| Rahul Dravid, Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting with the trophy in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. Picture courtesy: imageallsports.com/Pradeep Mandhani
Kuala Lumpur: Australia’s decision to not change the pre-determined XI for Friday’s match against India, even though it now has the status of a semi-final, should take some of the pressure off Rahul Dravid. The Indians won’t have to contend with the in-form Michael Clarke and Shane Watson, plus they’ll have the opportunity to take runs off Stuart Clark, who went for 87 in seven the other evening.
However, banking on that alone can only confirm an early departure from the Malaysian capital. Clearly, the Indians have to raise their game appreciably. Otherwise, prepare for the worst.
Perhaps, nobody but the Australians would have had the courage (one isn’t sure about the conviction bit) to retain somebody taken to the cleaners by Brian Lara and Chris Gayle. Then, again, it’s unlikely that any other team would have kept Clarke and Watson on the bench.
Says much about the Australian system and the team’s depth, but what if a decision cast in stone (by chief selector Andrew Hilditch and his colleagues) proves costly in the DLF Cup'
The first league match between the teams had seen points shared, but the psychological advantage was pocketed by Australia. If the weather spoils the show and points have again to be shared, then the Australians are going to be through as they’ll be starting on seven, one point more than India.
“It’s an exciting opportunity, but we’ve got to be consistently good... Throughout the 100 overs... If we fulfil our goals in batting and bowling, then the results are going to follow... We aren’t putting ourselves under extra pressure,” remarked Dravid.
Ponting, who declared there would be “no excuses” if Australia lost, said Wednesday’s result (India beating the West Indies, who’re in the final) didn’t surprise him. “The Indians had everything to play for, not the West Indies... I’d expected an Indian victory...”
Looking ahead, he added: “Of course, we’ve got the final in our thoughts... That’s why we’re here, to win enough matches to get there... I expect the Indians to be worried about their batting, but we do know their batsmen may come good at any time... I know we’ve been experimenting, but I’ve told the guys there will be more positives than negatives from this exercise...”
While the Indians prefer to set a target, provided Dravid has the option of choosing, Ponting didn’t commit himself. “The power play trends have to be studied... Perhaps, it’s easier batting under the lights...”
The match, by the way, won’t be played on the wicket which hosted Wednesday’s India versus West Indies face-off. “The one to be used looks good, but one can’t be sure... There’s moisture owing to the match-eve watering, but the sun ought to take cae of that,” Dravid maintained.
He acknowledged not having scored big in any of the three matches: “Well, I’m pretty desperate each time that I go to bat... Getting runs is going to be nice...” The openers (Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar) haven’t put together a tidy stand in the last two matches and will have to tackle the Glenn McGrath-Brett Lee twosome.
It’s a tough ask.
Asked what made the Australians such a champion team, Dravid replied: “Depth in their squad, very good preparations and good players...” He summed it up perfectly.
While the Australians have announced their XI, the Indians haven’t. Indications are that the XI which played Wednesday is going to be retained. Yuvraj Singh (who hasn’t got off the mark in two matches) and Ajit Agarkar were a “bit under the weather,” as Dravid put it, but will be available for selection.
“I had a flu-like feeling yesterday, before the match, and had a bad cold today... That’s why I didn’t go for nets. I’m going to be fine for tomorrow, though,” Agarkar told The Telegraph. Yuvraj didn’t bat, but was at the Kinrara Oval with the rest.
Incidentally, there’s speculation that Mohammed Kaif could be recalled. He got dropped after the first match.
INDIA (from): Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Rudra Pratap Singh, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel, Mohammed Kaif.
AUSTRALIA: Matthew Hayden, Simon Katich, Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds, Michael Hussey, Brad Haddin, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Glenn McGrath.
Umpires: Mark Benson, Asad Rauf. TV: Tony Hill.
Match Referee: Chris Broad.
Match starts: 11.00 am (IST).