The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Toss in Bangalore likely to have a huge impact
- First test - History, not really a Final Frontier, for stand-in captain Adam Gilchrist

Bangalore: First came Sunil Gavaskar's appointment as Team India consultant. Then, captain Sourav Ganguly insisted he hadn't ever seen 'such a dry' wicket at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.

Nothing very unusual, except the observation was made in Adam Gilchrist's presence. The effect ' specifically its link with winning the toss and batting ' was immediate and the stand-in Australian captain's visage changed.

If Sourav intended to score psychologically ahead of the first Test, beginning on Wednesday, he did so quickly. The occasion, incidentally, was the unveiling of the sponsor's (TVS') cup to be presented to the winners of the rolling Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

But, then, this four-Test series won't be influenced by such mind-game moves only.

What should make the difference is promptly employing an alternative if the preferred plan runs into foul weather ' actually, a Rahul Dravid or a Matthew Hayden.

And, as Sourav pointed out succinctly, crucial will be the commitment to hold ground in the battle for every session. After all, the battles are going to have a huge bearing on the war which has raged from 2000-01.

Despite being led by a masterly general who commanded the respect of all ranks, Steve Waugh, Australia lost that away-series and, last season, just about managed a 1-1 deadlock ' that too at home.

Steve, of course, treated India as the Final Frontier. He fell at the final hurdle. Gilchrist, though, isn't one for raising the profile of any contest by adding dollops of drama and passion.

Indeed, standing-in for Ricky Ponting, he simply said: 'It's an icon series, yes, but not the Final Frontier... In fact, for me, every series is important...'

Yet, Gilchrist acknowledged Australia haven't won since Bill Lawry's side overwhelmed Tiger Pataudi's men in 1969-70. 'To place it in perspective, we haven't played a great many Tests... Now, however, we have a fantastic opportunity to create a piece of history'

Vowing to continue in the 'direction' set by Steve and Ponting, Gilchrist added the captaincy (for the first two Tests, till now) had increased his involvement and he wanted to 'dive into the series' and make an impact.

Such enthusiasm is understandable. It's to be seen, though, if that gets retained even if he doesn't call correctly and the Indians go about their job knowing exactly where the off-stump exists.

As has been proved by Team India, big runs means minimum trouble. The agenda, then, can't be in doubt.

While the Australians have more or less decided to field one specialist spinner only (Shane Warne) ' apparently, nobody is good enough to be counted as the No. 2 specialist ' the Indians are mulling playing all three spinners.

According to The Telegraph's sources, if it comes to that, the toss-up will be between Irfan Pathan and Murali Kartik. Till Monday evening, indications were Pathan was certain and Zaheer Khan could feature in a 'face-off' with Kartik. That has changed.

'Of the three quicks around, Zaheer has been bowling the best.... He seems hungry as well,' is how a source put it. Assuming just Zaheer is fielded, Sourav is going to share the new ball.

Eventually, however, we may well have a 2-2 attack.

Tearaway Brett Lee, by the way, isn't in the picture and the thinktank is expected to play Michael Kasprowicz as the third quick, after Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie.

Perhaps, it's not insignificant that Kasprowicz was headed for oblivion till that five for 28 in the second innings of the 1997-98 Test here revived his career.

That match was won by Australia ' the series, though, had already been lost. This time, the winner will have much more to look forward to.

Whoever takes the initiative is unlikely to give much away in the remainder of the series.


INDIA: Virender Sehwag, Akash Chopra, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Parthiv Patel, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Irfan Pathan/Murali Kartik, Zaheer Khan.

AUSTRALIA: (likely) Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Simon Katich, Damien Martyn, Darren Lehmann, Michael Clarke, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz, Glenn McGrath.

Umpires: Steve Bucknor, Billy Bowden. TV umpire: A.V.Jayaprakash.

Match Referee: Ranjan Madugalle.

Test begins: 9.30 am.

Mark Waugh in town

The other Waugh, Mark, has arrived with a tour party and is also probably going to be busy with Media commitments. Given that he was such an outstanding player of spin, the present-day Australians could seek tips if Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh prove more than a handful.

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