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Aussies will look to win the series
by Partab Ramchand
Sep 27, 2007
From Fifty50 to Twenty20 and back to Fifty50. Well, that’s the world of cricket these days. There is no respite for the players what with the tight international schedules. With the kind of money in the game these days one is sure the players are not complaining. After all they are professionals and they have to get used to the exhausting program but it is kind of hard for cricket lovers sometime to follow who is playing who and where and whether it is the longer version, the shorter version and of course now one has to contend with the newest and shortest version which is bound to grow rapidly what with the success of the Twenty20 World Cup – particularly in this country after the Indian team’s triumphant campaign in South Africa.

However that memorable victory is now part of history and cricketing folklore. The focus is now on the series of seven ODIs between India and Australia scheduled to commence with the day night game at Bangalore on Friday. Both the teams have had no breathing space with the Twenty20 World Cup having ended on Monday.

In fact India and Australia clashed in the semifinal last Saturday and many cricketers who figured in that game will be part of the squads for the ODI series. But there are some familiar faces missing from both camps. A few of Indian cricket’s newest heroes including Joginder Sharma and Rohit Sharma will be missing from the ODI line up. Virender Sehwag who was part of the Twenty20 squad still remains out of favour as far as ODIs are concerned while Ajit Agarkar has rightly been axed. In their place `The Big Three’ of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid return as also Zaheer Khan. Also back is Ramesh Powar and three spinners – Piyush Chawla and Harbhajan Singh are also in the 15 – gives rise to the theory that two such bowlers might find a place in the playing eleven.

Many of the heroes of the victorious Twenty20 squad however are in the ODI squad and will no doubt be the cynosure. Mahendra Singh Dhoni leading at home for the first time will be under intense scrutiny along with his deputy Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Dinesh Karthik, Robin Uthappa, Irfan Pathan, Sreesanth and Rudra Pratap Singh. India of course will be playing their first ODI series since they lost narrowly to England 4-3 earlier this month but as everyone knows the Indian team is a difficult proposition at home. And after the momentous victory parade and grand felicitation function in Mumbai on Wednesday it is time to get their feet back on familiar territory and get the better of the Aussies.

Normally Australia should start as favorites but the world champions have had their share of problems coming into the series. Injuries have ruled out Shane Watson, Mike Hussey and Shaun Tait weakening the team somewhat. Their replacements Brad Haddin, James Hopes and Ben Hilfenhaus are no doubt good players but nowhere near the players they have replaced. As such Australia will be hoping that their established stars come off if they want to win the series. With the likes of Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Michael Clark, Nathan Bracken, Mitchell Johnson, Brad Hogg, Brad Hodge and Andrew Symonds around the visitors still present formidable opposition. There is however some doubt about Ponting’s fitness following a hamstring injury he suffered during the Twenty20 World Cup and Adam Voges who recently led the Australia A team in Pakistan has been added to the squad as cover for the Australian captain.

It remains to be seen whether India who will be vociferously backed following their triumph in South Africa can maintain the momentum and pull off a victory. As Dhoni himself admitted the team not being under any pressure was certainly one reason why the team came through a triumphant campaign in South Africa. At home however expectations are always that much higher particularly after the victory at Johannesburg on Monday. It certainly will be a whole new ball game for Dhoni and his men as they take on a strong Aussie side along with the pressure factor. Ricky Ponting, never one to miss out on playing the mind games, remarked pointedly at the tour eve media conference that the pressure will be even more on India after the Twenty20 victory. The visitors on their part will be thirsting for vengeance for their semifinal loss in the Twenty20 and my mind goes back 24 years. The West Indies having lost the World Cup to India came over to this country a few months later on a revenge mission and went on to complete a clean sweep of the five-match ODI series. Whether the Australians have it in them to inflict something similar on an Indian team on a high will be known over the next 20 days.

 
More Views by Partab Ramchand
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