| Dravid feels the first 15 overs will be crucial, either batting or fielding
Gwalior, Oct. 25: Sun Tsu’s works have always been John Buchanan’s favourite. Be it “invincibility comes from defence, possibility of victory comes from attack” or, “you know yourself, you know your enemy, you can fight a thousand battles without disaster”, the Australian coach used the messages from the Chinese general’s Art of War to enthuse the team during the World Cup.
They were simply a reminder of what the team has achieved over the past several months, that the defence (bowling and fielding) was the key to their success.
From the Wanderers to the Captain Roop Singh Stadium, a good seven months have passed. Very little has changed for the World Cup finalists except that they have lost their bowling mainstays to injuries, while India will have to do without Sourav Ganguly and Ashish Nehra.
The Aussies have maintained their indomitable status. Attacking is how they play their best cricket. The bowling sans Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie may be short on depth but the batting remains as aggressive as ever.
Aggression in the Indian ranks will not have the same meaning in Sourav’s absence. Not without reason, the Aussies have a strong dislike for his attitude. The zeal to succeed, the determination not to consider any cause as lost and his enthusiasm will be sorely missed. The visitors are adept at mind games and Sourav has always been an impediment in their wicked ways.
“The Indians will miss Sourav, not us,” said a beaming Ricky Ponting on Saturday afternoon.
As the teams worked out, the historic fort overlooking the stadium posed a superb backdrop to the preparations. It is sure to inspire the likes of Matthew Hayden and Sachin Tendulkar to rewrite record books on the belter that has been laid out for the second match of the TVS Cup.
A bright smile dawned on Hayden’s cheeks and his green eyes sparkled in anticipation as he sat on the surface trying to get a closer view of the pitch. “A 350 par-for-the-course,” was all the world’s most consistent performer would say, the world Test record 380 sitting pretty on his head like a crown.
Stand-in skipper Rahul Dravid was not looking that far. “Anything below 250 will be easily gettable. We have to aim for excess of 250 and be positive,” he said.
Dravid was only hoping that the Aussie blaster would be forced to shed his murderous ways on Sunday. “Hopefully he’ll play one in the air and depart early,” Dravid quipped.
“Hayden is batting as well as anybody else. Every innings is a new beginning and if we can bowl wicket-to-wicket and stick to the basics, we can get him at the outset,” he explained.
Sachin, however, has not been much of a success at this ground but the sight of the Australians always puts him into a different mode. He seemed in good nick in Chennai till the rain hampered his progress.
The Indians are likely to go into the game with an unchanged XI that did duty against New Zealand on Thursday. The visitors have left out Jimmy Maher, Michael Kasprowicz and Michael Clarke from the squad.
Dravid did not think the toss would be much of a deciding factor though Ponting felt the side batting first could get some advantage.
“I think the wicket will turn as the match goes on. The dew will come into play in the evening and that could be a crucial factor. Conditions change here too much during the course of the game,” said the Aussie skipper.
Though his Indian counterpart downplayed the dew factor, he seemed wary of the first 15 overs. “The first 15 overs are going to be important, whether we bat or bowl,” said Dravid.
He, however, did not wish to dwell on the World Cup defeats and instead focused ahead. “The World Cup is past. The conditions will be different here. The Aussies will be without some of their key players but that hardly affects their performance. We’re not taking anything for granted,” Dravid explained.
Ponting, too, wasn’t inclined to make any forecast. “Wickets here are pretty good. We are playing three one-day games against India and New Zealand. We have to see the first couple of games before making any predictions,” he said.
The trio of Adam Gilchrist, Ponting and Damien Martyn is, however, capable of putting all calculations to shame. The World Cup final will always remain a case in point.
India: Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, V.V.S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Ajit Agarkar, Parthiv Patel, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan.
Australia: Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds, Michael Bevan, Ian Harvey, Andy Bichel, Nathan Bracken, Brad Hogg, Brad Williams.
Umpires: Neil Mallender (England), K. Hariharan (India).
Hours of play: 2.30 to 6 pm. 6.30 pm to 10.15 pm