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Australia: Can India take them on?

It's not easy trying to find a chink in the Australian armour. The cricket team is closest to the perfect team that one can think of.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2003 15:55 IST

It's not easy trying to find a chink in the Australian armour. The cricket team, now in line to claim their second World Cup in a row, is closest to the perfect team that one can think of.

So perfect is their armour that no missiles can penetrate them, so fool-proof their strategy no, psychologist-coach can out think them, and there is no weakness in their players that can be exploited.

They stick together and if one goes down the other takes up the battle. A bunch of eleven men have never been so programmed like humanoids to win and just win all the way.

Australia it must be remembered is the most sporting among nations. At one stage, they had seven World Cups (or its equivalent) as varied as rugby and sailing. It is the barren toughness of the outbacks that shapes national character. They never give-up and are ready to take on anything. Qualities they have exhibited in plenty during this World Cup.

The other day in the Super Six when Stephen Fleming put them into bat, he had them writhing in pain with seven down for a paltry 84. If at all anyone could have outthought them, it was Stephen Fleming who has shown great on-field ingenuity in the recent past. But even he failed after getting a stranglehold. It is a familiar story that the Aussies once again defied defeat and embraced victory.

First Fleming surprised Australia by putting them in, a ploy which would have surprised them. But Australians are not ones who can be thought-out by such strategies. Fleming had the fast bowlers with him but not enough to rattle the Aussie front rank. But rattle he did because of the extraordinary lift that the St. George's Park provided.

Strangely enough left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori was brought in early for variety and also to take the pace off the ball to prevent any Australian attempt at furious acceleration. In 10 overs, Vettori, who did not get much to bowl at home against India, gave away only 40 runs a good record against Australia.

The ending was the same — an Australian victory. What lessons does that match throw up for India whose strategies against the Aussies (in a possible final showdown) must be now taking shape in the laptops of the Indian think-tank?

Some strategies would have firmed up now.

1. Get Matthew Hayden early on. Hadyen is out of nick, as rare an occurrence as the team itself being out of touch. No one is more aware of this than Hayden himself who is trying to take his mind off his batting by going out surfing and not doing any extraordinary batting practise. Hayden has to be rattled early on now that he is a bit under-confident.

2. Harbhajan Singh should be central to the Indian plans against Australia. They have a traditional weakness against off-spin, and a bit wary about Bhaji. He has to be brought on early for a probing spell after eight overs or ten, irrespective of whether the quickies are delivering or not.

3. The top order has been softened up a bit but the finishing combine of Michael Bevan and company need to be taken care off. At the moment, the only way to snare him is to trap him to a run-out, since he takes the ones and twos early on. Lure him for a double run with a feigned misfield in the deep. Sounds easy, isn't it?

4. A bit of aggressive field placing when the slow bowlers are on. In fact, radical changes in field placings. Daring close-in positions can be tried out instead of traditional placings. That is important since they pick out gaps well from regular positions.

5. Pre-judge the Australian field placing against Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag. The opening partnership is most crucial to Indian confidence later on in the match. Sehwag must cut out the off-side slash just for this one match. Or, even the scoop over mid-wicket. Coach John Buchanan would also have worked out a way to cut out the flying-flick over point or third man for six which only these two batsmen play. Buchanan knows more than anyone what a century partnership can do for Indian's confidence.

Strategies can be reeled off. But which strategists can sort out the Australians? All depends on that day. If the first light which bursts over the African savannah on that day brings a tingling of good hope for the Indians, only then can the Aussies be stopped.

First Published: Mar 13, 2003 15:55 IST