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India keen to capitalise on first Test gains

Ashish Shukla | December 11, 2003 15:08 IST

Having dispelled the notion of being vulnerable on fast tracks with a remarkable fightback at the Gabba, a resurgent India goes into the second cricket Test against Australia, in Adelaide on Thursday, posing a rare threat of bringing the World champions down on their knees.

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The heroic show in the drawn first Test at Brisbane has not only given the Indians a psychological edge, but exposed a few chinks in the Australian bowling armoury on a pitch designed to suit the hosts.

Sourav Ganguly and his men, who countered the conditions surprisingly well in the first match, will be keen to capitalise on the gains though they could find the going tough as the Aussies have already hinted of revising their strategy.

The Indian team management's decision to ask for the services of left-arm spinner Murali Kartik, who was surprisingly omitted from the original squad, will no doubt bolster the bowling attack.

Kartik is expected to join the team late Wednesday night and it remains to be seen whether he will be drafted into the playing eleven considering that ace off-spinner Harbhajan Singh is struggling to find his rhythm.

Australia, who conceded a first innings lead for the first time in ten home Tests, appeared to lack the intensity in Brisbane, but skipper Steve Waugh warned the visitors to be prepared for a more "aggressive" bowling dose.

"As a side, we probably were not as intense as I would have liked in the first Test. We will have to revise our strategies and be a little more aggressive in our bowling," Waugh said.

The World champions are expected to pep their new-ball attack by including Brad Williams, who could test the Indians with his fiery short-pitched stuff.

The Australians, who take great pride in their cricket, see the Indians in a new light after the Brisbane encounter and grudgingly acknowledge them as a "competitive side" which is capable of halting their juggernaut.

The Indians will definitely take the field at the majestic Adelaide Oval with a positive frame of mind, but Ganguly has cautioned his players not to go overboard with the Brisbane display but strive to improve upon the performance.

"Both sides got positives out of the Test, but it is a new game here. It is how you play on the given day that matters," Ganguly said.

"You do carry some form into your next game but we will be starting from scratch. What you do on those five days is going to matter. We have to keep improving, particularly in the bowling department," he said.

The form of bowling trump card Harbhajan Singh is cause for concern for the visitors, who may fall back on the experience of Anil Kumble or Kartik to shoulder the spin responsibility.

Although Ganguly did not come down too heavily on Harbhajan's lacklustre show in the first Test, the team management may have to take the unpleasant decision of sacking the 'Turbanator' who is struggling to regain the form which saw him claim 32 wickets when Australia toured India in 2001.

The visitors will largely depend on their batting might to tame the Aussies. The fact that the team could post a score in excess of 400 on a grassy track last week will serve as a huge confidence-booster in the remaining matches.

The captain himself led from the front, and his classy 144 in the Brisbane Test has given the home team sleepless nights, particularly after the pre-series ploy of threatening him with "chin music".

Barring Sachin Tendulkar, most of the other top Indian batsmen got runs in the first Test and will be a little more confident of negotiating the Australian attack.

Tendulkar perished to a dubious leg before decision by West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor for a duck and the little genius will be eager to make a significant contribution with his bat.

The opening combination has been a perennial problem for India in the longer version of the game and there were doubts about whether Virender Sehwag and Aakash Chopra are technically sound to give the team a solid start.

Although the team management may persist with the same combination, it is high time that Sehwag does justice to his potential and come up with big scores on a more regular basis.

Australia's bowling in many ways is like India's attack. In Nathan Bracken and Brad Williams, they have two bowlers with just a Test between them. Stuart MacGill, despite his four wickets, did not leave an impression on the Indians.

Jason Gillespie alone is a class act, but without a complimenting firepower at the other end his effectiveness stands reduced.

The pitch in Adelaide has traditionally offered help to spin but, as former Australian captain Greg Chappell pointed out, "it is the medium-pacers who have won matches for their sides".

Australia will come out blazing in Adelaide as they are keen to recover lost ground. India have to beware of a wounded tiger and should be ready to counter the backlash in what promises to be a pulsating contest.

The Adelaide Oval is not a happy hunting ground for the Indians, who have never won a match in seven Tests at the venue.

In their last Test in 1999, Australia beat them by 285 runs.

Teams (from):

India: Virender Sehwag, Aakash Chopra, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Parthiv Patel, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Ashish Nehra, Murali Kartik.

Australia: Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Steve Waugh, Simon Katich, Adam Gilchrist, Jason Gilliespie, Nathan Bracken, Brad Williams, Andrew Bichel, Stuart MacGill.

Umpires: David Shepherd (England) and Rudi Koertzen (South Africa).

Match-referee: Mike Procter (South Africa).

Hours of play (all times IST): 6 am to 8 am, 8.40 am to 10.40 am, 11 am to 1 pm.

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