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Australians out-thought at Perth
by Suresh Menon
Jan 21, 2008
By Suresh Menon - Dreamcricket Special Columnist

To play well and win is the best revenge. One of the most amazing statements to emerge after the Perth Test was Australian skipper Ricky Ponting’s admission that the wicket wasn’t what he expected it to be. In The Australian newspaper he was quoted as saying “We got our ends mixed up.” He was talking about the bowling in the first innings, but you don’t need a warped sense of humour to see that it had broader implications too.

Australia were out-thought, and credit for that should go to skipper Anil Kumble for not putting his trust in the media which had predicted all manner of carnage on the Perth wicket. Win toss and bat - the maxim has held from the time of W G Grace, and it was good to see that the Australian media were not setting the agenda for the Test. Ponting fell for the media hype.

And India for once got the team balance right - leaving openers to open, the No 3 to play at No 3 and the right mix of bowlers. If they have learnt a lesson from Perth it is the vital importance of team balance. And the need to place balance above all else, including the claims of individual glamour boys. By keeping Virender Sehwag out of the first two Tests and forcing Rahul Dravid to open so that Yuvraj Singh could be accommodated, they had thrown the team out of kilter.

Ironically, while India followed the Aussie precept of picking the best available team, Australia struggled because they did not follow the Indian method of compromise and adjustment-making. In Matthew Hayden’s absence, had Australia either pushed Adam Gilchrist or Mike Hussey to open, they could have accommodated Simon Katich who has been having a brilliant season (including a triple century in a Shield game) at number three. Ah well!

Now there is talk of opening with Dravid again to bring in an extra bowler at Adelaide or even an extra batsman. Clearly Dinesh Karthick should open with Sehwag if the time to drop Wasim Jaffer has come.

Balance is the bedrock on which successful teams are built. That is why senior players have sometimes got to step aside. The effigy-burners and slogan-shouters have already begun their work in Kolkata over the decision to drop Sourav Ganguly from the one-day squad. Dravid and V V S Laxman do not find slots either, but fans in Bangalore and Hyderabad seem to be either more cricket-literate or have better things to do.

The only argument for having one of these three players in the squad would be experience and the fact that they have already acclimatized themselves to the conditions in Australia. Either Dravid or Laxman might have been a useful number three - the player around whom the batting revolves in one-day cricket. Think Ponting or Sangakkara or Kallis. But it is unlikely that either of them will be around for the 2011 World Cup, and the time to start preparing is now. If - as has been suggested - skipper Mahendra Dhoni is tired of having so many ex-captains in the side, then he is entitled to express that opinion to the selectors. After all, it is his head on the block. Not even the most fanatic of Indian supporters has thought it worthwhile to stone the houses of selectors when India have done badly. An oversight, no doubt, but there it is.

If Indian teams are aspiring towards balance rather than accommodation, then Perth would have played a bigger role than just the result of the Test might suggest.

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