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Javagal Srinath

India must not commit harakiri

December 26, 2003

While the nation is still celebrating India's spectacular victory over world champions Australia at the Adelaide Oval, the win, in my opinion, should call for a more determined display by Ganguly's boys when the third Test begins in Melbourne on Boxing Day.

A result in Melbourne will truly confirm which team reigns supreme in the world of Test cricket at the moment. Already one-up in the series, the Indians have experienced such situations on many away tours of late. On most occasions they have only flattered to deceive. They have held the advantage, yet lost the initiative to concede the series at the end.

This time, there should not be any such repeat. The Indian think-tank should be focused on the drawing board to continue the good work and avoid harakiri, which used to be a regular feature in earlier series.

The beginning of the series saw the Australian cricketing fraternity showing their usual touch of arrogance in downplaying the abilities of the Indian team. The cricketing gods, I think, could not digest the words of John Buchanan, regarded one of the most successful coaches in international cricket, saying that there has got to be a change in playing conditions to beat his team.

Ironically, the so-called supreme confidence vanished the moment Australia succumbed to defeat. Signs of doubt and disbelief have already started mushrooming in the hosts' camp .The regular talk of missing out on the services of their key bowlers along with chopping and changing of players are indications of an unsure mind.

But one has got to wait and see what resilient plans the Australians will unleash on Boxing Day. Before taking the field, Brett Lee and company have already bowled a few verbal bouncers to gain the psychological edge, but at the same time have reluctantly admitted the genuineness of the Indian performers.

The Melbourne wicket will have a lot to offer in terms of bounce and movement for the first two days. The hosts would like to make the best of the conditions by reintroducing Brett Lee, but the equations, to my mind, may remain the same in the absence of Jason Gillespie.

I can vividly remember the incident involving myself and Ricky Ponting in the last encounter at the MCG. The Australian batsman hit me for maximum over my head and I responded with a short one. It went through the grill to make a little impression on the forehead. There ensued an exchange of a few wise words between us. The camera was only focused on Ricky's torrent, and that brought him under the microscope of the match referee. In the end he was lucky to escape punishment.

The team that wins the toss will certainly like to field first to make early inroads. The hosts, I am sure, would like to see the in-form Rahul Dravid take guard early in the innings. With Sachin Tendulkar yet to come into his own, the Australians have a lot to think of Laxman leading the others, who are gaining in confidence.

The practice match at Hobart helped the Indians as they batted for some time to gain valuable practice before this crucial tie, where the conditions will suit the hosts better.

This Test match will not be an easy one for the Indians as the Australians will go all out on a green wicket to disturb their rhythm. It is all the more important for the Indians to draw the game, if not win it. Although overconfidence derived from the first day of batting at Adelaide, where they scored 400 runs, played the hosts out of the game in the second Test, they will be determined to bounce back into the series and make the fourth and final Test at Sydney an interesting one.

Rahul played the innings of his career at the Adelaide Oval, but it requires another effort from him or someone else in the side to pin down the fallen Gulliver. While Ajit Agarkar's display was a welcome sight in the Indian bowling arena, things will improve further with a fit Zaheer Khan coming back into the side and Ashish Nehra looking better with each outing.

This Test match is evenly poised with great excitement in store.

Previous column: Path to victory was not exactly rosy

Steve Waugh's column: Melbourne is one of cricket's great venues

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