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Justin LangerJustin Langer

Sachin's return makes task more challenging

October 25, 2004

Glenn McGrath's hundredth Test match adds just one more incentive and motivation for the Australian team leading into this tantalizing third Test in Nagpur.

His career has been remarkable and the fact that he has overcome the stresses of being a fast bowler makes his milestone even more outstanding. Over the last decade there is no doubt that his partnership with Shane Warne has been one of the defining features behind the success of the Australian cricket team.

Like all of the great bowlers, Glenn's success has been based around the foundation of miserly line and length, ultra combative competitiveness, lion-hearted courage and a passion for his country and his baggy green cap. He is an out and out champion who has been a pleasure to play with over the years.

Langer's previous columns

Now the challenge becomes even stronger

Clarke's footwork was like cricketing poetry

Not only is he a superb bowler, but he is also one of the most popular members of the team. He has been an inspiration not only with the ball in his hand but also in the way he has supported his beautiful wife Jane, who is recovering from breast cancer. Too continue fighting and succeeding amidst incredible pressure on and off the field, he has proven himself as one of the true gladiators and champions of the game of cricket.

The opportunity to win our first series here in India for thirty-five years feels so close. After a week of preparing in varying ways, the team came back together on Saturday feeling refreshed and as determined as ever to achieve our initial goal of defeating our strongest rival, India.

While it is often difficult not to get to far ahead of yourself, we have learned from bitter experience that the game, or the series, is not over until the final wicket, or the final run has been taken. History is true in the knowledge of what happened last time we were in this situation. We were so close and yet the outcome was so far from what we had expected or at least hoped for. 

Going into this Nagpur Test, our task has been made more challenging by the return of batting master Sachin Tendulkar. His presence always adds weight to our opposition, who seem to gain confidence from his charismatic personality and awesome batting ability.

Over the last few days we have continued our careful planning process of how we best feel we can beat India, and while Sachin's return is significant we feel confident of the plans we have set and followed during the first two Tests.

Arriving in Nagpur we were pleasantly surprised to see an even covering of grass on the pitch. This untraditional Indian surface could suit our fast bowling attack, but, more importantly, it should promote a more fluent and entertaining style of play from both teams.

During the first two Tests the action was dominated by low bounce, slow scoring and reverse swing and spin bowling. Here in Nagpur, there is the potential for extra bounce, faster scoring rates and aggressive, uncompromising battles between bat and ball.

With so much to play for, the stage is set for a fantastic Test match. Again the build-up has been remarkable and very foreign for us. When we arrived at the hotel on Sunday night there were hundreds of excited fans waiting to greet us and wish us well in between searching for photographs and autographs.

At training over the last two days there has been thousands of spectators looking on and cheering at exploits from the net sessions. Too experience such noise and excitement at training, basically sums up the incredible hype that this series has generated in India.

Regardless of what transpires over the next five days this series and tour has been an incredible experience. You can almost feel the buzz on the streets and in the air. The atmosphere is tense but exhilarating as we enter one of the biggest Test matches of our careers.

Ricky Ponting's arrival has given us a similar lift to what India must be feeling. Having Ricky around is fantastic, as his leadership and friendship means a great deal to many of the boys in the squad. While he is not playing in this third Test, knowing that he will be back for the fourth just increases the confidence we have for the remainder of this series.

With the tension rising, I am thankful for having spent some time at BKS Iyengar's yoga ashram during the break. Like most of my team mates we feel revitalized, focussed and committed to making history. While this might not sound like good news for all Indian supporters, I do know that you are in for another battle of the giants over the next five days.

Test cricket is alive and well and we can't wait to entertain you.

From Nagpur,


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