Australians are trying everything to fight back at Kotla(Preview)

October 28th, 2008 - 6:18 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 28 (IANS) Australia are unfamiliar to trailing in a Test series. They find it unpleasant, too. The World Champions, who have dominated world cricket for over a decade almost unchallenged, are down 0-1 in the four-match Border-Gavaskar Trophy series and it is proved beyond doubt that if any team can stand up to them in contemporary game it is India.The naturally aggressive Australians hate to be dictated by opponents and India have done just that on quite a few occasions in recent years, their record 320-run victory at Mohali clearly unnerving them. However, an Australian backlash in the third Test at Ferozshah Kotla, starting Wednesday, cannot be discounted as they know the series is over if they lose here.

Australians are a dangerous bunch when their cricketing pride is hurt. The long rest between Mohali and Delhi Tests has given them ample time to introspect and work out new plans to check the charging Indians. No wonder, their vice-captain Michael Clarke rejected the suggestion that India’s dominance and confrontational style have brought about a new world order in the game.

Spin lessons from Bishan Singh Bedi, batting tips from their former captain Steve Waugh and getting to understand reverse swing from Big Merv Hughes are some of the inputs they have received during their rigorous, methodical practice sessions.

Australia’s intent cannot be doubted, but their vulnerability, too, cannot be wished away. They know the reasons, they are searching for answers. The key reasons could be their dwindling resources after the retirement of giants like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Justin Langer and Adam Gilchrist. The Kotla Test will prove whether they still have the stomach to fight back, a quality every Australian team is supposed to inherit from its predecessors.

“We are not used to the kind of situation we are in. It has not happened in a very long time and there is a lot of pressure. But Australia play all the elements of the game very well and we have a fighting culture,” Hayden insists.

They have a long list of problems. Their pace attack does not look all that menacing any longer. Spearhead Brett Lee, who has been leading the pack admirably since the exit of McGrath, is in woeful form, a major concern for skipper Ricky Ponting, and their spat at Mohali has not helped matters. The rest of the quickies are struggling to find their feet on Indian tracks. Mitchell Johnson has been by far their best bowler in the two Tests.

The spin department has been stark empty since Warne’s exit. Leg-spinner Cameron White has looked pedestrian and Jason Krejza might make his debut here on a track which is expected to aid the tweakers from Day three if not earlier.

The top-order batting, too, has been ordinary with none of the big guns firing. Ponting did get a century in the first match, but wiry Ishant Sharma again came back to haunt him in Mohali. Michael Hussey is the only batsman who has tackled Indian attack with some authority.

Matthew Hayden might have scored heavily against India, but looks totally out of form and Zaheer dismissed him thrice in the series. The left-hander though believes a big score from him is just round the corner.

The Indian team have a happy relaxed look, full of confidence to seal the series here. Kotla history is also on their side, having won the last seven Tests.

The Indians, however, still have fitness problems. If Kumble had to sit out at Mohali, it looks Harbhajan Singh might be the man to miss the Test here. The off-spinner has an inflamed toe and if the team management is not sure of his being hundred percent fit, it is, perhaps, for him to decide.

Kumble’s shoulder has mended and he exudes confidence. He has replied to all the queries about his utility to the side in a one-liner: “I have faith in my ability and the team has faith in me.”

Kumble knows he will be bowling on a track that is like his backyard where he has an enviable record, not to forget the Perfect 10 against Pakistan in an innings.

“I am fit. But Harbhajan is still not sure. Hopefully he will be fit,” Kumble said in the pre-match press conference.

Amit Mishra, who made a sensational debut in Mohali, will have to sit out. But he might be back in the eleven, courtesy Harbhajan’s injury, unless the thinking is that it is better to play Munaf Patel instead of two leggies since the Australians have encountered as many problems with pace as they have with spin.

Kumble also said that the pitch looks good for batting and Ponting has endorsed it, except that the Australian feels that spinners will come into play in a big way on third day itself.

“It looks like a batting track. We have to put runs on board and pick-up 20 wickets,” said Kumble. Ponting cannot agree more.

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