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India will keep an eye on run-rate

The India-Australia tie on Wednesday promises to be an absorbing one. Contrary to popular belief, India are going to throw in all they've got into this match. It is an extremely important game from India's perspective.

india Updated: Nov 11, 2003 23:27 IST
Arun Lal

The India-Australia tie on Wednesday promises to be an absorbing one. Contrary to popular belief, India are going to throw in all they've got into this match. It is an extremely important game from India's perspective.

The differential run-rate has acquired significance. India's differential run-rate — which is the runs scored, divided by the overs played by it minus the same by its opponents against it — is way ahead of New Zealand. Consequently, in case the points are tied, India will be placed higher and will play the final.

Now, if India beat Australia, it would further improve the run-rate and New Zealand would then not only have to beat us but would probably need the bonus point as well. Therefore, it's imperative that India go into this match as though it's the semi-final and not leave it to a straight fight at Hyderabad.

Moreover, the Indians have lost the last two games and are looking the worse for it. It's not that the law of averages applies; each successive loss drags the morale and confidence down further and it becomes progressively more difficult to win. The Aussies know it very well and have perfected the psychological aspect to an art form. They would desperately want to dominate the Indians and in the process enhance their already established feeling of well-being.

India will have to turn things around and arrest this downward spiral, if the team harbours any ambitions of winning this tournament.

India, at last, will have their full team to choose from. Sourav Ganguly's return will definitely strengthen the team but there are lots of very pertinent decisions to be made. The batting will finally look the part with Sourav and Sehwag fit to do battle. The problem will be deciding the balance of the team and which batsman to leave out.

The area that is causing the most concern and needs to be looked at closely is the bowling. While Bracken, Williams and Tuffey have each taken more than 10 wickets in the tournament, no Indian spinner has managed even four wickets. Zaheer Khan has six and Ajit Agarkar has five and the fact that their economy rates are close to 6.5 and 5.5, respectively, tells a story. The bowlers are lacking the requisite confidence and desperately need a good match.

Ashish Nehra has been declared fit and should definitely play to augment the bowling. He is a strike bowler that India are lacking on current form. Kumble's return will also help stabilise the bowling, as he is the one person who has been consistent.

The decision that will keep the thinktank occupied will be whether to play Ashish Nehra in place of Zaheer Khan or at the expense of another batsman. Sourav has never been inclined to play with five bowlers and feels that the balance of the side suffers. It is clear that Rahul Dravid will keep wickets, which will allow either Laxman or Badani to play. If Sehwag is fit and the extra batsman has to play at number seven, then my vote certainly goes to Badani. He showed exemplary courage and will in that brave innings at Cuttack. As for him, it was a comeback after almost two years. Moreover, he is an asset on the field.

The wicket appears to be extremely hard and well rolled, devoid of grass and without excessive moisture. All things equal, it should favour the side batting first and is likely to get slower and lower as the game progresses. A major consideration should be the dew and the Indians, once bitten, would not be inclined to make the same mistake twice.

In case of dew, the wet ball coupled with a slippery wicket, makes it very difficult for the bowlers, especially the spinners. Another difficult decision but I would expect the Indians to field first.

The Aussies, even without their main bowlers, are looking the part. Having already reached the final, they would want to prepare for it and treat this as a dress rehearsal.

It would make sense for them to bat first and also experience the dew factor.

First Published: Nov 11, 2003 23:26 IST