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Bangalore wounds may not heal in time

Many years ago an Australian radio announcer named Bob Hudson had a hit with The Newcastle song which included the words "Never let a chance go by", writes Ian Chappell.

india Updated: Nov 15, 2003 00:31 IST

Many years ago an Australian radio announcer named Bob Hudson had a hit with The Newcastle song which included the words "Never let a chance go by".

Hudson would be extremely disappointed with the Indian cricket team. After copping a shellacking in the 2003 World Cup final, the current triangular competition was the ideal opportunity (against a diminished Australian side) for India to re-establish authority over their tormentors before the tour Down Under later this year.

After a promising start in Gwalior, the Indian team has regressed to the point where they are now in danger of plunging to the depths England has been at since 1989 - a punching bag for Australia.

The winning formula in Bangalore was so similar in it's execution to the successful World Cup assault - domination from ball one - that it will be hard for the Indian wounds to heal before the tour of Australia.

India's only hope now is to reach the tournament final and then dramatically turn the tables on Australia. Otherwise they will commence the upcoming tour carrying the largest handicap since Phar Lap was a champion racehorse.

Two of the keys to any success India hope to achieve in Australia will be pace bowlers Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra. The talented pair has a chance to excel on the bouncier pitches in Australia but they will have to overcome the impression created by Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden that they become flustered if they are attacked from the outset.

If this perception isn't quashed quickly the pair will fall into the same category as Englishman Andrew Caddick who suffered severe mental scarring following a number of hammerings at the hands of Australian batsmen.

However, it is not only the bowlers who have to learn how to counter this aggression - the fieldsmen can contribute by hanging on to the chances offered and also saving runs and creating run-out opportunities.

Selecting a part-time wicket-keeper isn't the answer to improving the fielding, especially when Rahul Dravid is a reluctant gloveman. Keeping is like opening the batting; a specialist task and you have to want the job to excel in the position.

Australia have rarely compromised on wicket-keepers in any form of the game and this has contributed to the exceptional fielding standard that has in turn added to the lustre of their bowling reputation.

This Australian team realised a long time ago that batting aggressively, particularly at the top of the order, can have a long-term demoralising effect on the opposition.

Successful aggressive batting has long been a characteristic of Australian sides but most other cricketing nations (apart from the West Indies), have lacked either the will or the belief in their skills to implement this as team policy for any concerted period.

Consequently, not only are Australian batsmen generally more aggressive than their counterparts but the "baggy green" bowlers are usually better equipped to stem an opposition onslaught because they have learned to cope with this approach in their domestic competition.

Nevertheless, this doesn't mean Australian bowlers are immune to losing their cool. Sachin Tendulkar has wreaked havoc a few times and in the process not only have the bowlers lost the plot but the captain has also been unable to regain control.

The problem India currently face is that when the Australians have around seven runs an over to play with (as happened at the World Cup and Bangalore) their bowlers aren't going to be easily flustered.

Somehow the Indian team has to restrict the Australians when they bat first so that Tendulkar and company have a realistic chance of reaching the target.

India have precious little time to come up with a ploy; whether it be via a change of tactics or personnel, because it will only become harder to stop the Australian juggernaut once they return to their own turf. The closer the Australian team is to Newcastle the stronger the sentiment, "You never let a chance go by".

First Published: Nov 15, 2003 00:05 IST