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Bowlers leave Rest assured

It's quite revealing that in the last few months there has been a constant reference to "the best team in the world" emanating from some of the Australian players and administrators, Writes Ian Chappell.

india Updated: Sep 28, 2008 00:45 IST
Ian Chappell

It's quite revealing that in the last few months there has been a constant reference to "the best team in the world" emanating from some of the Australian players and administrators.

Revealing because when Australia was head and shoulders above other teams and had a plethora of superstars, there was no such reference. They didn't need to make mention of superiority then, as their consistently brilliant play was ample confirmation. This constant reference sounds like some mantra that has been dreamed up by a PR or marketing man.

If the Indians want to focus on anything apart from their own game, it should be that none of the Australian spinners has yet played a Test, or the inexperience of the Australian side under Indian conditions.

With India's middle-order ageing fast, this may be the last chance they'll have to capitalise on a golden era of batting. If it's true that with age comes wisdom, then the Indian batsmen should already have devised a plan to thwart Ricky Ponting's assertion that, like 2004-05, Australia will rely heavily on pace bowling and conservative field placings to frustrate and beat India.

Ponting has talked about how strategically placing fieldsmen on the boundary quelled the Indian penchant for hitting fours in the last series. This is another way of saying the Australians are prepared to concede easy runs, so the Indian batsmen should gratefully accept the offer.

This is where Sachin Tendulkar's health is of vital importance to India's chances. Playing now in a more conservative mode, he'll take what Australia offers and yet, with his skill, he'll still accumulate boundaries. This is the weakness in the Australian plan; the only way to contain the best batsmen is to dismiss them. Australia's plan to "attack by defending" will only work if the Indian batsmen foolishly co-operate.

The other player who is crucial to the result is India's captain Anil Kumble. If Kumble is the bowler of past prowess in India then the home side will more than likely win. However, if he repeats his lacklustre form in the recent Sri Lankan series then Australia has a realistic chance of victory.

The big question mark surrounding Australia is their bowling and whether they have the firepower to dismiss India twice for a reasonable score. The Australian assertion that "last time we won with pace" overlooks one important factor — Shane Warne took 14 wickets.

Sure Jason Gillespie and Glenn McGrath were successful but with Warne bowling at one end, his partner's chance of taking a wicket was greatly improved. The Australian batting strength revolves around Matthew Hayden and Ponting. But both are returning from injury lay-offs.

Because there are so many unknown factors — Tendulkar's health, Kumble's form, Australia's bowling capabilities and the rustiness of Hayden and Ponting — this is a really difficult series to predict.