| Simon Katich acknowledges cheers after scoring his maiden Test century at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Monday. (AP)
Sydney: A big day for Sourav Ganguly and an even bigger day for Team India... Clearly, Tuesday isnít going to be just another day. Understandably, the ones marked out as key players in the drama, at the SCG, sought to take it easy in the hours preceding the action.
Actually, itís going to be a huge day for Australian cricket as well. And, till late on Monday, the question doing the rounds was: Will the champions live up to their image and go for that seemingly impossible-to-achieve target of 443'
Many believe that will be done.
Steve Waugh, then, is set for an extraordinary good-bye. Itís another matter that the result could be vastly different from what he had envisaged while announcing retirement in the latter half of November.
Australiaís last defeat in a home series, by the way, was back in 1992-93. The West Indies won 2-1.
ďLook, Iíll be suggesting that the boys donít deviate from the process of winning, that they focus in half-hour sessions and move on from there,Ē informed hot-shot sport psychologist Sandy Gordon. He has been here throughout this deciding Test and, in a chat with The Telegraph, said he would have a closed-door session with Sourav and Co. before the final dayís play got underway.
Given Murali Kartikís poor form (and profligacy), the Indians are concerned over who should support Anil Kumble from the other end. It wonít surprise if Sachin Tendulkar, who has totalled 301 in the game, is given an unusually long bowl. Equally, Virender Sehwag may more than turn his arm over.
Kumble, who returned his best figures (eight for 141) overseas on Monday, was singled out for high praise by vice-captain Rahul Dravid. ďItís been an honour sharing the same dressing room... He has his critics, but goes about his job in a quiet manner. Moreover, he allows his performance to do the talking,Ē Dravid pointed out.
Itís going to be the spinners who will prevent the shots from being played. But, the Day V script could change if the Simon Katich example is dutifully followed in the Australian second innings. Katich, recalled this season after being in the dumps for two years, used his feet beautifully to crack a career-best 125 (230 minutes, 166 balls, 17x4).
Later, he acknowledged that having seen Kumble from close quarters in the summer of 2000, on the County circuit, helped him devise a game plan for not only the star leggie, but spinners in general. While Kumble turned out for Leicestershire, Katich was then with Durham.
Speaking exclusively, Katich informed that he grew up idolising Viv Richards. Well, the legend would have been happy to produce an innings like Katichís. Dravid, in fact, went to the extent of saying his knock was among the ďbestĒ seen by him anywhere.
Itís to Katichís credit that he inspired Jason Gillespie to author his best too: 47 in 142 minutes, 113 deliveries, 10x4. Really, itís their 117-run partnership for the eighth-wicket which appreciably narrowed Australiaís deficit and altered the Indiansí strategy.
In the Indian second innings, Dravid and Sachin dominated after Virender Sehwag fell yet again in the 40s. At the declaration, Dravid was on 91 (166 minutes, 114 balls, 11x4, 1x6), an effort which took his tally to a personal best for any series ó 619. By the way, thatís a record for India versus Australia engagements. Sachin was not out on 60.
Akash Chopra hardly contributed with the bat, but brought off a spectacular catch (at short-leg) to send back Lee, early in the morning.
Not surprisingly, the Australians (specially leggie Stuart MacGill) took recourse to a negative line. It confirmed that the Indians are held in awe. It also confirmed that no team is beyond employing such survival-first tactics.