Towards another sunset, this time for a quintet | cricket | Hindustan Times
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Towards another sunset, this time for a quintet

Though Waugh himself always emphasised the importance of teamwork, in his final Test, the spectre of his retirement and the sentimentality associated with it overshadowed everything else, reports Kadambari Murali.

cricket Updated: Dec 26, 2007 00:02 IST
Kadambari Murali

Almost four years ago, despite the euphoria that surrounded the India camp after they unexpectedly retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Sydney, the local papers were full of the man who made his last bow at the SCG — Stephen Waugh.

Though Waugh himself always emphasised the importance of teamwork, in his final Test, the spectre of his retirement and the sentimentality associated with it overshadowed everything else.

It is quite a coincidence that in the run-up to this Boxing Day Test, the first between India and Australia in this country since that January evening when Waugh walked into the sunset, has also been mostly about one player.

What makes it a fascinating quirk is that the same player was once the captain whose devil-may-care attitude, innate self-belief and a tendency to get in the opposition's face (and definitely Waugh's) inspired the classic 90-pound weakling to beat the bully in his own backyard.

Sourav Ganguly will play his 100th Test here from Wednesday, a Test that also marks a century of Tests for the MCG.

Ganguly, who Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting hoped "will be anxious," told HT that it was a "terrific feeling". He also hoped India would better what they did when they last visited.

India's 2003 triumph in Adelaide was straight from the theatre of dreams; their just missing it in Sydney in the New Year was heartbreaking.

On the whole though, the 1-1 series scoreline signalled a new world order in Test cricket, one that unfortunately, hasn't quite materialised, as Australia’s ruthless efficiency erased any sign of weakness.

Sandwiched between those two unforgettable Tests for Indian fans though, was the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, straight from the theatre of the absurd. From a 141-run opening stand and 329-4 at stumps on Day One, India collapsed in fashion of old to 366 all out. Australia, seemingly ready to throw in the towel that first day, lapped them to win by nine wickets.

"We cannot allow them to get a sniff of an opportunity," India skipper Anil Kumble said.

True enough. But he knows it will not be easy. "I see no reason why we can't win," he said on Tuesday. Well, a lot will depend on what the men who are set to make a last hurrah Down Under do — Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Ganguly and Kumble himself. In a rare compliment, Ponting said as much. "It's those senior guys that, series after series, stand up and get the job done. I'm sure India will rely heavily on their senior players this trip."