Cricket World Cup: Howard catches final fever

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The Independent Online
THE AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister John Howard suggested employers should understand if people arrive late for work on Monday after watching Australia in the World Cup final against Pakistan at Lord's.

But Howard, a passionate cricket fan, did not go as far as former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who effectively gave workers permission to take the day off when Australia won yachting's America's Cup.

Hansie Cronje will spend the coming three months pondering the next step in his cricketing career, he said.

The South Africa captain is refusing to commit himself in the immediate aftermath of the epic semi-final defeat at Edgbaston. With the coach, Bob Woolmer, and Peter Pollock, the chairman of selectors, both leaving the set-up, the 29-year-old wants to allow the situation to develop before he acts.

"I'm not saying yes or no to anything but you need to have time to decide these things," said Cronje, appointed captain when he was aged 25 in the winter of 1994-95. "I've got a three-month break now. It's time to do some soul-searching, to sit down and see where we are.

"There's a new chairman of selectors and coach, and you have to see how you fit into their plans and strategies in the future. I think it would be very foolish to make decisions at the end of a season and after a close game like that; you need time to reflect and have time to yourself."

Former captain Hanif Mohammad yesterday warned Pakistan against complacency but backed his nation to win the World Cup.

"Looking back at their performance, I think only one team can beat Pakistan and that is Pakistan. Complacency will be their biggest enemy." Hanif said. "The top order, which was struggling in the initial stages of the event, got morale-boosting runs in the semi-final while the bowling is the best amongst all participants. The bowling has variety, punch and kill."

Intikhab Alam, manager of the 1992 World Cup-winning team, said he had high hopes but emphasised that a lot of work still had to be done.

"Extras have to be curtailed," he said. "It was criminal to concede 47 extras against New Zealand. The fielding and running between the wickets has to be improved."