India hope for a sun-day
The Commonwealth Bank tri-series enters its second week with rain chasing the teams along the eastern and southern coast of Australia. Sun didn't shine on cricket in Sydney on Friday although the match took place and come Sunday, there will be similar prayers here for the India-Australia tie because it's not all clear yet.
It was bright and sunny on Saturday morning and Melbourne saw a blue sky for some time but just before the Indians reached the MCG for practice in the evening, there was a sharp drizzle which forced them indoors. So after two days of training in natural conditions, the players, fever-less Sreesanth included, were back on artificial turf ahead of a crucial game.
It will a tough outing because the Australians showed good application while batting in difficult conditions against Sri Lanka before constricting their run chase on way to bagging a bonus point. They will come hard at the Indians again on what is expected to be a better pitch for batting, which is good news for M.S. Dhoni's team.
India got a decent total in the last game but that was due to two players and had little to do with a concerted team effort. The batting will be tested again by Brett Lee and Nathan Bracken, who have already bagged five-wicket hauls. What should still encourage India is that they have had two good days of practice apart from the confidence that might have stemmed from the Dhoni-Gambhir partnership against Sri Lanka.
"It's been very useful," said Virender Sehwag of the outdoor nets. "Those who joined us after the Tests have got the time to settle down and we are in good shape after some good net practice. We are getting better with time and Australia know that we are only team which can beat them."
The Indians keep saying that and two wins in the last 11 ODIs against the the Aussies in the last two years is what they have to show for this claim. Both wins came at home in the seven-match series last year and in the last five years, they have beaten Australia in Australia just once in seven ties. However, people out to chart a new course needn't be so attentive to history.
What they should however pay attention to is that Australia hardly gave their batsmen room to breathe in the opening game on last Sunday. They executed perfectly their plan for the openers and slowly but surely, sucked life out of the rest of the batting. Dhoni's team has to put up a better show to prove that they are worthy challengers.
Lee was quick to pounce on this chance to cast aspersions on the ability of the Indian batsmen, saying that it was difficult for the youngsters to replace Sourav Ganguly or Rahul Dravid straightaway. But not much should be read into that anymore because the exclusion of the stalwarts is also history and this Indian team is looking ahead.
Australia is the highest hurdle on the path of the team's urge to march ahead and much will depend on how the experienced ones fare. Sachin Tendulkar, Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh with Gambhir and Dhoni apart from a couple of rookies actually form a promising line-up and Sunday is another chance to see how they translate that promise into reality.
The bowling department looks better organised although in one-day cricket on a good batting track, reputation and talent can get hammered any day. For this Indian team to live up to the expectations created by itself, thus, batting holds the key. It wasn't fully convincing in the last two games, so the wait continues.