The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India blaze away to record high

Sydney, Jan.3: For a team accustomed to running through the opposition as a knife eases into butter, the Australians are in quite a bit of bother. Moreover, given the Indian top order’s blazing form, it’s debatable whether even a Glenn McGrath could have stopped Sachin Tendulkar and V.V.S. Laxman at the SCG.

In fact, at stumps on Day II of the decider, the Australians were left clutching straws. And, despite senior pro Adam Gilchrist’s “all isn’t lost” theme, it’s difficult imagining how they can win back the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Not after the Indians, driven by the multiple record-erasing partnership between Sachin and Laxman (353 for the fourth-wicket) reached their highest overseas score.

While Laxman was brilliant throughout his 178 (403 minutes, 298 balls, 30x4) with sublime timing and extraordinary wrist-play, Sachin worked hard for his runs. He was hungry for a big score and, even if that meant shifting into a mode which didn’t come naturally, he didn’t think twice about doing so. That’s laudable.

Unless the unthinkable occurs, the Indians have already ensured they can’t lose the Test (and series). It will either be a draw or another win for Sourav Ganguly. “Yes, I suppose we have definitely ruled out one possibility (of Australia being victorious)... Now, it’s going to be up to our bowlers,” Sourav told The Telegraph.

Of course, he couldn’t confirm whether an overnight declaration would be effected or it would be in place once 700 had been touched. Unbeaten at the close today were Sachin on a career-best 220 (574 minutes, 419 deliveries, 30x4) and the tenacious Parthiv Patel (45 in 52 minutes, 40 balls, 7x4).

Resuming on 284 for three, the Indians lost Laxman a shade over 24 hours after Rahul Dravid’s departure late on the first afternoon, and Sourav. The captain, who briefly help up play as his contacts shifted, was on the lookout for quick runs and had no clue to a beauty from Brett Lee.

But for that wicket, that too rather late, Lee had nothing to show for during the day. A big let-down, then, for Steve who stuck his neck out for the quickest in his stable. Equally, nobody else made an impression with Stuart MacGill very ordinary. Looking back, the Australians may have done better if Andy Bichel was called back to the XI.

That, however, is something which can only be debated.

“We aren’t walking around as if all is lost... We haven’t really dropped our heads... But, yes, we have serious work to do,” remarked Gilchrist, acknowledging that the Indians have been the toughest both at home (2000-2001) and now. Perhaps, to lift his own morale, he added: “Everything is possible as three days remain...”

The die, though, has been cast.

Meanwhile, with Sachin coming good in the one innings that mattered, much of the attention will now be on what influenced the turnaround. All credit to the Little Maestro himself, but former Australian captain Greg Chappell revealed that the mental toughness bit dominated his “interaction” with Sachin in Melbourne.

“It’s not proper to go into everything, but mental toughness was the theme of my interaction... I listened to what Sachin had to say and, then, suggested he should go back to everything he would do when batting well. He has done so,” Greg maintained, speaking exclusively.

First it was Sourav, then Sachin... It’s time the Board looked to involving the icon in some manner or the other.

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