India's showing in the last game against Pakistan gave hints of a side willing to work hard. Today it seems the whole side was woefully out of form. In a crucial for both the sides, Australia's professional attitude was enough to put India out of the game.
Huge score of 270 required brilliant start but in this context India faltered. The promoted Dighe at no. 3 who failed to come good. India has always struggled while chasing above 250 runs and the times they have won, is because of Sachin's blazing knock. In today's game it was essential for Sachin to open and bat throughout the innings. Even though Saurav played magnificent knock, India was never in the race. It was crucial for India to make full use of the first 15 overs. Laxman's second failure and Dighe's inability to score quickly pushed India on the back foot.
Sachin's run out was sacrilege. Both Sachin & Saurav had stitched valuable partnership and in Sachin's company Saurav was batting at his sublime best. Sachin's dismissal allowed Australia to get back in the game. New man Dravid took his time which helped Australia to block one end. Saurav carried manfully and his 100 was full of exquisite timing and deft placement. With him at the crease, India still had a chance, but all that was undone by his own foolishness. Dravid's tenure was hard work. His coming back to form did raise hopes, but his innings was painstaking. To win, India required boundaries, Dravid failed to produce. Effort was there but it was not enough. Robin's solo in the end was too late.
MCG provides an ideal setting for a cricketer to turn into a hero. Great atmosphere, huge crowd, a buzz around the ground which lifts the spirit of everybody. Today it was Ricky Ponting who took centre stage. He blazed away for a terrific 100. He drove, pulled, cut with aplomb. He never let the opposition dominate, which at one stage was threatening to do so. Bevan was the ideal foil. Both of them are supremely fit and are always capable of turning 1s into 2s. Ponting is having great summer. Today his elevation to the vice-captaincy's position was a reward in the right direction. He is young, he is aggressive and has the ability to take Australia to further glory.
Shane Lee's contribution cannot be underestimated. He chipped in with vital runs, broke the backbone of India's strength by a strong throw from the deep. Mcgrath was his usual self. His line & length is impeccable. Indian's faced huge difficulty in getting him away. In the absence of Shane Warne, Steve Waugh had pinned his hopes on Mcgrath and he did not falter. Got the initial breakthrough and when Saurav & Rahul were looking to increase the run rate, he came again to peg them back.
India's bowling lacked direction. They made the mistake of bowling short to one of the best pullers in the game. Srinath & Agarkar have formed a potent combination, only some more discipline is required. India's back is against the wall. It will not be a bad idea to try out Gandhi at No.4 & let Sachin go at his favourite position. Devang is a lovely striker of the ball, has the ability to clear and I reckon he is the ideal candidate to accelerate. The game on Jan 14 will be a big one for India. They need to pull up their socks to stay in reckoning.