It is going to be a contest of skill and fortitude
Like voyagers braving the wave and the tempest to set foot on the promised land, India's cricketers arrive at Johannesburg, a place where in this lifetime, men like them were denied rights.Updated: Mar 23, 2003 00:17 IST
Like voyagers braving the wave and the tempest to set foot on the promised land, India's cricketers arrive at Johannesburg, a place where in this lifetime, men like them were denied rights.
Now they are one step away from glory. It could be a long step. They share their platform with a team that is considered great even beyond this era. They will need to scalp every opportunity and play beyond themselves.
If they do, they can be bring happiness and joy to a world held captive by modern political warlords. They don't start favourites and that is appropriate. Australia are the best team on the planet but India will know that while beating them over best of ten matches might be impossible, they could steal the thunder on a given day. And the good news is that they have the resources to do so.
This is the most aggressive Indian side I have seen since I started covering cricket. Occasionally, they will lapse in self-belief, but don't fear that because they are on a roll. New Zealand is a distant memory and these are good pitches.
The bowling is the key and this means India's game plan is no longer to try and outscore the opposition but try and bowl them out as well.
Binny, Madan Lal and Sandhu complemented Kapil Dev in 1983, but none of them were as sharp as these three. In this form, this is the best attack India have put together in limited-overs cricket.
Ganguly is also the most passionate Indian captain I have seen and he has played a big role in making men out of a lot of youngsters in the side. They are still impressionable but they are bound by a common thread of enthusiasm and aggression.
They will need it because their opponents are masters of these very qualities. Australia will come very hard at India and they will keep attacking. India will need to find flanks of their own to attack. This is as much a battle of skill as it is of fortitude. If India win that battle they will win the World Cup.
Two generals will have to lead the way for India to win. Tendulkar at the start and Dravid to prevent the troops from falling back.
In modern limited-overs cricket there can be no more enticing prospect than McGrath and Lee bowling with the new ball to Sachin Tendulkar. I won't be surprised if they bowl wide of the stumps and invite him to attack, certainly there will be very little on middle and leg.
But Tendulkar will know that if the first 10 overs are negotiated without loss of wickets, Australia will be a different side. He must be both the dam and the furious river.
It is such a long time since India were annihilated by Australia at this World Cup. They are a different side now. But remember, India haven't come across another in this tournament that was as tough and unyielding. Still it is a bit of a worry that Shane Bond was able to trouble them so much. Numbers two and three are susceptible to pace and that could be India's Achilles heel.
If India can stay tough, and if they can keep their doors closed to the many who have descended to try and share in their glory, they can win. But Australia will start favourite. (TCM)
First Published: Mar 23, 2003 00:12 IST