'Minor irritants' should not have bothered Aussies: Raja

Australia's attempts to blame the conditions and movements in front of sightscreen for the Test debacle against India came in for a attack from Ramiz Raja.

updated: November 21, 2008 13:28 IST
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New Delhi:

Australia's attempts to blame the conditions and movements in front of sightscreen for the Test debacle against India came in for a scathing attack on Friday from former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja who said such "minor irritants" could not be the reason for the defeat.

Raja said Australia should first realise that they no longer have the resources to be an invincible team and should concentrate on getting their acts together rather than dish out such excuses.

"I don't think that conditions or a little movement in front of sightscreen is the reason for Australia's defeat. When teams come to India, they are mentally prepared for a little bit of delay here and there. It is part and parcel of the game, that cannot be the reason for the defeat," Raja said in a telephonic interview.

Raja said a champion team like Australia should have coped with such "minor irritants", if there were any, instead of making it an issue after the series was over.

"It is difficult to tell the mind of these Australian players. They have a different social fabric. But they knew the conditions they will face in India. Because of the huge crowds, delays are a run of the mill affairs in India," he said.

Raja, who scored 2833 runs from 57 Tests and 5841 runs from 198 One-dayers, said Australia no longer had the team to dominate world cricket and the strategies they deployed against India were also questionable.

"Australia does not have the team to dominate. Their bowling has weakened considerably after the retirements of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. They no longer set the benchmark," he said.

"In India, they were found wanting in so many aspects. Even the selection left much to be desired, so they have a lot of discussions to do," the cricketer-turned-commentator said. The former Pakistan captain said Australia's approach in the recent series against India raised eyebrows.

"The Australian approach was too defensive. It showed they didn't have the resources. They don't even have a quality spinner. They will be seriously challenged by teams like India and South Africa."

Asked if India has the potential to upstage Australia as the number one team, Raja said India was on the right track but they need to maintain the level of consistency.

"India certainly has the potential to become the number one team. They now have a decent record outside India as well. But at times, they are a little inconsistent like it happened in Sri Lanka," the former opening batsman said.

"I would say India is currently the most entertaining team in world cricket. They have some classical batsmen, some swashbucklers like (Virender) Sehwag and a good spinner in Amit Mishra who is an exciting prospect," he observed.

Raja also spoke highly of young Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni who has transformed the team since he took over the reins of the team.

"He has been great and has the hallmark of a good leader. He is an achiever, leads the team from the front and has brought about a refreshing change in his approach. I think we will see a lot more of Dhoni," he said.

"In Nagpur, he put his reputation at stake by employing a defensive strategy. It was a school boyish tactic, but it paid off and worked magically well. I think he has the guts to try out new things," he said.

Raja also said India should be careful to ensure that the balance of the Test team was not lost with the retirement of the senior players.

"I think this is an issue which needs to be handled carefully. India cannot afford to lose all these great players at the same time. (Anil) Kumble and (Sourav) Ganguly have retired but the other seniors should time their retirements properly," he observed.

"I think players like Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and S Badrinath need some more time to be ready for Test cricket. The best thing would be to involve these youngsters and prepare them for the big stage. The BCCI has to plan out well," he added.