Arjun Raja is a NRIOL featured sports columnist. To read about Arjun Raja, please Know more.
As the Indian team begins arguably their most difficult tour of the late nineties, the question on most Indian fan's lips are:
1. Will Sachin Tendulkar provide the same entertainment as he did in the previous series played in India and
2. Will Azharuddin, not considered for selection be missed in the middle order.
As far as I am concerned, Sachin Tendulkar is a class act and should do well. He is obviously the main target for the Aussies who have already started their pressure tactics by saying that Glenn Mcgrath will be gunning for Tendulkar.
Choosing Mcgrath and not Warne as the threat would probably be because Mcgrath dismissed him for a duck in the World Cup match at the Oval in June. But the Aussies have forgotten how easily Sachin played him at Lord's the previous year during the Princess Diana memorial game when he scored a fantastic hundred.
They have sensibly not bothered with using Shane Warne as a factor after the horrible treatment meted out to him in India, which destroyed his confidence in a such a manner that he was dropped from the test XI within a year's time.
India enter the first test with five batsmen with test averages over 50 which is great. If they play to 80 percent of their potential, it will be more than sufficient. The only worry for India is its bowling, where I stil feel they lack the bowlers to bowl Australia out twice... and win a match. Once Srinath finishes his spell, it will be up to Prasad and the rest of to continue attacking.
Anil Kumble has always wanted to bowl on Australianl wickets as he fancies his chances on the bouncy wickets. If he delivers the goods, things look bright.
India must be careful in the first test. Many, many times we have batted badly in the first innings of the first test and lost it. It happened in England in 96, NZ in 90, South Africa in 92 and 97. Even if it means being a little negative, we must look to draw the first test. Once we get over the initial hiccups on the faster, bouncier Australian wickets, we will be a difficult side to beat.
Looking at the way Laxman has begun in Australia with scores of 113 and 73, and the failure of Bharadwaj at number six means the Indian batting line up for the first test will include Laxman at number six. The first five batsmen pick themselves - Gandhi, Ramesh, Dravid, Sachin and Saurav.
With the wicketkeeper being MSK Prasad, the bowling department will be in the hands of Srinath, Prasad, Kumble and either Harbhajan or Kumaran depending on the pitch. India definitely miss a bowling allrounder, someone who can bat at six but if Laxman can make a big score, it will help his and the team's cause no end.
The answer to the second question depends on the performance of Laxman, Bharadwaj or Kanitkar. If the number six doesn't click, then Azharuddin's experience and talent will be sorely missed. It is not easy to replace a batsman of Azhar's calibre and I would have picked him for such a tough tour.
It is very important that the Indians do not get affected by the sledging the Aussies are bound to indulge in. The Pakistanis seemed to get affected by it and this led to their three-nil defeat. In that respect, Kapil's role is to talk to the juniors, especially Ramesh and Gandhi, and advise them on how to handle such pressure. I am certain Ramesh is a cool character as he showed in his first series against Pakistan at home, when the pressure to perform is greatest.
All in all it promises to be a cracker of a series. If Sachin plays half as well as he did the last time against the Aussies, the crowds Down Under are in for a feast of batsmanship at the highest possible level. Their chance to see a Don in action wearing Indian colours!! Read more
- Arjun Raja in Dubai, UAEDecember 1999
The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.For a listing of past columns by Arjun Raja, please Know more.