Kuala Lumpur: If the Indians were hoping to gain some advantage from Shane Warne’s long-distance ‘attack’ on John Buchanan, in the lead-up to Saturday’s face-off at the Kinrara Oval, that got scuttled when the Australian coach had a ten-minute chat with Test cricket’s highest wickettaker.
The theme: Clearing the air.
Warne, one learns, clarified that the tone of the reports coming out from the UK (where he currently is) wasn’t in harmony with what he had actually said. Also, he had been “positive” about the coach and remains “committed” to the principle of team solidarity.
The conversation took place on Friday evening after Warne responded to messages left on his phone by captain Ricky Ponting and Buchanan. As Warne couldn’t speak to Ponting, who was in the midst of a pool session, he requested the coach to brief him.
It’s unclear whether the issue is going to end with one call, but the Australians weren’t in disarray on the eve of the DLF Cup’s biggest match (Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s 50th) of the league stage. Incidentally, it has been quite a while — 31 months — since India and Australia last featured in a one-dayer which ran its course.
The one in Amstelveen (August 2004) had to be abandoned and if the weather continues to be messy — the Indians’ nets at the beautiful Turf Club had to be called off because of heavy rain — then we may have a repeat.
Having lost to the West Indies on the Duckworth/Lewis Method, on Thursday, the Indians can’t afford a situation (because of the weather or otherwise) where the points table continues to show a blank.
“We’ve had enough bad weather (from last month, in Sri Lanka) to last a couple of years... It’s frustrating, but we can’t control it... We’ve got to be at the top of our game throughout,” observed Rahul Dravid, the Indian captain.
“The other day (Tuesday), the West Indies were in control for three-fourths, but the Australians still came back strongly... We intend being positive and aggressive... We’re up against the best, but in the past year, we’ve ourselves played good cricket,” he added.
Dravid didn’t commit himself, but indicated Yuvraj Singh (who didn’t play versus the West Indies) could figure in the XI. Contacted at the team hotel, the top gun said: “I’m feeling fine and won’t have problems if selected...”
For Yuvraj to return, either Suresh Raina or one of the mediumpacers will have to sit out. On Thursday, barring Munaf Patel, others had simply not been spot on.
The face-off is going to be the first between the two countries in the Greg Chappell era. India’s coach (who has captained Australia), though, insisted there would be no emotions of the unusual kind. He told The Telegraph: “For me, it will be just another cricket match... Yeah, that’s it...”
Even fleetingly, then, no divided loyalties.
Asked whether he had seen a difference between this Indian team and the one in 2004, Ponting quipped: “Having an Australian as coach can make the most difference... He (Chappell) knows our game very well...”
How well should be evident not many hours from now.
Ponting couldn’t see much of the India-West Indies match, but remarked that his team “respected” India. Also, that Sachin Tendulkar’s return at the top of the order had lent “balance.”
He didn’t reveal his cards where the composition of the XI is concerned, but it’s going to be a surprise if Brett Lee doesn’t come into the frame.
The Sachin-Glenn McGrath duel will be eagerly watched, but the maestro emphasised that the contest would be between “two teams, not two individuals.” Sachin added: “Playing him is going to be a challenge...”
The match, by the way, will be played on the wicket which hosted Tuesday’s opener between Australia and the West Indies. The batsmen, surely, are going to be relieved.
INDIA (from): Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Irfan Pathan, Virender Sehwag, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Mohammed Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Rudra Pratap Singh, Munaf Patel
AUSTRALIA (from): Phil Jaques, Simon Katich, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Mark Cosgrove, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Bracken, Daniel Cullen, Glenn McGrath, Stuart Clark, Matthew Hayden, Brad Hogg, Mike Hussey, Brett Lee, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds
Umpires: Mark Benson, Tony Hill. TV: Asad Rauf
Match Referee: Chris Broad
Match starts: 12 noon (IST)
PONTING ON BEING NO.1
On Friday, captain Ricky Ponting spoke about Australia being the No.1 team. Here goes: “Others can always catch up... Being No.1 comes from winning matches... Winning even from difficult positions and it’s about turning the negative to positive... We’re keen to stretch our lead... Winning comes from ability, yes, but lots of self-belief and confidence as well... We’re in Kuala Lumpur to win...” Typically Ponting.
Our SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Kuala Lumpur