India have often been accused of copying the West in precisely the things that they should go out of their way to avoid.
Cricket, it seems, is having its latest version of the same. In Australia, Steve Waugh's long and sentimental farewell, announced well in advance of India's tour in 2004, became an exercise in chest-thumping, gave sponsors a platform to milk and in every undesirable way possible took the sheen away from an important Test series. And now Sourav Ganguly's announcement that he will quit at the end of this series — and you cannot fault him for it — threatens to overshadow one of India's finest chances to beat the world champions.
Ever since Ganguly gently dropped his bombshell on Tuesday, there has been little room to talk about anything else. Every cricketer, team-mate and opposition member, has been asked what he thinks about Ganguly. Every possible angle on why he chose to make this decision has been explored. But what of the series ahead?
Ricky Ponting did provide a glimpse of how the Australians hoped to go about their business. To the surprise of some Ponting insisted that they would play a spinner, and the choice is between a battered Jason Krejza and an undercooked Cameron White. What was less surprising the Australians’ plans to prey on India's leaden-footedness on the field and between the wickets.
"Putting pressure on their fielding is something we're certainly going to try and achieve in this series. Also, putting a lot of pressure on their batsmen running between the wickets," said Ponting.
“If we can create a run out in each innings, that's a huge achievement. We have a lot of good fieldsmen in the inner ring. We'll just try to block the strike. We know the way the Indians go about playing their cricket. It's more of an old school type of Test match cricket. We're going to bring a new age type of Test cricket here and see how it goes.”
One of the things that puts paid to teams’ strategies — especially here in Bangalore — is the behaviour of the pitch. While Narayan Raju, the former Karnataka batsman who is now curator at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, is known for his batting beauties, this time around he has been "assisted" by expert curators from New Zealand. All that can be said with certainty is that there's no live grass on the pitch and it appears to be firm, for the moment, at least.
"The pitch has obviously been watered yesterday afternoon, you can see that it has changed a bit. It looks very good to me," said Ponting. "I was speaking to Greg Chappell and he thinks it's the best one he's seen here in Bangalore." Ponting thought his swing bowlers could have a bit more of a role to play than usual if the humidity stayed high and clouds hung around.
Both Kumble and Kirsten insisted that their team were as well prepared to take on the Australians as they ever have been.
“We are really satisfied with the way we have gone about preparations in the last three weeks we have been together. As far as preparation is concerned, we have done everything that we could," said Kumble.
So much about the cricket. When the players take the field, India will be hoping they can bat first, answer the early questions that the Australian fast bowlers will ask of them and then feast on to post a big total.
Whether the fans are yelling “Dada! Dada!” or the TV cameras are tracking his every move on (and off) the field, ultimately, the game will stay the same.