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It's a little easier playing the Aussies

October 28, 2003 23:59 IST

We will be going into the Faridabad one-dayer against Australia tomorrow with our batteries recharged after a lazy, luxurious, and therapeutic break by the sea.

Tomorrow's game will be crucial because we will have to exploit the advantage we have of having been acclimatized, while the Australians may still be a little rusty. After all, they were playing in Sydney only a week ago.

We will have to drive home this advantage tomorrow if we want to make the finals. The Australians will be getting increasingly comfortable in these conditions with every passing hour, and we have to strike early before they come to grips with the low bounce and slowness of the pitches.

Having said that, they are a match down in the TVS Tri-series and will be coming hard at us, so both teams will be pretty desperate for a win.

I saw the pitch at Faridabad, which is a ninety-minute drive from our hotel. It is a pitch on which 250-plus will be par for the course, which means the bowlers will not have much joy tomorrow.

Preparing for a game against Australia is very different from preparing for one against India. Since we play in similar conditions, we feel we are on familiar territory when we are playing against the former. The batsmen seem to have more options.

Against India, especially in India, the game plan is very different. There is a sense that we might come up against something unfamiliar, and, as a whole, the batsmen are a little more circumspect. I'm sure the Australians feel the same way about playing against us.

It is also easier playing Australia here because India being the hosts know the history and characteristics of most grounds, while as visitors, both the Aussies and our team are equally ignorant about conditions and have to judge the wicket at face value.

Chris Cairns has a hamstring problem and will have to sit out of tomorrow's game. His place will be taken either by Kyle Mills or Ian Butler.

It was interesting to read about doctors recommending periodic layoffs for fast bowlers in order to lengthen their careers. We have been practising this through a system of rotation for the last couple of years. It's an idea that has gained currency in baseball, and will soon be adopted in most countries vis-à-vis cricket. With the amount of cricket being played these days such measures will have to be taken to protect fast bowlers. As a result, it will be the bench strength that will be crucial to a team's success rate in the years to come.

I watched the Gwalior one-dayer on television and thought the Indians got their old recipe of success at home perfect during the game. Putting up a big score and then applying pressure on the team batting second with some help from the spinners has been a strategy the Indians have successfully employed since Adam was a boy.

Full marks to Rahul for the way he marshalled his resources even when the Australian openers were going great guns. It could not have been easy to keep control when things weren't going his way, especially since he is not the regular captain. Fortunately for India he kept his head, and fortunately for him, his slow bowlers responded splendidly.

I had said in my last column that India would potentially miss Sourav more in the one-dayers than in the Tests since the captain has a more pivotal role on the field in the shorter version. Rahul's calm presence and astute cricketing mind ensured that the team did not suffer too much in the absence of the regular skipper.

After our rained-out match in Chennai, we all moved to Fisherman's Cove, a wonderful seaside resort just outside Chennai. It was a welcome break after a month of hectic cricket and frenetic travel itineraries. The fast bowlers were particularly in need of a break, so while we were off cricket, the therapeutic benefits will certainly help us in the next three weeks.

The sea was warm and inviting, and most of us just lay around like beached whales, soaking in the sun. The hero of the weekend was Paul Hitchcock, who fished for a better part of the break, and even hooked a huge sea fish. I scored a zero in fishing, but made decent money in the card sessions we had. I have been the eternal loser in these sessions, but this time round I made up for some of the losses I incurred on earlier tours.

I also successfully vetoed suggestions that I should spend my card earnings buying dinner for the team! All in all, I had a restful, profitable break.

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Stephen Fleming