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Onus is on 'Fab Four'
by Partab Ramchand
Dec 21, 2007
It is said that batsmen at best can help draw matches while it is the bowlers who are the match winners. However the Indian batting might is such that it has not only helped set up victories but also shaped them. That is why Anil Kumble while expressing optimism about the Indian team’s chances in Australia has harped on the lustrous Indian batting line up putting the onus on the array of quality players to set up victory. ``We have the potential to upset the Aussies because we have the batting line-up to put the runs on the board and if we can put up the runs, I've always believed that we have the ability to get 20 wickets,’’ he said in a TV interview the other day.

Kumble is fully aware of the strength of India’s batting especially the famed middle order quartet which has scored over 32,000 runs with a staggering 87 hundreds. Add to that Virender Sehwag’s tally of over 4000 runs and 12 hundreds and one can immediately see that even Australia’s fearsome pace quartet may have a fight on their hands.

Certainly it can be said that despite Ajit Agarkar’s once in a lifetime spell of six for 41 that played a notable role in India winning the Adelaide Test four years ago – their first win in Australia in 23 years – it was the batting of Rahul Dravid and his 303-run fifth wicket partnership with VVS Laxman (148) that turned the match around. Dravid in fact followed his 233 with an unbeaten 72 in the second innings fittingly enough making the winning hit.

Turn the clock to 2001 and again it can be seen that despite the effort of Harbhajan Singh who had a match haul of 13 wickets, it was the now famous 376-run partnership between Laxman (281) and Dravid (180) that saw the fortunes swing India’s way.

At Multan in 2004 it was the speed at which India could post an imposing total of 675 for five declared thanks in the main to Sehwag’s 309, Tendulkar’s unbeaten 194 and their 336-run third wicket partnership that saw the bowlers run through the Pakistan batting twice in virtually two days.

Again at Kingston last year on a treacherous turf while Harbhajan and Kumble predictably took the wickets it was Dravid’s double of 81 and 68 that clinched a low scoring match for India – enough for them to clinch the series. One could really go and on in reeling off further examples.

If at all the famed quartet need any inspiration they only need to look back on the last trip four years ago. While the bowlers with the exception of Kumble ended up with the kind of figures they would see in their worst nightmares the batsmen finished the series with the kind of figures they would see in their most pleasant dreams.

The quintet of Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Ganguly and Sehwag ran up seven hundreds between them – two of them double centuries. Dravid finished with 619 runs at an average of almost 124, Laxman averaged 82, Tendulkar 76 and Sehwag 58. Only Ganguly’s average of 47 was below the half century mark. In successive Tests India ran up first innings totals of 409, 523, 366 and 705 for seven declared – the last their highest ever total in Tests. In the final Test they tallied 916 runs losing only seven wickets in the process. There were two triple century partnerships in the four-match series one between Dravid and Laxman and the other between Laxman and Tendulkar.

Perhaps the most pleasing figure of all was the 201 runs conceded off just 39.3 overs by Brett Lee in the first innings of the final Test at Sydney. Indeed the Australian bowlers all ended up with ragged figures. Lee’s eight wickets in two Tests cost him almost 60 apiece and the other bowlers fared little better.

For the Golden Quartet of Tendulkar, Laxman, Dravid and Ganguly it surely will be the last tour of Australia – enough incentive for them to fire on all cylinders, to bring their class, skill and vast experience into glorious play. Certainly Kumble has made it clear that he expects them to test the Australian bowlers to the full. They will certainly be expected to play key roles in the absence of a settled pair of opening batsmen. Sehwag for all his swashbuckling deeds four years ago has been one of the surprise choices this time making a comeback following his axing after a series of low scores that has seen his career average plummet from 55 to a shade below 50. Wasim Jaffer is in form and is technically sound but he is on his first tour of Australia and as such an unknown quantity `Down Under’. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s unorthodox buccaneering batting style is a bit of a gamble in that he may or may not come off.

So the onus is on the `Fab Four’ to deliver the goods like they did last time. Yes, Kumble has a point. Last time with plenty of runs on the board he could really harass the batsmen and he would be hoping for a repeat scenario this time around too.

 
More Views by Partab Ramchand
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