Friday 9 March 2007 

Sunil Gavaskar: Australia Not Popular Winners

Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar believes world champions Australia are not popular winners and their recent loss of form must have gladdened the hearts of their World Cup rivals.

Australia are aiming to become the first team to win a hat-trick of World Cup trophies but their build-up for the cricket extravaganza was anything but perfect after they lost five successive one-day internationals earlier this year.

"Australia's come-uppance at the hands of England and New Zealand has gladdened the hearts of not just the other aspirants for the World Cup but also the followers of the game," the former batting great wrote in a column in the India Today magazine.

"There is not the slightest doubt that in the last decade or so the Aussies have been awesome... but they have also been awful in the way they have sometimes behaved on the field much to the chagrin of the traditional fans of the game.

"Unlike the West Indian teams of the 1970s and 1980s which dominated world cricket in much the same way as the Australians are doing now, the Australians are not popular.

"They (West Indies) went about their job in a no fuss manner and hardly, if ever, had anything to say to the opponents unlike the Aussies who have plenty to say and seldom in a humorous way," he said referring to the sledging tactics used by the world champions.

Gavaskar, who is the chairman of the International Cricket Council's cricket committee, however said Australia will start favourites in the competition, though their bowling was not sharp as before.

"It would only be a fool who would rule out the Australians as the favourites to win the World Cup for the third consecutive time.

"If anything, their batting is still as destructive as it has been and it's the bowling which has lost its sharp edge and finding it tough to defend even huge totals.

"The number of times opponents have overtaken 300-plus totals that the Australians have set is an indication that there is not the awe about the Aussie bowlers that was there a season or so ago."

The World Cup begins on Tuesday with host West Indies facing Pakistan in Jamaica in the first match.

© Reuters 2007