| Dravid says it’s time to show India can compete
Brisbane: The repeated failures of Virender Sehwag is inspiring little confidence among fans but the Delhi opener has received a vote of confidence from coach John Wright ahead of the first Test against Australia.
“We back Sehwag and respect his enormous ability. He is very strong and bright. The way he plays his game on fast and true pitches, he could give us a rousing start,” said Wright suggesting the swashbuckling young player would still come out to open the Indian innings in the Gabba Test starting on Thursday.
Sehwag has had scores of 20, 23, 6 and 5 in the four innings on tour so far and back home he was not too successful against Australia in the tri-series. But Wright feels he has the ability to come good, provided he recaptures his form quickly.
“We still rate him well but he obviously needs to find better form,” he said.
“Opening is a critical part of our success overseas. We hope we can improve in that area. If we can get through the first period, the middle-order would have a chance. It is hugely important to us,” the New Zealander said.
Meanwhile, India’s pace battery on Tuesday got the “much needed help” with former Australian pacer Bruce Reid joining the squad.
The 40-year-old Reid, who has been appointed as the bowling coach for the four-Test series against Australia, had a session with the pacers before spending some more time with left-arm seamers Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan.
Reid took the two for a quiet session where he stressed upon them the correct wrist position and the arc in which the arm should swing at the point of delivery.
Wright admitted the form of his bowlers has suffered because of the surfeit of one-day games in recent times and said it has affected the spinners in particular.
“This year in particular we have been playing a lot of one-day games. We have played only two Tests and it does affect bowlers, more so the spinners,” Wright said.
The coach noted that Sachin Tendulkar could come in handy as third spinner. “He could be the third spinner of the side. I agree it is a resource we need to encourage. More so on this tour as it would balance our attack. My mind goes back to the 2-3 wickets he took in Calcutta (in 2001 against Australia) and created an opening for us to win.
“When it’s working for him and pitching for him, it works great. We have talked about that with him and that is a possibility with us,” he said.
Wright said the first day of the series will be extremely important for the team as it begins its quest to win matches in Australia. “We have certainly come here to win matches. I know what this side is capable of. Surely, the first day of the series will be very important.”
Vice-captain Rahul Dravid has promised fans that the team will not get overawed by the reputation of the Australians in the Test series.
“They are the No. 1 side and therein lies the opportunity for us. We have a chance to show we can compete, there’s no point getting overawed,” Dravid said.
“They are a tough side and if you are going to match them over the course of a four-Test series, then you have got to have belief and confidence and fight through tough times.
“There would be tough days on the tour. Hopefully, we can keep our chin up and keep fighting right through the tour,” said Dravid.
Dravid sought to underplay the reputation of the world champions and termed it as no different tour than they have undertaken in recent times.
“I don’t see it as a last frontier. Indeed, we have a lot of frontiers to cross. We have a lot of challenges to meet and we see this tour as one of those challenges. It’s no different than any other tour,” said the batsman.
Indians have won only six of their last 67 Tests abroad and only three of the 27 games they have played in Australia, their last win Down Under coming 22 years ago in Melbourne during the 1980-81 tour.
Dravid remembers all too well that he was a flop on the last tour to Australia. He made just 93 runs from six innings but does not want to get into a mindset where he would look to prove a point.
“On the last tour I just wasn’t batting well. When you are not batting well against very good bowlers, they make you pay. They punished me last time simply because I wasn’t playing good cricket,” he said.
“But I am not out here to make any points. I am just out to play good cricket. I am going to try and repeat what I have done over the last couple of years. I want to try and do the basics right.”
“It was a good preparation for us in two games. We made a few runs and took a few wickets. Most of the guys had a good hit in the middle, spent time and had a good bowl. Touring teams do a lot of mixing and matching in three-day games and we were no different.”