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May 4, 1999


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Up front, Down Under

Dean Jones

Many people believe Australia will win the World Cup, or at worst make the final. The Aussies have played reasonably well in the West Indies with a 2 all result in the Test Series and a 3-all {including a tie} in the one-day series.

 Steve Waugh
The whole West Indian tour has been marred by crowd problems, particularly in Guyana and Barbados. To add to these problems, Steve Waugh has copped legal action over claims that police persuaded the Australians to return to the field to avoid further rioting. Now let me tell you one thing about Steve Waugh - he is no liar, nor does he have a habit of fabricating a story as serious as this. It just sounds like a case of the police not taking the rap for the crowd behaviour.

Speaking of behaviour, I hope the World Cup organisers fix the problem shortly, as I have a very long memory. I can surely remember the crowds streaming onto the field after the 1975, 1979 and the 1983 World Cup Finals when the last ball is bowled. No player security there, just players and umpires running for their lives and allowing idiots to souvenir the stumps and bails.

 Michael Bevan
Anyway, the Aussies have played reasonably in recent weeks, and there is no need to reach your best cricket now. Simply put, you just have to win your last 3 games in the tournament to win the Cup. The only problems the Australians have, I believe, is with Michael Bevan and the question of which allrounder fits into their line up?

Bevan is an outstanding cricketer. Very fit, brilliant between the wickets, fantastic fieldsman and a very capable leg spinner. His average is over 60, obviously helped by the fact that 34 of his last 88 innings have been not out!

What is the problem with Bevan, you might ask? I believe Australia is not getting the best out of this champion. The Australian top order has been very inconsistent of late and this is putting a lot of pressure down the order. Steve Waugh believes Bevan is the best finisher in the game. Donít change something if it is not broken -- that might be right, captain, but it is a lot easier to fix a problem at 2/30 instead of when the score reads 4/30.

For the first time in his career, Bevan has spoken out loud to bat higher, maybe at No 4. ďI have batted there previously and it went well,Ē Bevan said. ďBut the selectors want me to bat at number six. Itís a case of fitting in with the team and I am happy to do that, and Darren Lehman is doing well at number four. I donít have a problem with overall scheme of things, but I would dearly love to bat at number four.Ē

Bevan deserves to bat higher -- but where? The current line up is Gilchrist, Mark Waugh, Ponting, Lehman, Steve Waugh and Bevan. The only change I would make is Steve Waugh to drop to six and Bevan to five. The feeling I have, reading between the lines, is that Bevan wants to be recognised as one of the best one day batsmen in the world. He knows that batting at number six, he cannot really be considered in the same light as Tendulkar, Lara, Anwar or Kirsten.

 Darren Lehman
There are still many critics who believe Bevan is no good against the new ball and would be a failure up the order. Also, the player batting in Bevanís preferred spot is Lehman -- a player the Yorkshire County Cricket Club selected in front of Bevan even after two fantastic seasons with them. I have no doubt that left a very sour taste in Bevanís mouth, with Lehman taking his County slot and now his batting spot!

Australia has another problem -- which allrounder will they go with at the start of the tournament? The choice is between Moody, Julian, Martyn or Lee. All four players have only shown flashes of promise, and no one's putting their hand up. Australia has not had a great allrounder since Simon O'Donnell. By gee, he was a good player -- the kind who could make a fifty in the last 10 overs in the match or simply bamboozle batsmen with his change up of deliveries bowling at the death.

Moody played satisfactory in the Windies but only took one wicket. Julian was the same, averaging the same as Moody with the bat but averaging 181 with the ball. Shane Lee average only 15 with the bat but bowled well to capture 9 wickets and averaged 24. Martyn played well in Australia but only played 2 matches on the tour.

My choice would be for Shane Lee who has great form in England when he played for Somerset in 1996 and is playing with a lot of confidence now.

There is one thing many people have forgotten -- just look at the Aussie record on English soil. The Aussies won the Ashes in 1989, 1993 and 1997. To do that, many players must have played pretty well on Pommy soil. Confidence is a major ingredient for success. Many Australians have had some great times there, and will look forward to keeping their record intact.

Let the Cup begin, and lets hope the best team wins -- and may that team be Australia!

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