The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Openers have peaked in time

The comprehensive win in Hyderabad will make the Indian players see the final in a whole new light. Indians started the tournament as favourites but somehow slipped to the second place as far as the point-columns are concerned.

This position would have no bearing on the final as very few would disagree that it could be anybodyís game. It is the test of the nerves. Experience is the biggest asset needed at this hour to sail the ship across.

The Australian skipper is lucky in a way that he has called the crucial coin right on two out of three occasions. The only time when he lost the toss in Gwalior did cost him the game too.

The Australian openers have really made the best use of the noon conditions to set targets without any pressure. It looks like the ingrained confidence of the pulverising partners in Adam Gilchrist and Mathew Hayden can only be tested if put under pressure with the Indians putting good score on the board. Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn have flourished on the platform usually set by the openers.

Although, the batting depth is the one which is winning the game for the Australians, the bowling remains a weak link. Nevertheless, the bowlers have come good while defending huge total set by their batsmen.

The Indian openers have peaked in time and the team thinktank canít ask for a better timing. Tendulkar has been the most consistent for his side in this tournament and Sehwag among the runs from the last two games will be a sigh of relief for the Indian team. A last effort of an act of demolition will be expected from the diminutive openers in this tournament.

Laxman, walking into bat at Eden Gardens, will not be a pretty sight for the Australian players who figured in the famous historic Test two years ago. The Hyderabadi will be all set to make a mark again.

Rahulís knock in the last game showed up what sound technique could do when bowling is put to sword. I am sure he has realised a new batting package in himself.

Quite obviously, bowling has been a thankless job whereas batting has become the focal point. Though the Indian bowling has been accused of being off-colour at times, the true story is that the bowlers have delivered under lights on most of the occasions.

Bowlers bowling to defend a healthy score appears twice as effective as they would not be bowling to set a target for their batsmen.

Indian spearhead Zaheer has bowled his heart out on every occasion and has showed signs of dominance. A rare breed as he is must be feathered with care to last long. The biggest hindrance for Zaheerís progress is not the slow wickets but the Indian critics.

Nimble Ajit Agarkar has been an enigma for the side all these years. But in this tournament he has been the most successful bowler. His value, as an allrounder, has taken a new shape and he is now seen as a more reliable partner for Zaheer.

The value of experience will come in the form of senior Anil Kumble, the work horse of the Indian attack. Even Kartik has been making big strides in recent outings.

Australians are a tough unit and they would be keen to exorcise the ghosts of 2001 when two brilliant individual innings and a magnificent Harbhajan Singh scripted one of the most famous Tests of all times.

There would again be over 100,000 wildly cheering fans in the stands. Turning out in Eden Gardens both inspires and unnerves cricketers.

Australians now revisit the venue which shattered their dreams two years ago. It would be interesting to see if mind plays a part in the Australian performance on Tuesday.

The stage is all set for skipper Sourav Ganguly to win the toss. The Bengali seems to have done the trick after taking over the reins from the stand-in skipper. More of it will be required in the final. (PTI)

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