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The Rediff Interview/Richard Hadlee

India cannot rely on one player

December 01, 2003

Richard HadleeRichard Hadlee was widely regarded as one of the best all-rounders in the world. In a career spanning 18 years, he was, without doubt, the best player to come out of New Zealand.

Talk of Australia and his eyes light up. The Trans-Tasmanian rivalry is uppermost in the minds of most Kiwis; a match between the teams is as keenly awaited as an India-Pakistan encounter.

Hadlee took a record 33 wickets for New Zealand in a three-Test series against Australia in 1985-86 at the Gabba, including 9 for 52 (15 wickets in the match), and caught the other batsman to figure in all 10 dismissals of the innings.

As the Indian team prepares for the first Test against Australia, at the Gabba, the players would do well to heed to the wisdom of the Sultan of swing. The legendary all-rounder spoke to Ashish Magotra.

"It is important for India to play positively and with aggression. The Aussies look to win every match they play, no matter what the sport is. Whether it is rugby, cricket or football, they look to win.

"The Indian bowlers will have their work cut out; they will have to work very hard in alien conditions. The Aussies are missing a few important players, but every Aussie team is a strong one. These days they just don't seem to produce any bad players. Australia have the winning attitude and as soon as India develops that attitude they could start winning too," he said.

India have in their ranks one of the best batsmen in the world in Sachin Tendulkar and too often in the past it has been said that the team relies too much on him. Hadlee feels if India is to make headway on this tour, the thinking in that direction has to change.

"There is no way India can afford to rely on one player, Sachin Tendulkar in India's case. You have to play as a team to have a chance against the Australians.

"The thing about the Aussies is that they advance the game very quickly. They play so positively that in a 90-over day they look to score at least 360-370 runs. They look to win in four days and the only chance you have of winning is if you slow the game down." Hadlee opined.


The Sultan of Swing

New Zealand's chairman of selectors feels India must keep the Aussies under pressure from the start to entertain any hope of lasting all five days of the match.

"India needs to be aggressive but, more importantly, they need to find a balance between being aggressive and defensive. That should keep help keep the Aussies under the knife a little.

"A quality spinner should be effective against the Aussies but only if the captain backs them. You need to set aggressive, attacking fields for the spinner, with fielders in close and protecting the easy single.

"Too often in Australia spinners are only used to give the fast bowlers a rest. You have to put pressure on them.

"Taking the game into the fifth day should be top priority for India. If they reach the fifth day and have a fighting chance, then anything can happen. By the end of the third day, the Aussies normally have the match in the bag. But if India can take the match into the fifth day, then a game is on," he said.

Hadlee was famous as a bowler who thought the batsmen out. He had a plan for every batsman. Once he found the chink in the techniques of the opposition batsmen, he exploited it to the hilt. His career bowling average of 22.29 is a testament to his prowess. The 431 wickets he captured was a world record till Kapil Dev went three better.

"In Australia, you need to bowl into the track. But when I say into the track that does not mean you bowl short. You bowl it seam-up, and just short of driving length so that the ball bounces. You have to maintain a line just on off-stump and be very consistent with the length. The Aussies play the line, if you can get the ball to move a little, you can get them in trouble. The Aussies are pre-dominantly back-foot players and anything off-line will be severely punished; anything short will be perfect for the pull and the hook; anything too straight will be hit to the leg-side. In other words your line needs to be spot-on."

India's record abroad is pitiful. History says India, or for that matter any team who plays against Australia, has struggled. So what is Hadlee's prediction on the score line for the Test series?

"Well, I think it will be 3-0. Australia always wants to play to win. Also, they are the world champions as well. India is playing them at their home and they will have to work hard and do a lot to win against Australia."

Hadlee believes a positive outlook by the Indians can thwart the Aussies.

"India will have to do things that they have not done before. They will have to compete and back themselves. You have to be determined and should not think that you cannot beat the world champions. Not a single team in world cricket is unbeatable; it just the right kind of attitude that you need to beat the champions which the Indian team is lacking.

"The record says that India's performance is exceptional at home but off the shore it is not so good. India has to learn to capitalize. They should have the desire, show commitment and make use of their skills to win against the Australians."

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