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Tendulkar is back, doesn't it feel better?

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PETER ROEBUCK
PETER ROEBUCK

By no means is it an ordinary summer

By no means is it an ordinary summer

A long campaign has begun. In the space of a few months, a World Cup, a Champions Trophy and another Ashes series will be decided. It's going to be enthralling. By next April, a hundred issues will have been settled, a thousand rumours will have been heard some of them almost true fifty conspiracy theories will have been mooted, none of them well pitched.

Darrell Hair will have upset someone, the ICC will have been savaged by the usual drooling dogs, Peter Chingoka will still be destroying Zimbabwean cricket, Australia will have a new coach and West Indies will have staged its first major cricketing event. By no means is it an ordinary summer.

Much can be foretold. Within seven months, supporters will be happy or enraged and the strongest teams will have been identified. The Ashes brings together the two highest ranked Test teams in a five-match series. The World Cup throws every powerful cricketing force into a pot and says "good luck!"

Afterwards there can be no arguments, no talk about ill-fortune or poor umpiring or injuries or any other excuses. Schumacher, Federer, Woods, and other genuine champions keep winning. It can be done.

Clocks are ticking

No less importantly, several famous players will have announced their retirements, including a few distinguished Australians with families to think about, and others whose clocks are ticking.

Before too much time has passed all four of the champions of the age Shane Warne, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Glenn McGrath will have gone the way of all cricketing flesh, whereupon their minor foibles will be forgotten and their towering contributions remembered. They will be sorely missed.

Already the programme is underway. India, West Indies and Australia have been exchanging blows in Malaysia. Although the venue is a cricketing backwater, the weather inclement and the players as rusty as an ancient ambassador, still the tournament is important.

Military men argue that, as a rule, victory goes to the best prepared battalion. All three teams are intent on building confidence and developing a settled side for forthcoming confrontations.

False dawn

Assisted by rain, sublime batting from their captain and belligerent contributions from Chris Gayle, West Indies has managed to reach the final. It might prove to be another false dawn for Caribbean cricket. In its pomp, West Indies could field a team of thinking, capable cricketers.

Nowadays, the side seems to lack weight of mind. Lara's outfit is a thing of shreds and patches. Burdened with a vulnerable middle-order, wobbly bowling, a long tail and unreliable fielding, the West Indian resurgence still hovers on the horizon. Dwayne Bravo and Dinesh Ramdin are the men to watch out for. The future is in their hands.

India and Australia found themselves fighting to join the West Indians in the final. Despite early setbacks, both captains and coaches must be pleased with the progress of their sides.

Australia will be delighted that Matthew Hayden has taken the chance to demand a place, relieved that McGrath's comeback is on track and excited that Mitchell Johnson has emerged as another fiery antipodean paceman.

As far as India is concerned, one simple fact compensates for all the concerns about the middle-order batting, and so forth.

At the start of the second World War, the naval ministry sent out a message to all its ships, a message that had a powerful effect on the morale of every admiral and sailor in the fleet. The message was simple and short. Three words sufficed. "Winston is back!"

Tendulkar is back. Doesn't it feel better?

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