The tail made all the difference in the MCG tale | india | Hindustan Times
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The tail made all the difference in the MCG tale

One all, with one to play, is an enviable situation to be in for any team against this Australian side in Australia. It means a great opportunity and of course, with it comes pressure. The Indians however, have to shun pressure and try and play their natural game. But it is a job easier said than done.

india Updated: Jan 02, 2004 06:25 IST
Arun Lal

One all, with one to play, is an enviable situation to be in for any team against this Australian side in Australia. It means a great opportunity and of course, with it comes pressure. The Indians however, have to shun pressure and try and play their natural game. But it is a job easier said than done.

In Melbourne, I felt India competed pretty well except for one session — before lunch on Day 2 — and that was enough for Australia to make a comeback in the series. Don't forget we are playing the best in the world. Let alone lapses in concentration, we have to play out of our skins if we have to win the series.

The main difference between the two sides so far, has been the tail. Our lower order has to somehow get more determined and demand a price for their wickets. It appears that besides ability, they lack resolve. There is no excuse for Agarkar who with so much experience and a Test hundred, is throwing his wicket away cheaply. This, after bowling so well, that can feed the enhanced confidence further.

Kumble too, is such a doughty fighter with the ball but he is finding it difficult to show similar resolve with the bat.

On the strategy front, it's important to go in with our four best bowlers, irrespective of the wicket. We have to play Kartik and Kumble — relying on our traditional strength. I felt that we should have played both of them in Melbourne too.

Zaheer was a big letdown, underlining the fact that Test matches are a different ball game and fitness after injury cannot be gauged by bowling in the nets, especially for a fast bowler. Nehra too, is struggling to achieve the speed anywhere near his best, which lies in the mid 140s. There is always the temptation to go in with players of proven ability but playing less then 100% fit bowlers is a trap that India must avoid. It is imperative that the players are fully fit so that they can stand and be counted upon when the chips are down. There is still scope to optimise resources. Sourav has to use himself as a change bowler and exploit the potential of Tendulkar even more, albeit, judiciously.

The batting has done us proud but this is crunch time and it will be Sydney's performance that will count and be remembered the most. The openers have been fairly consistent. Aakash Chopra has been a find but has tended to get out after having done all the hard work. It seems that he is having difficulty in sustaining the level of concentration that he begins with. He would benefit a lot by talking to the master, Sunil Gavaskar.

Sehwag will always be mercurial. However, it's apparent that he is not all slam bam kind. He is one who thinks deeply about the game and knows exactly what is best for him. It is not easy to play the same way when things are not going well. He has shown that he can still play that way and hats off to him. He has to tighten up just that slightly, to avoid soft dismissals.

Dravid is the wall protecting the inner core. Coupled with ability, he has displayed amazing powers of the mind — patience, resolve, discretion, concentration, discipline and determination. His example is one that the whole team can benefit from.

Tendulkar seems to be lacking in confidence, which is only to be expected, but few if any would be writing him off. He is going through a tough phase but does not appear to lack form. 1141 runs in 21 ODI innings in 2003 at an average of 57.05, which is the best in the world, bear adequate testimony.

The time spent at the crease in his innings of 44 may just be the platform for his return to the best.

Ganguly is in good form, has looked to stay positive and has played some exceptional shots but 40s or even 70s will just not do. In this form, if he gets set, he has to make a big hundred, a la Ponting. At the moment, he is playing far too loose to be able to do so against such quality opposition.

Laxman has been brilliant throughout the season. The same elementary mistake twice in a Test match though, is difficult to comprehend. There is no need to play a defensive shot to a leg spin delivery pitching outside the off stump. It's understandable if you are playing a shot for runs, otherwise the best defence is to let it go.

The onus is on the batsmen, as it can't get bigger than this. This team epitomises the new breed of the aggressive and if I can say, 'The Incredible Indian'. It's a new attitude and one that may just carry the day.

First Published: Jan 02, 2004 06:25 IST