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The World needs consolation

S. Dinakar

Pietersen may miss final one-dayer

  • Pietersen's fitness will be reassessed on Sunday
  • World players are not lacking in effort, feels Wright
  • Katich also doubtful for Sunday's action

    Melbourne: The Aussie hunger and desire are back. An ODI series triumph over an assorted side, even if it happens to be the World XI, cannot compensate for the Ashes setback. Yet, the series has offered some consolation to Ricky Ponting and his men following a campaign wrapped in pain.

    The Australian celebration at the Telstra Dome on Friday reflected the value of the victory to a side swamped by criticism at home after the crushing disappointments in the Old Blighty.

    The Aussie body language on the field radiated confidence. In England, the side appeared to have been consumed by self-doubts. Now it was a buoyant outfit and it could sting.

    In contrast, the World XI came across as a tired, flat opponent. There was a feeling that this team of superstars lacked the drive and the motivation. The question to be asked is — does playing for the country get the best out of the cricketers?

    Indeed, the Aussies seemed fuel-driven by raw passion that is intertwined with representing one's nation. Their opponents did not quite display the same levels of commitment.

    World XI coach John Wright made it clear that his players were not lacking in effort. He dwelt on the bonding in the side and how much the stars from the various nations enjoyed playing with each other. But then, this World side has performed in fits and starts. Flashes of brilliance have been visible; a collective effort has been absent.

    The third and final match of the ICC Johnnie Walker Super Series here on Sunday will not have any bearing on the outcome of the series. The fact does not present Shaun Pollock's side in favourable light.

    Work on the field

    The Australians have played like champions. They have been super sharp on the field. The World fielding has been rather ordinary. And it is the work on the field that enables a side to apply pressure.

    Even during that phase on Friday when Chris Gayle and Kumara Sangakkara unleashed a barrage of strokes, the Aussies were always looking at a breakthrough since their fielding was consistently brilliant. Once the breach was made, there was no stopping the men in yellow.

    Adam Gilchrist was unstoppable too. Here is a genius who managed to change the dynamics of his occupation. His greatness is unquestioned. Gilchrist's chemistry with his new opening partner Simon Katich seems to be just right. Both are left-handers but their methods are different. The bowlers are forced to alter their length. Katich, though, is doubtful for the Sunday's game after injuring his groin.

    The World XI could be without England sensation Kevin Pietersen. A scan revealed a thigh strain. For a side struggling for batting form, his absence could be another blow. Wright said Pietersen's fitness would be reassessed on Sunday.

    Chance for Lara, Kallis

    The series has been decided. But the stage is still right for a Brian Lara or a Jacques Kallis to make a statement. Lara has often taken flight down under. If he waltzes, the Telstra Dome will swoon. The man's enormously popular in these parts.

    Another extraordinary cricketer, Muttiah Muralitharan survived a tense moment on Friday when Darrell Hair was one of the on-field umpires. The manner in which the crowd responded to this whole-hearted cricketer showed cricket did travel beyond the boundaries.

    There are the superstars and there are some on the fringes. Australia's Shane Watson and Nathan Bracken have grabbed a lifeline. Life continues to be hard for the World players.

    The teams (from): Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Adam Gilchrist, Damien Martyn, Mike Hussey, Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Cameron White, Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, James Hopes, Stuart Clarke, Nathan Bracken, Simon Katich.

    World XI: Shaun Pollock (captain), Virender Sehwag, Chris Gayle, Kumara Sangakkara, Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis, Brian Lara, Andrew Flintoff, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Akhtar, Makhaya Ntini, Muttiah Muralitharan, Daniel Vettori, Kevin Pietersen.

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