first-class multi-day structure. One of the biggest upcoming games will be UAE vs Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, where the UAE have to win outright to get into the semi-finals of the Inter-Continental Cup. But I digress from the Asia Cup, which for mainly political reasons has not happened for four years, but thank goodness now is back on the international calendar.
The second phase will be starting on Wednesday. Pakistan versus hosts Sri Lanka will be a big game. Talking from our [Pakistan's] perspective, all our batters have had time at the crease and the bowlers too have had a good workout.
Much has been discussed about shortening of run-ups. This has been overstated by the media, unfortunately. Shoaib Akhtar and I have discussed this at length and we are in the beginning of an experiment which may well elongate his career and allow him not to feel quite so fatigued after practice.
Interestingly, the critics as usual are unable to see the positive sides of this move, which, of course, is a pity and therefore puts both Shoaib and myself under pressure as we work towards a more streamlined Shoaib Akthar.
I think it is important for all those sceptics to know that Allan Donald and Sir Richard Hadlee had extreme success from a shortened run-up, not losing any pace and being able to bowl with more control and for longer spells than before. In reality, however, if it does not work for Shoaib, he always has what he knows to fall back on and as long as we work together during this phase I am sure that we will find exactly what suits Shoaib.
The second phase of the tournament will, for me, highlight just how much work is needed with the Pakistan team to bring it up to the highest level. That process is still in its infancy. For me, in particular, this is the reason why we coach. It is the anticipation, expectation, excitement, and constant learning curve that are all part of the job, all the time.