Last chance to beat Australia
Skipper Anil Kumble writes exclusively for HT on Sourav Ganguly and how the series against Australia means a lot for the team.india Updated: Oct 08, 2008 01:15 IST
By the time you read this on Wednesday, some hours would have passed since Sourav announced that this would be his last series, marking the last time that some of us who've played together for India for long — Sourav himself, Sachin, Rahul, Laxman and I — would be playing a Test series together.
There would also be some hours left before I walk onto the field with an Australian captain in front of my home crowd in Bangalore one last time. I cannot speak for the other three but I know that for me, as for Sourav, this will be a last chance to beat Australia, to show that we can finally land that knockout punch, after coming so close, so often, over the last seven years.
Sourav incidentally, talked to us about his decision — to me and Srikkanth, to Gary and to Hirwani — we were all there. He did this because he wanted to be relaxed going into the series and not have anything preying on his mind. He then went across to the team and told them about what he was doing before announcing it to the media. And that was that, the formal beginning of change.
For both of us who have captained India against the Australians in nail-bitingly tense series, and for all the rest, especially Rahul, Sachin and Laxman, who have been instrumental in showing the world and more importantly perhaps, the Australians themselves, that they are eminently beatable if you hang in there, this series could be a redemption song of sorts.
It's not that we have anything to prove as individuals — but we'd like to show that together on this stage, in what is really the biggest battle in contemporary cricket. After all, it's the quintessential team game, one where we back each other up and play with mind and heart for team and country.
There's obviously a bit of emotion but, apart from the fact that everyone's looking forward to that 77th run of Sachin, for once he gets that, he's got to where no other player has got to, we're thoroughly focussed on the job at hand.
And as long as that focus on the match doesn't waver, the rest — the media and the crowd, the pressures and the pulls of expectations and playing at home — can be handled with no problem.
All of us want to win here and win comprehensively. Everyone recognises that this is our best chance to reduce the gap with Australia and to take one giant step in our quest towards our ultimate long-term goal — to be No. 1 in the world.
But to realise that dream, we need to work on the short-term goals, the 10 month vision statements that we set ourselves at the beginning of the season.
At no. 3, we're just behind South Africa in the Test rankings and we can get ahead of them and close the gap on the Aussies with a big series win here. And that has to start here in Bangalore. The wicket looks pretty good for batting, so we need to play to our strengths and get a big score first up. Whenever we have put up a good score against the Aussies, we've had them under pressure. And given the conditions, I also think we have the combination as a bowling unit to get 20 Aussie wickets.
Over the last 17 days of preparation, we've spoken about handling the pressure, had several discussions on how to counter the Aussies.
The previous series was so close, the Sydney Test finished in the day’s last over. In Adelaide, we'd lost a bowler early on, because of RP's injury or maybe things would have been different if we'd had five bowlers attacking right through. Who knows? What we do know though, is that India are the only team to have beaten Australia regularly. So the onus is on us and we're looking forward to proving we're up to it. Our focus will definitely be to play good, aggressive, hard cricket. I hope the series will be a good one for Sourav too and that we win the series and he goes out on a high note. He certainly deserves that. We all do.