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Don't miss the chance to see Tendulkar
December 03, 2003
During the past week I have been overwhelmed by the positive comments of the general public in response to my intention to retire from international cricket after the Indian series. People of all ages have stopped to have a chat, shake hands with me, or ask for an autograph, and I feel humbled by all the attention and accolades that I have received.
Keeping a level head and staying grounded has always been the key to success at the top level, and it is now that these principles must be adhered to in order for me to stay focused on the job at hand and finish as I would like. The team is, of course, the priority and it was the first thing I stressed at our initial team meeting. With the intense media interest of not only the past week but the upcoming month, it is imperative that we concentrate on the real issues and not my individual situation. Winning a Test series against a competitive and highly motivated team such as India, who have enough superstars to beat anyone on any given day, is a task we must immerse ourselves in.
Restricting India's batting line-up, I believe, will hold the key to the series. Not having Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Shane Warne not only presents us with a great challenge, but it also gives the likes of Brad Williams and Nathan Bracken an opportunity to display their talents and provides Andrew Bichel and Stuart MacGill with the chance to enhance their already growing reputations and statistical achievements.
No cricket lover should waste the chance to see a genius in action, because that is what Sachin Tendulkar is, not to mention the brilliance of Rahul Dravid or the aesthetic beauty of V V S Laxman and the competitive nature of Sourav Ganguly. These guys are world class and are backed up by an ever-improving attack led by Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh -- they are as dangerous as anyone on their given day.
Brisbane as always will be a magnificent Test match venue, which will hopefully help the pacemen on days one and two before becoming a sensational batting pitch before offering turn and bounce towards the end of the match. I'll be interested to see if all the Indian batsman use their intimidating three-pound-plus bats that murder attacks on low, flat pitches where most shots are predominately played with a vertical swing. In Australia, the horizontal shots come into play much more often and a big bat can be hard to manoeuvre and control when playing the cut and hook shots.
Ganguly has made no secret of his desire to win away from home and Australia represents his biggest challenge in that quest. He has undoubtedly brought an increased level of mental toughness and a competitive streak to this unit and there are no shrinking violets in his squad. It will be tough Test match cricket played in the right spirit and hopefully somewhere near as good as that last series in India, which was an all-time great tussle.
Brisbane holds many memories for me, both in terms of success and failure, but the match I most recall was against the West Indies back in 1988. These guys were the benchmark in terms of skill, aura, intimidation and athleticism and as such we hoped rather than expected to do well. In that frame of mind, one can easily be dominated and dictated to.
In my mind I could sense this happening during the match and wanted to make a stand and try and address this imbalance. My chance came through bowling and it coincided with the arrival of Vivian Richards, a man who literally took control of the match just through his imposing body language. Running up to bowl to him, something inside me said "let him have it", and so I summoned up my best three bouncers in a row, just to give him the message that it was "game on". The plan almost came off, when I hit him on the back a couple of balls later when he ducked into my slow ball, only to be given the benefit of the doubt.
It was a gamble and akin to smashing open a hornet's nest, but it felt right and had to be done. That game was also the one in which I reached 90 for the first time only to smash one to Desmond Haynes in the covers off Malcolm Marshall on the last ball before the umpires went off for bad light. At the time I remember thinking, am I ever going to get a hundred, and what is it going to take?
Time has flown by since those days of Barramundi and chips for lunch, walking out to bat via the dog track, practice nets on the ground, and the masses throwing down mountains of XXXX on the hill, but it still remains a great cricket ground and I can't wait to lead the boys out onto the 'Gabba' one last time.
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