Perfect dress rehearsal for Aussies

Written by: Ian Healy
Published: Sunday, January 30, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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Australia got the perfect dress rehearsal, for the Carlton and United finals series this week, when India fought back several times, to push the World Cup champs all the way, in Perth. 19 runs from three overs had to be scored with four wickets in hand for Australia to maintain its winning ways.

Forced changes to the Indian side, failed to improve the Indian top order's confidence against McGrath and Fleming's new ball spells. Four overs for one run by McGrath, to accompany Fleming's wicket of Tendulkar, wasn't the inspirational start India wanted after winning the toss in searing temperatures.

McGrath was awesome and shots were hard to come by for Laxman. If they were going to bat in this tentative way, the total was not going to be huge. In my view they could post a similar total by attacking from the outset, playing naturally, hitting over the infield and going for broke, backing their talent. It's not an easy decision to make though when confidence and moral is down. It needs to come from the top and player trust in it being a correct decision must be high, if the psychological clouds are to be lifted.

Dravid was good again but didn't go on with things, after batting in patches. Five 4's in the space of 20 balls was his response to the two early wickets, but then seemed to switch off for a time. It was definitely one way traffic, until Singh joined Dravid and provided some security. A useful partnership was followed by a beauty, between Dighe and Singh. At this late stage the two got things right. Running hard, finding the boundary with attacking shots and getting the opponent on their heels. Full credit to Dighe for lifting India's rate and getting them to a competitive total.

Australia's openers were given early gifts as the Indian pacers struggled down wind as well as into the 'Freemantle doctor', Perth's prevailing sea breeze. The gifts were in the form of extras, with overpitched deliveries and short ones on both sides of the wicket being handed out too.

Mark Waugh played well again today, backing up his 116 in Adelaide and he looks well prepared for the series finals. Sunil Joshi, with his 2nd ball had Waugh caught by Dighe, edging a ball from a cut shot to the enthusiastic gloveman. It bounced a little extra and deviated further from the edge, for it to be an excellent catch by Dighe.

Heart rate monitors were today used by the Australians, to see how the searing temps affected the health levels of players. McGrath while bowling, Gilchrist while keeping and Ponting batting, were all found to be quite stressed during their performances and maybe today, too much was asked of Gilchrist when he opened the innings as normal.

They didn't demonstrate any regard for their health though, as Ponting and Bevan hustled between wickets, mixing that pace with positive strokeplay. Robin Singh, India's player of the match placed the Australian batting order under stress, when he had Ponting caught at mid-on, Steve Waugh bowled looking to force the shot and Bevan caught brilliantly by Tendulkar.

The tables had turned and at least this inexperienced Indian side will go home with a taste of being on top, even if it was fleeting. Rahul Dravid anticipated Shane Lee's quick single swooped and ran him out, which left things up to Shane Warne, who hadn't batted for three weeks. The rest did him no harm however and he smashed the Aussies home in the last over.

India's summer of torment and pressure is over. I hope they have learnt much and that this learning is consolidated into their techniques. Australia presents unique playing conditions and we eagerly await their return.

Procam International

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