It has been a long-hard-painful summer. Most of us can’t wait for it to finish. The Australian fan may even be happy for the series to end today — which would mean that India win the CB Series Final — just so that the Indians would go away! India has hung around like an itch that just will not go away! The Australian players and press have stumbled from one embarrassment to the next and will want this long and arduous summer to end!
But there is pride at stake.
The Indians will want to finish off the tour in the second game itself. I feel that if the series goes to a 3rd game, Australia will be favourites to lift the CB Series Cup in Adelaide.
But in order for the finals series to go into a 3rd game, Australia needs to raise its intensity and game. They are behind the eight-ball at the moment and despite potential injuries to Sachin Tendulkar and Ishant Sharma, the Indians will feel that they have their noses in front at this stage. Australia will want to pull itself back into the CB Series Final today. Australian coach Tim Nielsen has called for a tough-as-nails aggressive approach from his team.
This Australian unit is a champion outfit that’s just lost its way a little. Perhaps the team was just a bit too distracted by the off-field goings-on. Its captain, Ricky Ponting, appears to be stumbling from one disaster to the next. But he is a master player and it is hard to keep a master down for too long. This Australian team is hurt and they are going to come hard at the Indians at the Gabba today. Make no mistake about that.
What happened on Sunday in the first final is now history. Both teams have a lot to play for today. Australia will be playing to remain in the series and India will want to finish it all off. India will want to end this acrimony-and-controversy-ridden tour.
But this will not be easy for India. Not many teams have defeated Australia two games in a row! Having said that, the Australians have lost their last two games — to Sri Lanka and India. But the Australians are ODI champions and will play hard.
On four occasions visiting teams have squandered a win in the first outing of a three-match-series-final to then go on to lose the series. NZ lost in 1980-81, South Africa lost in 1993-94 and 1997-98 and Sri Lanka lost in 2005-06.
India is likely to play both Ishant Sharma and Sachin Tendulkar despite their finger and groin injuries respectively. I think that this could be a dangerous move. I’d support the inclusion of Virender Sehwag for Sachin Tendulkar and Sree Santh for Ishant Sharma. But I think this is unlikely. Either way, despite a good showing in Sydney, I feel it is unlikely that Piyush Chawla will play. I would think that either one of Munaf Patel or Sree Santh could get a game.
Here’s hoping that Harbhajan Singh does not offend the pristine Australian media by scratching himself in public once again!