The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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First fifteen overs will hold key, feel captains
India to go in with unchanged XI Aussies promise aggressive cricket

Pretoria: Australia are reigning champions alright, but aren’t taking India lightly. Indeed, on the eve of the potentially high-voltage World Cup Pool A match, Ricky Ponting revealed his side had been “focussing” on seven Indians.

That, in a way, confirms Sachin Tendulkar’s belief that no one individual ought to be singled out. Yet, in recent times, the attention in most India-Australia games has been on Sachin and Shane Warne. Centurion’s SuperSport Park, though, won’t see Warne and much of the focus will invariably be on Sachin.

The maestro himself had this to say: “We are in a team sport and, so, no one individual can have the biggest influence. It simply can’t be a one man show,” he told The Telegraph.

It’s to be seen whether any one player will actually have the maximum impact — it could be Sachin himself — but the match, second for both sides, shouldn’t have anything at a premium.

“We’re ready” was the message conveyed by the captains, Sourav Ganguly and Ponting, Friday, with both realising that more than four points is at stake. After all, the winner will be that much more assured about qualifying for the Super Six — No.1 priority for teams that count.

Eventually, the handling of the first 15 overs (both while batting and bowling) may make the biggest difference. Ponting, in fact, spoke about it while interacting with the Media. Sourav didn’t disagree.

But, really, if nerves will be taut, the ability to stay calm could also have a bearing. More so as ‘words’ are bound to be exchanged and the Brett Lees will be looking to intimidate.

“We do intend being aggressive while batting, bowling and fielding. It’s a big game and sustaining that aggression will be helpful,” remarked Australian coach John Buchanan, while talking exclusively.

The Indians (thankfully) seem relaxed and, as coach John Wright put it, that’s “encouraging”. He added: “The wicket looks good, which is another positive sign. “Sourav, too, had much the same views on the 22-yard strip.

India and Australia haven’t played each other for 22 months, but both know what to expect. In any case, with live telecasts and computer analysts, nothing ever gets missed. The days of surprises are effectively over.

On form, the Australians are way ahead. However, it will be foolish to dismiss India as a bit-role player only. An upset is not beyond Sourav’s side — they have done so in the past, can do so again.

Sourav, though, didn’t commit himself beyond emphasising “it’s going to be a pressure match”. Besides whatever else, he must get the bowling changes right and Adam Gilchrist will have to be stopped early. The game won’t be over then, but it will be a huge boost for India.

The Indians are keeping faith in the XI which beat Holland in Paarl, while Andrew Symonds’ brilliant unbeaten 143 against Pakistan has caused complications. It’s only rarely that somebody in form poses a headache — Symonds has done just that.

Had he flopped, the axe would have headed his way. Now, with both Darren Lehmann and Michael Bevan available, Ponting and Buchanan are debating whether Ian Harvey should also follow Jimmy Maher out of the XI.

Harvey is in the XII announced Friday afternoon, but it’s likely that he will remain in the dressing room and the fifth bowler’s duty will be shared by Symonds, Lehmann, Bevan and Ponting himself.

Unless there’s much moisture — by the way, it rained in these parts twice during the day — the captain winning the toss should look to set a target.


India: Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Dinesh Mongia, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Jawagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan.

Australia (likely): Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Darren Lehmann, Michael Bevan, Andrew Symonds, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Glenn McGrath.

Umpires: David Shepherd, Asoka de Silva. Third Umpire: Be Jerling. Match Referee: Clive Lloyd.

Match starts: 1.30 pm (IST).

n Head-to-Head, on Page 19

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