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India's firepower will be put to test
by Partab Ramchand
Mar 01, 2008
So the Indians have won the battle to qualify for the CB series best of three finals. Are they good enough to win the war and clinch the title in the last year of the tri series?

Both on past record and present form the answer must be in the negative. India have taken part in the tri series five times and qualified for the final thrice losing each time 2-0 to the Australians. On the form they have shown in the preliminary stage of the CB series they do not seem to have the firepower to upset the Aussies who will be that much more determined to write their names on the trophy one last time. After all they have been the dominant team in 29 years since the series was launched in 1979-80 in the wake of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket having won the competition 18 times. In the current tournament India lost twice to Australia, won once while one match ended in a no result and they finished a distant second in the points table with a record of three wins, three losses and two no results.

However it must be said that the tourists have a few things going for them. The Indian camp has this self belief that things are falling into place for them highlighted by Tendulkar’s return to form in the match against Sri Lanka at Hobart. They probably have a negative factor too in their favour – Australia’s loss to Sri Lanka on Friday. A more positive factor of course is the form displayed by Gautam Gambhir. The pugnacious 26-year-old left-hander from Delhi is enjoying a marvelous tournament having hit two hundreds and with a tally of 422 runs at an average of 70.33 he is easily the top run getter. His stellar showing has to a large extent covered up for the inconsistency displayed by the top and middle order with only Mahendra Singh Dhoni being among the runs. But just two batsmen shining out of seven is not enough to win titles and major contributions will have to be made by the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma and Robin Uthappa if India hope to put it over the Aussies

The same inconsistency unfortunately has engulfed the bowling too. Munaf Patel clearly has no place in the ODI squad and Sreesanth who is proving to be increasingly expensive has to be discarded. The bowling should centre round Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar and Harbhajan Singh. The seven batsmen and four bowler policy should be followed as this is in India’s best interests. The extra batsman is almost always a big help and there are enough bowlers among the batsmen to bowl the ten overs economically enough with perhaps the odd wicket thrown in.

It is a pity that Dinesh Kartik, Suresh Raina and Piyush Chawla have not got even one chance in the league stage and they are unlikely to figure in the best of three finals. But this is bound to happen sometimes and in fact it could well be a reflection that the team has settled down well. Chopping and changing too often is never an encouraging sign.

Could this well settled side then raise the level of their game and surprise the Aussies? The world champions are well aware that if there is one team which can topple them it is India. The Australians are a fine all round side but of late some chinks have developed in their armour. This has been evident even during the CB series but then the Aussies being outstanding fighters have this ability to rise to the occasion when the chips are down. It is this trait that has seen them dominate world cricket for so long. I somehow see their dominance extend to the CB series finals as well but it will be a tough fight that could well go down to the wire. Certainly I can’t see India go down as tamely as they have on the three previous occasions.

 
More Views by Partab Ramchand
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