It is back to the risky business

After the peace and tranquility of Hobart, it is time again for high intensity cricket ? the Indian team travelling to Melbourne on Monday morning must have felt like students returning to school after a short break.

india Updated: Dec 23, 2003 10:27 IST

After the peace and tranquility of Hobart, it is time again for high intensity cricket --- the Indian team travelling to Melbourne on Monday morning must have felt like students returning to school after a short break.

The Australia A match was no match, the Indians treated the fixture lightly, their disinterest quite evident. But now that the break is over, a critical exam .is around the corner. Rarely has an Indian team on a tour abroad been in a situation where it is one up with two to go. Usually it is the other way round, tours begin with a sound defeat and thereafter it is an uphill climb, a sorry catch-up game.

It might sound horribly clichéd but this happy situation is a result of team work.

The bowlers have taken wickets, three of them bagging 5 in an innings and, for once, the big boys produced big runs. Importantly, the openers put runs on the board, even Chopra, untested and raw, displayed admirable poise and patience to bat for hours to blunt the bowlers and remove the gloss from the Kookaburra ball.

Still , there are worries ahead of Melbourne, some surrounding Sachin. What causes concern is not that he has had two ordinary games, the problem is he appeared hesitant and scratchy, a magnificent Mercedes temporarily turned into a modest Maruti. At Hobart, he started in commanding style, thumping boundaries but later struggled with timing, lost his way and his wicket miscuing a hook. Thereafter he stood at slip, apparently in deep thought, and had a close look at Michael Clarke. But his face remained impassive all the while, betraying no emotion, no trace of anxiety.

Sachin is (to borrow cricket's happening , modern phrase) a quality player and, given his record, is due a big one. Captain Ganguly dismisses concerns about Sachin.Arre, he says. "We are not worried. It is only a good topic for people to write and discuss. These things happen in cricket --- just wait, he will win the match for us."

Sourav would also want a more substantial contribution from Sehwag, who, after speeding off to starts, has collided into road blocks created by lapses of concentration. Reason? Pata nahin, he said candidly, shaking his head. If Sehwag was left to reflect on his form, Pathiv Patel had other thoughts on his mind. With Deep Dasgupta keeping wickets, Parthiv patrolled the point area in the last game but got bored waiting for balls to be hit in his direction.

When real action commences in a couple of days, coach Wright will look for greater consistency from the team. He understands that beating Australia is equal to a Grand Slam win.

First Published: Dec 23, 2003 01:01 IST