'Ganguly is the new Waugh of mind games'

Both India and Australia have been recipients of top-level status in the past two series. Now performance must stand up.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:07 IST
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Both India and Australia have been recipients of top-level status in the past two series. Now performance must stand up. This is Australia's sneak preview of the future. There are no Waughs, no Ponting. The batting line-up is full of left-handers who would neutralise Harbhajan Singh. It would blunt the off-spinner's LBW menace to right-handers. Simon Katich at number three, Justin Langer and Darren Lehmann to stabilise and Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist to dominate! Then Australians would derive great heart from how Damien Martyn played in Sri Lanka earlier this year. Michael Clarke, in my opinion, is selected two years too late but that wouldn't hurt his appetite and will improve his composure. This team still has great class, balance and form. Even without the experience of 2001's team! Bowling unknown Australia's bowling is a real unknown though. Glenn McGrath will be closely watched. Has he still got more than just economy? Reports are that his pace is down and that is not good if it is typically Indian pitches. Michael Kaprowicz is the in-form wicket-taker in the line-up with the ability to swing the new and old ball and cut it. He is unproven at Test level and in leading the attack. Jason Gillespie is proven and critical to Australia's chances but such stresses in the past have seen his body buckle. He was magnificent in the 2001 series without the result or luck. Then there is Shane Warne. Warney must spin the ball and then Indian fans will see the real Warne stand up. He has never spun the ball anywhere near as much as he can in India. He needs to provide ripping leggies to stifle the scintillating strokeplay of the Sun worshippers. They have no fear of him on home soil and that could be a mistake this time. Pack mentality India too are developing a pack mentality like Australia's - enough of them do their jobs brilliantly everyday. All of them are capable of performing in the rotation. This makes them hard to get on top of but huge things are expected of the spinners. Long breaks will ensure they are fresh but they will need helpers. In the last series, Harbhajan was on his own, whilst the quicks tried everything to no avail. Is there still the great rivalry between Zaheer and Hayden? I hope so and now Irfan Pathan is the new leader of great ability. Formidable batting The batting with or without Tendulkar can and will hurt at any time. Laxman loves Australia and this is mutual; Dravid loves performing everywhere; Sehwag is once again crunching more than just starts. Ganguly is the new Steve Waugh with his mind games or at least the perception of these, as captain. In 2001 they were prodden into action late by the partnership but must start early this time. I also feel Yuvraj needs some protection so that his natural-ness can happen. India must rethink if they are serious about opening the innings with him. Crucial facilities Looking at the tour in general, Australians now love touring India. Cricket facilities have improved. What makes tour enjoyable are hotels; being on the same wavelength as the people. Dressing rooms need to be comfortable as players spend so much time there and India is improving; practice facilities are crucial for those players out of form on long tours or reserves to make sure they are ready for immediate call up. The strife in Indian cricket is a distant second to the anticipation of this great series! To me, this can be classed as a genuine world championship final. If India can win, there is a gathering pack of nations circling. Blood in the water will excite world cricket teams. (PTI)