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Defeat staring India in the face

December 29, 2003

Defeat is certainly staring at India at the end of the third day.

The onus is on Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly and his ever-reliable deputy Rahul Dravid to save the Test. This partnership on Monday morning would decide whether India will draw this Test and keep alive hopes of winning the series.

It's rather unfortunate to see India succumb under pressure despite being in a commanding position on the first day. The adage 'old habits die hard' seems to have come true as India have faltered once again. Is it the resilient nature of the hosts or the complacency of the touring side? Only the result of the Test match will give the true picture.

Sehwag played a blinder of an innings on the first day to set up a great stage for other batsmen to seize the opportunity. But on the contrary, the Indians, at the end of the third day, had played themselves into a precarious position and struggling to save the match.

Except for Sehwag's daring knock on the opening day, nothing much has gone India's way.

The collapse of the lower order for a paltry sum followed by great batting by the most revered batsman at the moment, Ricky Ponting, resulted in India losing the initiative.

A fully fit and steaming Zaheer Khan is a major requirement in India's pursuit to win this series. In a crucial game like this, the Indian spearhead didn't appear fully fit although he tried his best. Hamstring damage is such a bane for a fast bowler that apprehension of a recurrence is always at the back of his mind.

I sincerely hope Zaheer will hit a purple patch again before it is too late. If the Indian batsmen put up a decent total, I am sure Zaheer and company will make the most of the opportunity.

Sachin's dismissal down the leg side in the first innings has raised too many eyebrows concerning his form. I strongly feel that his poor scores have a lot to do with the luck factor than his form. A scratchy innings compiled with a few chances or with unsure footwork can be attributed to lack of form. But a dubious leg before decision and an equally freaky dismissal cannot be attributed to loss of form or change in technique. It's only fair to wait and watch for him score in time to come.

Sehwag's knock came at the right time and it will have a huge bearing on his career. The stunningly dominating knock was simply described as a "leaf out of Richards book" by none other than the legendary G R Vishvanath. He also added that such knocks should win matches for the team.

But to India's misfortune, another run-machine exists in the opposite side -- Ricky Ponting. The Aussie has the ability to negate the Sehwag effect. Twenty Test centuries at the age of 28 speaks volume of the ability of this diminutive batsman. Equally phenomenal is his rate of scoring.

When none of the other Australian batsmen looked settled, Ricky simply pulverised the Indian attack to put the Australia back in the driver's seat.

Skipper Steve Waugh has never seemed comfortable ever since he announced his retirement. It is great to see that while Waugh is struggling to make his last series personally a memorable one, his teammates are working hard to gift him the Border-Gavaskar trophy as a parting gift.

Selectors reluctantly picked Anil Kumble for the arduous tour Down Under. It only proves that the voice of the team has more credibility and faith than that of the selectors. Anil has once again stood tall to deliver under extreme conditions. His two five-wicket hauls in successive Tests suggest that Anil would be a key player in the fourth innings of this match, provided the Indian batsmen do justice in the second innings.

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