The circles are being completed one by one. The Sydney chapter of this eventful tour of Australia got over on a high on Sunday and the Indian cricket dream has now reached the place where the tri-series had started exactly a month ago. It was a gloomy day ahead of two rained off matches then, but sunny at the Sunshine State on Monday.
The mood in the Indian team ahead of those games was pensive. Coming off a one-sided defeat in the Twenty20 international, they were not sure how this lot with youngsters in both departments would cope with and against seasoned professionals. There was no doubt about their talent, but a few question marks over their temperament and adaptability was difficult to overlook.
Four weeks and nine matches on, that trepidation has transformed into hopes of a bright future, just like the weather has. Statistically, it’s been four wins and three defeats after those rain-affected matches, which is not great achievement by any standards. The salient features of these victories however paint a different picture.
It was clear that this bunch was unafraid of whoever they were playing because reputation mattered little to them. “Don’t care much about who is in the opposite side,” Rohit Sharma had said in one of his interactions with the media, while the likes of Robin Uthappa, Ishant Sharma and their skipper were heard saying much the same.
After a period of time, they have proved to a significant extent that they have the game to match such words. So what sounded like brash statements from a bunch of upstarts seems to be different now. They spoke big when the chance came and followed it up with some good performances against the big boys of international cricket as well. One more win will put them in a different league because title in this Australian tri-series has eluded all Indian teams of the past including the ones led by Kapil Dev or Ganguly.
A day ahead of their quest for what should be treated as a historic win if it comes about, the Indians were a tired lot and worried too. Following a late night and early flight, they spent little time in consigning themselves to the beds after reaching here. Not that anyone was losing sleep over it, but Ishant’s finger inflammation was a big concern.
According to a member of the squad, the pace spearhead was still having problems gripping the ball and if he doesn’t recover, India’s rising bowling stocks will suffer massively. He was answering the skipper’s call for wickets apart from forcing the batsmen on the back foot with pace and his absence will not be filled, at least under the present circumstances.
Pace or spin?
The other tough call Dhoni will have to make is about the composition of his attack. In case Ishant doesn’t get better, either Munaf or Sreesanth will take his place if the skipper sticks to five bowlers, but the wicket at the Gabba may not encourage him to use the second spinner, as he did in Sydney.
Those to have seen the pitch reckoned it would offer good bounce and if India decide to pick the side keeping that in mind, Piyush Chawla is most likely to sit out after having had a decent outing on Sunday when his combination of leg-breaks and googlies kept the Australians guessing. His replacement will again be either Munaf or Sreesanth unless Dhoni wants to strengthen the batting by bringing back Virender Sehwag.
The Australians have already hinted they would leave out Brad Hogg and bring in Stuart Clark to make it a four-pronged pace attack, on what has been the quickest pitch in this tri-series so far. The ball bounced a lot in the first match here on February 3 when Brett Lee caused all sorts of trouble with his bounce and took five wickets.
Question of gumption
Irrespective of all that, what must encourage the Indians is the way they have stared Australia in the eye and it’s not as if those were blank stares. They have followed the principle their rivals do and given it back in the best manner possible. Rohit sending the ball to all corners of the park under pressure was a statement the Australians didn’t expect.
That India have reached the finals and taken the lead without much from Yuvraj indicates that others are doing their job and it’s a question of one more day of concerted team effort.