Cricket: Referee pulls plug on Cronje

India 253-5 (50 overs) v South Africa S C Ganguly 97 R S Dravid 54 L Klusener 3-66
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THE LEADING teams will attempt different approaches in their efforts to win the seventh World Cup, it emerged yesterday. Australia's strategy, given Shane Warne's scathing newspaper comments about Arjuna Ranatunga, might be described as "in your face".

South Africa, on the other hand, decided to adopt a ploy of "in your ear" during their opening match of the competition at Hove. Warne was given a suspended suspension by the International Cricket Council after his polemical column in which he suggested the game would be better off without the Sri Lankan captain.

Naturally, the game's ruling body was much more decisive in dealing with South Africa. For 17 overs of their exciting match with India, two of their players sported earpieces through which they received advice and encouragement from their coach, Bob Woolmer, on the dressing-room balcony. At that point, when the first drinks break came, the match referee, Talat Ali, pulled the plugs on both Hansie Cronje and Allan Donald.

Whether it had any effect on the outcome of a contest, which, if it did not set the tournament ablaze managed to spark the kindling, is unlikely, but earpieces will doubtless be back. Had Woolmer been able to continue to dispense his instant wisdom it would have been worth hearing how he might have reduced India's score of 253 for 5, or how he might have suggested the amendment of some errant shots during his team's frequently difficult pursuit.

The target was one South Africa would doubtless have settled for when they lost the toss - it is not clear if Woolmer was giving captain Cronje guidance on the call from the sidelines - and the technology did not claim any credit for the dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar in the 16th over of the day. The most talented batsman on earth merely failed get enough bat on a ball he wanted to squeeze to third man for a single and was caught behind.

Disappointment for all but South Africa supporters then, but it did not dim the joyous enthusiasm of the Indian contingent. They maintained a good-natured, noisy and close involvement in the game throughout the day despite being cribbed, cabin'd and confined in the old seaside ground. It was a happy occasion but Hove, with a building site on one side of the ground - during a tournament which has been planned for four years - looked shabby. Did England truly want this splendid competition?

The game, earpieces and shabbiness apart, was thoroughly pleasant. After Tendulkar went, India assembled a workman-like total unfussily. Sourav Ganguly obviously likes making runs in this country. On his Test debut against England three years ago he made a century at Lord's and another one at Trent Bridge. He merely continued where he had left off.

There is nothing much elegant about him, but he has a cunning late cut and a jackhammer drive. He and Rahul Dravid put on 130 in 26 overs and were never under pressure. Dravid, too, came to initial prominence on their last tour of England and seems equally at home here. When he was bowled by Lance Klusener, essaying something immense across the line, a big total was still threatened.

But, seven runs later, the game threw up another man certain to be a feature of the tournament. Ganguly played another cut to backward point and checked before embarking on his run to see if the fielder had stopped it. The fielder was Jonty Rhodes. He had made acres of his ground and flung himself full length. Mohammad Azharuddin meanwhile called Ganguly for a single. Rhodes rose to his knees, twisted and threw to the waiting bowler, Jacques Kallis. The run out was simple. No matter how many times Rhodes does this, batsmen still take their chances, and no matter how often we see Rhodes doing it we can never tire of it. It was quite splendid.

India went on nevertheless. The rest of South Africa's throwing from the deep was not as accurate but Nicky Boje took an imperious running catch on the boundary and there were a couple of parsimonious late overs. India had a total which was more than reasonable, they might have had more.

Woolmer spent much of the break talking of earpieces to assembled press men. This might have deprived him of the chance of telling his charges the tactics they should follow for the chase. Herschelle Gibbs was lbw early to Javagal Srinath and, in the seventh over, Gary Kirsten chopped on. At 22 for 2, South Africa looked as though they might need all their vaunted all-round strength.

When Mark Boucher was bowled a by a lovely top spinner from Anil Kumble, the South Africans were in some difficulty. Walkie-talkies might have struggled to get them out of it, let alone earpieces. Daryll Cullinan's exit, a big drive producing a leading edge and a catch, merely confirmed that this was going to be elementary for nobody. Kallis's presence was vital, in different senses, for both sides.