The dust has not settled after the Sydney Test, with the media milking the controversies that marked the game and every former cricketer from both sides airing their views. At one stage during the last week, I thought a mediator was required to broker peace between the sides, and if asked, I would have readily stepped in, particularly since I share a great rapport with the Indians besides obviously having played alongside most of the Australians. Fortunately, that was not required, and now things seem to be returning to normal.
Media stories have provided readers/viewers with conspiracies, innuendo and even something of a blame game as to where the root of such behaviour lies. However, the first positive step to getting back to the game was taken when Anil Kumble dropped the complaint that he had filed against Brad Hogg for abusing him during the Sydney Test. The complaint was filed in retaliation to Ricky Ponting's complaint against Harbhajan Singh, and while it might seem childish, I can understand the resentment the Indians must be feeling. It's been a long week between the two Tests, and at one point things did seem pretty irredeemable. There was talk of mediation and Ranjan Madugalle has been brought in to soothe frayed nerves and tempers. However, with a game barely 24 hours away, the teams will now refocus.
I was surprised at Ian Chappell's comment that Ponting was merely carrying on the 'hypocrisy' that I had started with regard to team behaviour when I was captain. Nothing Ian says surprises me anymore, but I must say that none of what happened in Sydney has any relation to my captaincy. It must be pointed out that Ponting has been his own man, at the helm of affairs for four years now. Besides, everything is under control, and if both sides use some common sense we can get on with the game.
Looking ahead to Perth, this is one venue that the Australians enjoy playing at, and chances are that they will be pretty hard to beat this time as well. However, the Indian batsmen have looked in good form, and they might once again give a good account of themselves. Once you play yourself in, the WACA wicket is one of the best to bat on because the bounce is really consistent. The crucial part is to get through the initial 20 minutes or so, after which batting becomes a lot easier.
Anil Kumble will also have to have a talk with his young, inexperienced pace bowlers. They must not get carried away by the grass and bounce that might seem mouth-watering for any rookie quick. The key to bowling well at WACA is to pitch it up to the batsman. If they bowl short, they will be playing into the hands of the Australians. The hosts have always piled up huge totals at the WACA, and they have a fine pace attack at the moment. Everything is stacked in Australia's favour, but the Indians must not lose the Test before it begins by letting the conditions get to them.
There might be a couple of changes in both sides, with Shaun Tait tipped to make the eleven, and with Matthew Hayden still not yet completely fit. For the Indians, Sourav Ganguly is not well, and there might be a change at the top with Virender Sehwag likely to play.
This last week has been quite a stressful one for both teams, but they must look ahead now. The Australians will make their way into the record books if they win this one. If the Indians find a way to stop them, it will give them a huge boost for the rest of the tour. It's a difficult ask because the Australians are always hard to beat at the WACA.