'VVS Laxman should bat higher in the order'

Written by: Allan Border
Published: Friday, January 16, 2004, 14:38 [IST]
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The Indian cricketers have lately acquired that hard edge which they could not summon on so many previous foreign tours. They have improved in all areas and no longer should somebody question why they have been such poor travellers on the road. You could sense it from their demeanour -- hard-nosed, terrier-like approach -- and a team which has not taken a backward step in the series.

Australia have been world champions but everytime you see this Indian team in the park, you feel they can beat Australia. It is not a small credit and reflect well on the respect the Indians enjoy.

If the weather is kind, and that is a big if because a rain depression has set in Queensland, India and Australia should have a cracker of a game at Gabba on Sunday. You could be sure the outfield would have been trimmed and ball would race along the boundary from the heavy artillery which both the sides carry.

It is a good deck and there would be bounce but the One-dayers in Gabba usually produce high scores. Not that you expect anything less from batsmen of two sides who have been in magnificent form all summer. A side would be deemed to have done well if they could stop the other from crossing 250 runs.

Australia still set the benchmark in world cricket and for anyone else to be looked up in better esteem is a great tribute to Ganguly and his men. They are no longer dependent on Sachin Tendulkar for runs. Everyone else is putting up his hand and performing.

Sourav Ganguly has been a revelation. He was the fall guy of international cricket, who sometimes gave the impression in batting and fielding of a kid born with a silver spoon. He looked to have a soft underbelly. But he has been gutsy and feisty on this tour and has shown tremendous character. I have a feeling captaincy has brought out the tiger in him. With responsibility, his character has toughened and now he gives nothing away.

Zimbabweans have been under a weather in this series and it is developing into a two-headed competition. The two heavyweights have not met since that chilly night at MCG and the African team has struggled to retain the attention of a cricketing nation which still carries the hangover of an exceptional Test series.

At the start of the summer, a grateful Matthew Hayden had knocked off the top total in Test cricket and Adam Gilchrist nearly did the same to the One-day record in Hobart. Indeed, Zimbabweans are losing the plot.

Still I believe Zimbabwe must be taken seriously at all times. They can deliver a knockout punch and dent a few egos in the next two weeks. It is not beyond them even though the thoughts of a place in the finals are receding every day.

They are handicapped because they only have a pool of 30-odd cricketers to choose from and without a strong bench, the others do not have a competition in their compound. They are still needed in international cricket and any thoughts on their credentials must be dropped at the nearest garbage.

VVS Laxman should bat higher in the order. In certain games of academic interest, he should even be asked to open. He still has to sort out the subtle difference between Tests and One-dayers but he can work out his game plan. Sometimes, a good Test player tries too hard in the shorter form of the game. He has talent in abundance and only needs to realise there is only a slight difference between the two forms of cricket.

Once he starts working the ball around in the field, learn to pick his singles, he would be fine.

I have a soft spot for Irfan Pathan who has been refreshing and shown a great heart in the few matches he has played. Ajit Agarkar has shown if the ball is put in right areas, a bowler could reap rich rewards. He has caused grief to opposing batsmen. It is not everyday a bowler takes six Australian wickets in a One-day game. Anil Kumble is in good form and the others must forge important links with these key bowlers.

Indians have a packed itinerary and four matches scheduled in a space of a week. There should be no complaints here for that is the way modern itineraries are planned these days. Cricketers must learn to come to grips with it mentally.

It is no different from million of others who get up everyday and report for job at 9 am, every working day of the year. Certain things do go with the job.


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