Gwalior: One-day cricket's leading batsman Sachin Tendulkar poses a formidable challenge to Australia's second-string bowling attack when the world champions take on hosts India in the second match of the tri-series in Gwalior on Sunday. Injury and suspension have deprived Australia of five frontline bowlers- Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee, Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill for the series, also featuring New Zealand.
It leaves captain Ricky Ponting with a new-look attack of Andy Bichel, Brad Williams, Nathan Bracken, Brad Hogg and recalled veteran Michael Kasprowicz for the first clash against India since the World Cup final at Johannesburg in March. Ponting was under no illusions that the task ahead was tough against the strong Indian batting of Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Venkatsai Laxman and Virender Sehwag in conditions ideal for batsmen.
"We're going to have to try a few different things and see what works," Ponting said ahead of Sunday's day-night international. "Sometimes on these wickets, it can be that the faster you bowl, the easier it is to score. I'm going to have to think about things a lot more now. I'm going to have to look at where Williams or Bracken or Bichel or Kasprowicz are going to be most effective because I have not had the chance to captain those guys very much." Australia may have lost all its key bowlers, but the batting remains powerful in the form of the record-breaking Matthew Hayden, Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Damien Martyn and Andrew Symonds.
Hayden goes into the series after a world record score of 380 in the first Test against Zimbabwe earlier this month, while Ponting hit a magnificent century to flatten India in the World Cup final. Australia hold a clear psychological advantage over India, having won 12 of their last 15 One-day Internationals. The Indians, who were forced to split points with New Zealand after their rain-hit opener at Madras on Thursday, have not been spared injury worries either. They are missing influential captain Sourav Ganguly, who is set to skip the entire series as he recovers at home in Calcutta from two surgeries on his left thigh to drain abscess from painful boils.
The absence of left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra and veteran paceman Javagal Srinath, heroes of India's World Cup campaign, has depleted the hosts further. Tendulkar, who made just 71 runs in four innings in the recent Test series against New Zealand, returned to form with an unbeaten 48 against the Kiwis in Thursday's washed out match. "He is looking good and that is great news for us," said stand-in captain Dravid of Tendulkar, the most successful batsman in Limited Overs history with 12,219 runs and 34 centuries.
"Australia is always a formidable side and we will have to be at our best to beat them on Sunday and in the remaining matches." Each team plays the other three times in the preliminary round with the top two advancing to the final at Calcutta's Eden Gardens on November 18.
| Copyright AFP 2001 |