| Matthew Hayden takes a close look at kebabs at a party in Mumbai on Friday. (AFP)
Mumbai: “Sachin Tendulkar' He’s a volcano waiting to erupt,” was an immortal Darryl Tuffey line after the recent India-New Zealand Test series. But for the elements, Sachin would have caused havoc in Chennai, during the opening TVS Cup game itself. Only, when he did erupt — in Gwalior — the heat was felt by Australia and not the Black Caps.
Team India, though, requires another Sachin-scripted eruption to move towards booking a berth in the November 18 final. Of course, nothing will be more appreciated — in these parts, certainly — if that comes about on his home turf not many hours from now.
The pressure factor will surely come into play in a bigger way but, as stand-in captain Rahul Dravid pointed out, it’s not that Sachin hasn’t got runs at the Wankhede. In fact, seven years ago, he posted 114 against South Africa.
Dravid was responding to Ricky Ponting’s thoughts on Sachin. Perhaps, it had something to do with ‘strategy’, as the Australian captain spoke at some length about the maestro “being under pressure.” He did add, as an afterthought, that even he gets somewhat weighed down (at home) by expectations.
Whatever, the world champions shouldn’t depend wholly on the pressure getting to Sachin. Equally, Team India must work towards forging a collective effort (quite like Gwalior) instead of just looking to the sport’s hottest signature for maximum points and a shot at the Rs 10 lakh winners’ purse instituted by the sponsors on Friday.
Moreover, the 37-run victory in Gwalior shouldn’t encourage misplaced notions. Dravid said as much during a brief chat with The Telegraph: “I wouldn’t say the win has taken away much of the pressure... It’s a long tournament... Simply put, there’s lots of cricket left”
It’s not insignificant that, within days of the Gwalior setback, Australia cut New Zealand to pieces in Faridabad. Never before, in any of the 239 ODIs across India, did a match get over in 50.2 overs.
If the world champions wanted to make a statement, they couldn’t have authored anything more telling.
“We’ll have to land the ball in the right areas and be more disciplined... Some of the bigger names haven’t come, but I’m never going to underestimate any Australian side,” remarked Dravid, even as Ponting acknowledged Saturday’s game was a “big” one.
Having got a mere two and 12 thus far, Ponting will himself be under pressure. “I hope to get it right soon,” he quipped. Actually, if the electrifying openers (Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden) don’t fire, the onus will be on Ponting to set the agenda.
The same holds true for Dravid who, in what turned out to be a smart move, held himself back when quick runs was the need at the closing stages in Gwalior. Incidentally, he indicated that such “flexibility” will be a feature throughout the tri-series.
However, the in-form V.V.S. Laxman — he has had an amazing three weeks beginning with the Motera Test — is unlikely to be shifted from No. 3. Really, he must not.
Given that Dravid isn’t opposed to experimenting, it won’t surprise if either Harbhajan Singh or Virender Sehwag gets to open with Zaheer Khan. That will be an unusual move and could upset the carefully-plotted plans of John Buchanan and Ponting.
With so much at stake for the World Cup finalists, something unpredictable is what may eventually make the difference. In any case, the toss shouldn’t be a huge factor as innings No. 2 won’t be affected by dew.
Unusually for a one-dayer, the wicket has been the centre of much discussion — thanks to the re-laying earlier this year. Even more unusually, it hasn’t hosted a single match after the top was consigned to the Arabian Sea, which isn’t many metres away.
“I’m not an expert on wickets but, hopefully, it’s going to be good,” Dravid commented. As for former India captain Polly Umrigar, who is back as curator, he opined: “It ought to produce quality cricket... There will be something for both the quicks and spinners...”
Traditionally, the Wankhede has good carry and, at different times during the day, swing bowlers get more than token assistance.
Statistically speaking, the home side has an overall 6-5 advantage at the venue — a pointer that conditions are pretty neutral. No team, though, has touched 300 (India managed 299 for four in the opening ODI, versus Sri Lanka, back in January 1987).
While India are set to retain the XI which did duty in Chennai and Gwalior, there’s talk that Australia could effect a change and field Michael Clarke, who bats right-handed and bowls left-arm medium pace.
For now, the bottomline reads: A ‘wounded’ Australia against a high-on-adrenaline India. Nothing less than a cracker is expected in front of a capacity crowd, which will include ‘debutant’ boxwallahs in the Sunil Gavaskar stand.
An Indian victory, by the way, will see Team India climb to third place in the (official) ICC ratings — behind Australia and South Africa.
India (likely): Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Ajit Agarkar, Parthiv Patel, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan.
Australia (from): Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds, Michael Bevan, Ian Harvey, Brad Hogg, Andy Bichel, Nathan Bracken, Brad Williams and Michael Clarke.
Umpires: Neil Mallender, A.V. Jayaprakash. TV umpire: K.Hariharan.
Border on Sachin
Meanwhile, the highest rungetter in Tests, Allan Border (11, 174) believes that Sachin Tendulkar may finish with 13,000. At the moment, he has 8,882 from 107 appearances. Border, one of four selectors, is on tour with Ponting and Co.
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