As the Champions League draws to a close (yawn!), we have the exciting and thrilling prospect of seven — Yes! Not one. Not two. But seven… woo hoo! — ODI’s between India and Australia!
Australian captain, Ricky Ponting, has already made his views known on meaningless and long-drawn-out bilateral ODI series. But unfortunately for him, it is the Lalit Modis of the world that run cricket and not players who want good things happening for cricket!
When Australia last visited India for a long-and-meaningless 385-match bilateral ODI series (well, it seemed like that series went for 385 matches!), India had just won the inaugural T20 World Championship! Symonds, who was later targeted with reprehensible chants by crowds in India, fired the first salvo in the traditionally conducted pre-series war of words, by saying that Australians were more humble (cough, splutter!) in the way they celebrated their victories!
However, in this edition, there has been mutual respect and admiration instead of barbs and cutting remarks from both teams!
Ricky Ponting has said that he is in admiration of a tough opponent! Brett Lee has indicated that he is wary of an “unpredictable side in the nicest way possible [who] are capable of beating any side on their day”!
In this video clip, it is reported that Harbhajan Singh said that Australia will be a tough team to beat and looks forward to giving off his best against the #1 team in the world. A very un-Harbhajan like comment indeed!
And despite suggesting that the Aussies need to be wary of Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, that other unstoppable mouthpiece for Indian cricket, has advised the, “Indian batsmen to be wary of Australian seam bowling attack”.
Hello! This is an India-Australia series we are talking about, aren’t we?
I do think that “products” (sic!) such as the IPL and CLT20 have created greater harmony amongst players — particularly from India and Australia. Who knows? Peter Lalor may not feel the urge to write about Harbhajan Singhs’ mother any more!
After a spate of injury-driven absences, the Indian team has the services of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh again. The team has also cleaned up the bench and sent Rahul Dravid and Yusuf Pathan into hibernation, although, unfortunately, Abhishek Nayar got caught up in the clean-up! I can’t quite fathom the absence of Rohit Sharma though. His time will come, I am sure.
I do agree with Sourav Ganguly when he says that M. S. Dhoni is being wasted at #6 or #7 and in a “circumspect” role in the batting order. He must bat higher up the batting order.
Although my preference would be for Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag to open, I do not believe Sachin Tendulkar will let go of the spot he covets! This will mean that Gautam Gambhir probably comes in at #3!
I expect the following team to walk onto the park in Vadodhra on Sunday Oct 25 2009.
M. S. Dhoni
Suresh Raina / Virat Kohli
Harbhajan Singh / Amit Mishra
Praveen Kumar / Munaf Patel
Ishant Sharma / Sudeep Tyagi
The Australians will gun for Ishant Sharma, a bowler who has had a below-par start to the season. He is probably low on confidence and the Australians will need no invitation to get stuck into a bowler who has performed well against them in the recent past. But this is probably just the fillip the youngster needs. He needs to think through and visualise how he was successful against the best team in the world and recreate that rhythm and magic. This series might just be the tonic his career needs at this point in time.
If the above team is free of injuries, niggles and fielding worries and if Ishant Sharma can find his rhythm again, I expect this to be a close series.
Despite the absence of Callum Ferguson and Micheal Clarke, The Australians look formidable. They have a steady (new) opening pair in Tim Paine and Shane Watson. The middle order looks a tad shaky for Indian conditions — given Ricky Ponting’s run of poor form there. However, Ponting and the two Hussey brothers are in good form. With Cameron White also performing well lately, and with a good clutch of ODI bowlers in Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Brett Lee and Nathan Hauritz, this team is going to be hard to beat.
Yet, despite the portents and the potential excitement, I can’t get myself to be thrilled to bits about this series! The prospect of 7 ODIs between these two — no doubt — quality teams is no longer a mouth watering prospect. If this is the view of a sworn cricket tragic before the start of a series between the current #1 and #2 on ICC’s ODI rankings table, it is time the ICC does something about the game. The ODI format looks a bit tired at the moment!