It's a different ball game altogether

Written by: Suresh Parekh
Published: Thursday, February 15, 2001, 13:45 [IST]
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Rajkot: The Australian team is really riding high after its winning streak of 15-0. After its most convincing Test series victory of 5-0 against one-time champions West Indies, the Australians are all set to conquer the Test series in India.

But the question is will Australia conquer the Indian tiger in its own den. "To defeat the Indians in their home land is very difficult, if not impossible," is a quote often used by the captains of the teams visiting India and surely Steve Waugh would not be the last one.

The question is what is it that takes to win against India at home?

Statistics say that a study of the weaknesses of the players may be enough, but instead the captains depend on their best batsman or bowlers, who eventually could be a match winner.

This perception may not be wrong, but if one studies the last few series over a couple of decades or so, one may realise that India is one country where most of the specialist cricketers from abroad, who in other words are match-winners, have failed miserably.

And this list includes the cricketers who were truly great cricketers in the real sense of the word.

Let's go back to history and study a few series and the performances of few foreign players on Indian soil, who were all supposed to be match-winners for their teams.

Pakistan visited India in 1980 after a gap of 30 years. Pak showed, what a mighty team it was when india visited Pakistan in 1978-79.That was the series in which Zaheer Abbas went berserk as piled runs at his will.

And when he visited India everybody was sure that he would be the one who will take charge of scoring. But this was not to be. Zaheer was a big failure on Indian wickets. Kapil Dev singled out Zaheer's weakness and exploited it to the hilt.

At one stage, the Pakistan management was even thinking of dropping Zaheer from the series. Even Muddasar Nazar too failed miserably in the same series.

Just prior to this series India played a Test series against the Australian team under Kim Hughes' captaincy. Australia had in their ranks bowlers like Rodney Hogg and Allan Hurst who were simply a terror to the batsmen those days.

Indeed much was expected from Rodney Hogg on the Indian tour. But Hogg was a big failure and he couldn't bowl to his best. He hardly troubled any of the Indian batsmen with Gavaskar, Vishwanath and Vengsarkar scoring heavily against him.

Those days quite a few cricketers were scared to tour India as they could foresee their failures. Greig Chappell never played on the Indian soil.

The all-time best fast bowler Dennis Lillee never played on Indian soil. Sir Richard Hadlee decided to tour India only in 1988 and achieved considerable success.

When Shane Warne came to India in 1998 it was predicted that he would be as successful as he was in Australia and other countries. But what a nightmarish tour it turned out to be for him.

Shane Warne till date hasn't forgotten the way Sachin launched an attack on his bowling. He accepted his failure and perhaps paid the richest tribute to the Indian 'little master' by saying, "His 'sixes' still haunt me in my dreams."

Though the Australian Board was forced to give a thought whether to select Warne or MacGill for the tour remembering the failure of Warne in the last series, ultimately Warne's experience and reputation favoured him for the tour ahead of MacGill.

But most Indians would agree whether it is Shane Warne or McGill, it makes very little difference to the Indian willow master.

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