From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.33 :: NO.40 :: Oct. 07, 2010

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ON THE BALL / W.V. RAMAN COLUMN

A close contest on the cards

The Indians have a challenge ahead of them as the bowling department continues to be a worry. They depend heavily on Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh. But as much as the Indians are concerned with their bowling, the strong Indian batting line-up will provide a nightmare or two to the Aussie attack as well.

VIVEK BENDRE

Mahendra Singh Dhoni will have to lead from the front to ensure a positive result against the mighty Aussies.

It is said that success follows good preparation and execution of plans at the right time, in the right manner. This was proved once again at the Wanderers where success embraced the Super Kings as they comprehensively beat the Warriors in the Champions League final. The home team was made to look like nomads with nowhere to go as the Chennai side clinically overpowered them.

The double for the Super Kings came about at the right time as the team played together for the last time. The upcoming IPL 4 auction will surely dismantle their set combination. They stuck to their task knowing pretty well that it may be their last outing together and the result was a foregone conclusion by the halfway stage. The triumph added to the trophy list of the CSK skipper M.S. Dhoni, but before he can even let the euphoria sink in, Dhoni needs to get back to business as Team India take on Australia in the first week of October.

The India-Australia series will obviously be a hard fought one and more than the high quality of cricket that it is expected to provide, the series will also serve as a catalyst to obliterate the stigma that was brought about by the spot fixing allegations in England recently. The Australians have been known to play the game hard and also attach great importance in upholding its integrity. Ponting and his men will look to go all out to get out of the unfamiliar spot they find themselves in the ICC Test rankings while India will need to play at their best to retain their top slot. The Australians, as usual, have wasted no time in making statements to wind up a few Indian players but it will be interesting to see how well they back them up on the field. They have got off to a great start in terms of preparation against the Board President's XI with the top order batsmen getting into some sort of form. Besides, Hilfenhaus has already served a notice by making light of the apparently strong batting line-up at Chandigarh on a placid track.

The Indians have a challenge ahead of them as the bowling department continues to be a worry. They depend heavily on Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh. Zaheer, coming back after a lay- off, needs a reasonably consistent new ball partner in order to be effective.

The toss up for that slot will be between Ishant Sharma and Sreesanth but the odds are in favour of the Delhi lad simply because Sreesanth is viewed as a back-up seamer. He has picked up wickets in the lead up game which will give him some confidence but one has to realise that he was ineffective with the new ball on the opening day and also left the field due to a niggle. Harbhajan will be expected to be at his best against his favourite opponents and do the job for Team India but here again, the Ojhas and the Mishras have flattered to deceive on more occasions than one. As much as the Indians are concerned with their bowling department, the strong Indian batting line-up will provide a nightmare or two to the Aussie attack as well. With Raina adapting well to Test cricket in Sri Lanka, the batting is packed up tight and the Australians will really need to work hard to dismiss the Indian batsmen twice in a match. Moreover, the pitches at Mohali and Bengaluru will ease out after the opening session and the visitors' best chance will be to bowl first and make early inroads. The Indians on the other hand will be aware that they have failed on a few occasions batting first in Mohali and Dhoni will not mind losing the toss at that venue. A fair bit of anxiety will prevail on the opening day of the first Test and in a short series like this, there is very little time or opportunity to recover if the initiative is lost early.

Yet again it is incomprehensible as to why the administrators even think of a two-Test series and that too when two great cricketing nations are involved. But in an era where the T20 format calls the shots, the administrators would find it difficult to schedule a five-match Test series. A five-Test series between two top nations would be the best endorsement for the longer version of the game and obviously it is not something that the ICC is unaware of. It is more of a case of lack of inclination than anything else. But for the ardent followers of the game something is better than nothing.



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