The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fifth bowler not a bad idea
- Opening slot India’s principal concern on tour Down Under
The burden of opening may fall on Dravid again
Zaheer is experienced enough to succeed

The Indians, who embark on the Australian tour on Friday, are a resolute lot with the will to do well. Being part of the team all this while, I know on a tough and challenging tour like this one, all they need is positive help from every quarter and not just criticism. After all we are part of the system from where the team is picked.

The seasoned Indian campaigners will be looking for a new formula to better the previous results. The younger lot will be very eager to make a mark which would have a big impression on their future cricket.

No batsman becomes important without scoring runs Down Under and no bowler’s career is fulfilling having not done well in Australia. Although, the drawn home Test series against the Kiwis and the inexcusable defeat against the Australians in the tri-series final do not point to an auspicious start of the season, the Indian team lands in Adelaide with fresh hope and new ideas.

The Indian batting line up looks the best in comparison to the previous tours. With Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid playing the lead role, V.V.S. Laxman and Sourav Ganguly really lend credibility to the Indian batting.

The opening slot remains undecided and to my knowledge it might invariably fall on the shoulders of Dravid during the course of the four Tests. For, Akash Chopra, Deep Dasgupta or Sadgopan Ramesh will have to really show great temperament and technique to offer resistance to the new ball.

It is sad that the Indian opening slot has never looked settled for years. Either the players have not capitalised on chances or the people of our country with great cricketing expertise have not tried enough to impart the knowledge of dealing with the new ball.

Over the years Tendulkar has fought a lone battle with the other batsmen not really dominating as much as they can, but now with huge experience behind them our batsmen can definitely make this trip a different one from the last two series.

It will be really interesting to see how Virender Sehwag applies himself on this tour. A splendid maiden hundred at Headingly against England is a pointer for people not to write him off at any stage and I am sure, he will be keenly looking up to Tendulkar and Dravid to help him on this challenging series. Laxman would be a treat to watch as he has this tremendous affinity to take the Australian attack on.

A fit Ashish Nehra will form the right combination with Ajit Agarkar being the first change bowler. The captain will have a real problem in choosing between the two spinners. The pre-Test games will be the measuring scale for the spinners.

Though, it is the Australia tour for Zaheer and Nehra, they have enough experience and success behind them to do well in this series. With Wasim Akram around, doing commentary, I am sure they will not hesitate to look up to him for useful tips.

It has been a normal practice for years to go into a Test match with four regular bowlers. A change in strategy to add an extra fifth by dropping a batsman is not a bad idea either. If the first five batsmen can’t deliver it is highly improbable that a sixth batsman would succeed. But definitely a fifth bowler can bring in a lot of variety into the attack and give the much required rest to the main bowlers by sharing the workload.

The world champions seldom lose any games, but any defeat they face will be dealt with vengeance at the right time. The series loss in their last Indian tour will be one thing on their minds to make our lives hard. Indians being the underdogs have nothing to lose but everything to gain.

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