Nearly 85,000 people are expected to zero-in on the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) to watch World Champions, India, take on Australia in the Twenty20 game. The game is expected to be sold out. The game is also expected to stretch the policing!
In the wake of the letting off of Harbhajan Singh in the Monkeygate saga, following an appeals process in Adelaide, upset Australian fans are reported to be ready to show their displeasure at the MCG! Yesterday, there were reports of a wave of text messages urging a show of protest against Singh and his Indian teammates. These reports were denied by police.
Ricky Ponting and Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland have appealed for calm from their fans.
Ricky Ponting said, “I think we have to be really careful, and I basically say this to the fans now that are coming tomorrow, that they should approach turning up tomorrow the way we would want to be received when we tour any other country around the world.”
James Sutherland said, “We warn people that if they are going to come along and ruin other people’s fun and they think that that is good fun themselves, they may well have a short night,”
There are a few confusing things about the Monkeygate appeals process that need to be ironed out. The fact that there was an ICC bungle in presenting Harbhajan Singh’s priors would have merely changed the sentencing, not the verdict. When possibly surrounded by the general mist of anger, disgust and disappointment, it is important that we understand that essential difference between the verdict and the sentencing that emanates from it. Harbhajan Singh is innocent and to continue to gun for him or his mother or a squeaky-voiced TV reporter in his town is just immature stupidity. The sentencing may have been different. But the verdict would remain.
In the eyes of the court, the man is innocent.
Let us just get on with it.
Having said that, I do believe that the Indians are going to cop it big time today at the MCG. I do hope the fans behave themselves, for the sake of cricket. This has already been an angst-ridden summer already and crowd nonsense would just make it worse than it already has been.
I also hope that the game is a winner in the end — I never thought I would use that cliche ever, but there, I said it! The environment of mistrust, angst and misunderstandings has prevailed for a long time now. It is time to put it to bed and concentrate on the cricket instead.
The two teams are likely to be:
Adam Gilchrist (!)
Ricky Ponting (*) / David Hussey
Nathan Bracken / Ben Hilfenhaus
Rohit Sharma / Dinesh Karthik / Suresh Raina
Sachin Tendulkar / Manoj Tiwary / Yuvraj Singh
MS Dhoni (!*)
Harbhajan Singh / Piyush Chawla
Ishant Sharma / Munaf Patel
In my view, Australia are a better batting side for this game. With Yuvraj Singh possibly absent through injury, it may be that Sachin Tendulkar plays, although a report in the Times of India indicates that it is unlikely that he will play! If the Indian openers get off to a good start, the pressure will be on Adam Voges and James Hopes to perform with the ball and this is where, I feel, Team India may have an advantage.
I am glad that Praveen Kumar has been retained in the side. Players like him, Irfan Pathan, Joginder Sharma, Abhishek Nayar, et al will be crucial in the development of a well-balanced future T20/ODI side.
In all of the noise surrounding Monkeygate, there is one point that has missed the radar. I do believe that, of all the crazy selection decisions we have seen in recent times, the choice of Munaf Patel as cover for R. P. Singh is a total nonsense and makes a mockery of the “better fielding” dogma that M. S. Dhoni and the Indian selectors have been talking to in the context of Twenty20 and ODI team selections!
Having said that, the Indian fielding team is a good one. Uthappa, Tiwary, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina, et al will give off good fielding displays and will also paint a future Team-India picture sans the Big Five.
Let us look forward to a good game.