Saturday, 6 October 2007

Australia prove they are light miles ahead

The distance is alarming. What looked like a classic match up between the World 50-50 champions and T20 champions is turning out to be anything but. Each of the first three games has proved beyond doubt the difference in class. Superior athleticism has only widened the gulf.

The Aussies have come here with a definite plan and a bruised ego. The strip in Kochi and the one at Hyderabad should have favoured the hosts than anyone else. Though they were not turners by any stretch of imagination there was enough for the tweakers to exploit.

The team looks jaded and disoriented. The body language is negative. The third game was a bigger disappointment. Dhoni and his band should have got a measure of the visitors by now. The bowlers are suffering for lack of discipline. They are either too full or short, the three quarter length that Stuart Clarke and Mitchell Johnson hit is ideal on these wickets and the sooner the Indians resort to that length the better.

The start in Bangalore and Kochi was wasted. The new ball did initial damage but the momentum was not to be sustained. It has a lot to do with the energy levels. The fielders don't swoop on the ball rather they wait for it come to them. Lack of urgency in the field is hitting the team dearly. With any other side in World cricket one can make up with brilliance with the bat or ball but poor running between the wickets, poor throwing and dropped catches all add up sizably against the World champs. Give an inch they end up with a mile.

Coming to the game on Friday, M.S. Dhoni might have been a trifle unlucky with the toss. The wicket looked like losing pace as the day wore. After a good start Australia was pegged back by some good bowling by Harbhajan and Yuvraj Singh. The new rule that insists on the ball to be changed after the 34 th over has not been kind to the men in blue. Runs have been plundered in that phase. The best bowlers must be preserved for that phase.

The ball might be a used one that is cleaned but there is a huge difference between a sphere that is used in practice and one that is used in a match. The hardness will be pronounced and it will come on to the bat better. It is an area captains will have to start putting some thought to. From 166 for three in 34 overs Australia plundered 124 runs in the next 16 at 7.75 per over on a wicket that was getting increasingly difficult to bat on. Once the target went beyond 260 it was always going to be an uphill climb for the Indian's.

Yuvraj is doing justice to his enormous talent finally. He has always played the occasional blinder but the consistency he has brought to his game is refreshing. The team management can look up to him now for runs during crisis consistently. His shot selection has improved considerably and for a player blessed with enormous natural ability, it is only a question of getting into the right frame of mind. Yuvraj is in that 'zone' where nothing much can go wrong. Physically he did not look at his best yet played one of the best knocks in recent times.

The match further showed the importance of a solid top-order. Mathew Hayden makes the difference at the top for his side with his consistency. Matches cannot be won in the Power Play phase but one can set up a solid launch pad. 75 for three at the end of 20 overs was not the ideal start when chasing a big target. The opening overs will have to be counted. The problems are aplenty for Dhoni, The team has to start believing it can beat Australia and for that to happen they have to be more positive on the field.