| Ricky Ponting at nets in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, the eve of the tri-series final against the West Indies. (AP)
Kuala Lumpur: The pressure will surely be on Australia in Sunday’s tri-series final. After all, as West Indies captain Brian Lara put it, his team arrived as “third favourites,” behind the world champions and India. “There weren’t a lot of expectations on us making the final...”
In Lara’s view, though, the pressure is going to be “even.” He said Saturday: “Both teams want the trophy (DLF Cup) badly... The pressure will be even, but we’ve got a tough match on our hands and my batsmen have got to value their wickets... The Australians haven’t got this far to lose... Same for us.”
In the league stage, both Australia and the West Indies beat each other once. However, had the West Indies batted sensibly in the opener (while chasing), the head-to-head count would’ve been 2-0 in their favour.
Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain, is hoping to capitalise on the West Indies’ vulnerability when batting second. “They’re a bit shaky chasing, which is a good sign for us... Getting a (big) total on board is going to be nice... We’re here to win...”
While Lara has been among the runs, Ponting hasn’t done anything of note after 54 in match No.1. “Yes, it will be good to get some runs... I’ve actually been a bit stiff in a couple of games... That’s how it goes...”
Lara had this to say: “I’ve worked on a few things and my confidence is right up there... I’m feeling nice, but it’s a team sport...” Incidentally, he wouldn’t like to “inhibit” either Chris Gayle or Shivnarine Chanderpaul because of the quality of Australia’s opening attack.
“Glenn (McGrath) hasn’t got many wickets, but has put pressure from one end... Brett Lee, as we all know, can be fast... Of course, seeing off the first ten-odd overs is going to be important, but I wouldn’t like to inhibit Chris or Chanderpaul,” Lara maintained.
Asked if he knew which of the two pitches the final would be played on, he replied: “No... At the end of the day, it will just be cricket...” Tournament director Brendan McClements told The Telegraph: “We’re going to take a call in the morning.”
The one where the ridge developed didn’t host Friday’s ‘semi-final’ between India and Australia. The one that did saw much deterioration as the face-off went long into the second session. Clearly, a poor surface shouldn’t mar what promises to be a blazing contest.
While the West Indians are keeping options open — there’s “concern” that Corey Collymore still isn’t hundred per cent fit, the Australians have named 12. Surprisingly, senior pro Matthew Hayden, who top-scored not many hours ago, has been omitted.
Sources explained that Ponting and coach John Buchanan favoured looking ahead (to the Champions Trophy) and, so, the opener had to miss out as he isn’t in the 14 for that competition. Given that Hayden is so passionate about the Australia colours, the move must have upset him.
With rotation ending, key players Michael Clarke and Shane Watson are back (as is Nathan Bracken). Eventually, Damien Martyn is the one who may not make the XI.
“It didn’t necessarily come down to who performed the best... Andrew Symonds hasn’t made many runs, but you won’t leave him out because he’s a matchwinner,” Ponting remarked. Well, there’s no doubt that he knows exactly how to get the best out of whoever is in.
It’s to be seen, by the way, how many turn up at the Kinrara Oval. Many had bought tickets expecting India in the final, but there’s no guarantee each one of them will show up. The tri-series was put together by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, but Rahul Dravid’s men went home with the wooden spoon.
AUSTRALIA (likely): Simon Katich, Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Michael Hussey, Brad Haddin, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Nathan Bracken, Glenn McGrath.
WEST INDIES (from): Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Brian Lara, Dwayne Bravo, Wavell Hinds, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Smith, Carlton Baugh, Runako Morton, Corey Collymore, Ian Bradshaw, Jerome Taylor, Fidel Edwards.
Umpires: Mark Benson, Asad Rauf. TV: Tony Hill.
Match Referee: Chris Broad.
Match starts: 11.00 am (IST).