The pall of gloom that had engulfed this beautiful city for the last few days lifted by late Thursday afternoon. After the rain, there was moisture in the air when Ricky Ponting and coach Tim Nielsen queued up for a taxi outside the airport, but by the time they got to the MCG, the sun was out and the sky was clear of the clouds of uncertainty.
Like the weather, cricket too is set for a change. The whites are off and on Friday, India and Australia will slip in to coloured gear to kick off what is going to be a month of slam-bang cricket beginning with the Twenty20 shootout.
After Anil Kumble, MS Dhoni is the chief and the tri-series after the T20 game will be the biggest test of his leadership. He has been successful in his short stint at the helm in limited overs cricket, but after all that’s happened over the last few weeks, it is going to be a different ball game. For starters, Dhoni will be without Yuvraj Singh who is out at least till Sunday.
“He’s a master player in the T20 version and proved it in South Africa and even in the other games with his fielding and other qualities. It’s a backward step for us, but at the same time it’s an opportunity for the next guy to come in and do well,” said Dhoni.
<b1>The weather didn’t help either with practice being shifted indoors. “It would have been great if the boys got some more practice before the one-dayers,” he said of the players who joined the side after the Test series.
“They just had a training session yesterday but the wicket wasn’t great and today they had a hit indoors. But we are looking to use this T20 game as a practice game to get our act together.”
A chance to show his mettle as captain under pressure awaits him and on his part, Dhoni spoke with some steel in his voice. “T20 depends on luck sometimes, whether your decisions are coming right or not, but it’s not just about being lucky. It’s also about how well you play. Cricketers are taking it a lot more seriously, specially after the World Cup in South Africa.”
Ponting made it clear that that he remembers what happened between the teams in the recent past, not just in Sydney and that Dhoni’s team should be ready for some tough cricket.
“For us, there are a few scores to settle. India had the upper hand over everyone at the T20 World Cup and were deserving winners. They beat us in the semi-finals, then again in Mumbai. I can guarantee that tomorrow, we will be going flat out.”
For a team in transition, as far as one-day cricket is concerned, there couldn’t have been a sterner test. Through a test of skill, temperament and character it will get clear how this Indian outfit will look like.
Come Friday, it will be the beginning of a discovery.