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|December 7, 1999||
Disciplined bowling neededHarsha Bhogle
While the Indians were warming up at the Sydney Cricket Ground, a throwaway line from Bobby Simpson suddenly rang out. "The Indians prefer to play these as practice games rather than to win. Sometimes you need to practice winning as well."
The Indians certainly did not do that at the Manuka Oval with the figure of Andrew Symonds out there to haunt them again. If he could play half as well against other teams as he does against India, he would be a major international star, not an Aussie wannabe Test cricketer. Against India, his bat is like a prepaid calling card; it comes with a value attached.
As they ponder over the strangeness of the itinerary (why did they want a useless nibble between two proper meals?) and their performance, the Indians must actually take some heart from the announcement of the Australian team. India’s weakness against extreme pace is well known in the cricket world and yet, Australia chose to go in with only three quicks and a half and half back-up bowler.
There is a message there for it means that the Adelaide Oval is likely to live up to current reputation which is that of a wicket that takes spin as the match goes along. If it is a slower track, and Australia use Miller primarily as a spinner, India’s batsmen will feel far more reassured.
Australia’s batting though has both a settled and an intimidating look to it. Greg Blewett has grabbed another passing morsel and converted into a meal. He opens for South Australia and on his home ground, and apparently still the best batting track in the land, he must feel secure. So would Justin Langer who pulled the noose out of his neck and rode away into the sunset against Pakistan.
Ironically, the two batsmen most short of runs are the Waugh twins and it is a disquieting thought that they are followed by Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist, not just late middle order players but match winning batsmen in their own right.
I don't think too many people fancy India’s chances of getting twenty wickets in this game but the Indians will do well to bowl with the kind of discipline which Sachin Tendulkar was so impressed with at Sydney. One of the deciding factors in Australia’s resounding win over Pakistan was the speed with which they got runs. It achieved two critical ends. It took the pressure off a good Pakistani performance very quickly and more important, it meant their bowlers had a lot of time to take wickets.
If India can, at least initially, prevent Australia from getting off to a flier, they will have done themselves a good turn.
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