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A very crucial game for India

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OLD WARHORSES: Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar, who gave India solid starts during the series in England, will once again be in the thick of things against Australia.
OLD WARHORSES: Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar, who gave India solid starts during the series in England, will once again be in the thick of things against Australia.

S. Dinakar

Setback in third ODI could mean no comeback for the host

Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly have been under needless pressure

Ponting could take Brad Hodge’s spot at No. 3

Hyderabad: The Future Cup series is on the boil. The third game – the visitors lead 1-0 – could be pivotal to the outcome of a seven-match series, effectively reduced to six after the abandoned verdict in Bangalore. A setback here and it would mean no comebacks for the Indians.

The sky was overcast here on Thursday. The forecast for Friday says the weather will be “generally cloudy with rain in some parts of the city.” The conditions could greatly influence the course of events.

The surface at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium has encouraged pacemen in the initial phase. In the India-South Africa duel here nearly two years back, the host lost five wickets for very little in the morning and lost the match. For India, at least, fielding first is the more likely option in the event of winning the toss.

Ponting may play

The influential Ricky Ponting is expected to lead the side and could take Brad Hodge’s spot at No. 3. The innovative Brad Haddin, who has provided the innings momentum in the end overs, should keep his place. Experienced left-arm paceman Nathan Bracken is back as well and could replace either Mitchell Johnson or all-rounder James Hopes.

Sourav Ganguly batted at the nets and should come in for Gautam Gambhir or Robin Uthappa. At the end of the day, it is performance that matters, and the seniors, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Ganguly have been under needless pressure.

In the three ODIs that India clinched in England, Tendulkar, who batted with refreshing freedom, and Ganguly laid a solid platform. Dravid’s effort in Bristol must rank among the finest ODI innings by any batsman over the last two years.

While the Indian Twenty20 side should be given its due for a fantastic triumph, it must be realised that ODI cricket brings with it different demands in terms of focus and innings-building skills.

There has been, sadly, much bad blood between the teams. Both the captains have already been spoken to by the match referee and the umpires. A hefty fine or a ban awaits subsequent offenders in this series.

Sreesanth, if he holds on to his place, will be under intense scrutiny. If he switches his mind back to his match-winning burst against the South Africans in the Test at the Wanderers, Sreesanth would realise that he was relaxed and calm as he ran in to bowl.

India has serious bowling worries with the Australians hustling the Indian spinners. The Aussie batsmen have used their feet to go after the spinners, forced them to shift line.

Off-spinner Ramesh Powar must have realised the difference between bowling at the Englishmen and the fleet-footed Australians adept at reading the hand. Powar has been tentative, his length has suffered and with it the crucial element of his bowling — the dip. Even the more experienced Harbhajan Singh was forced to switch his line.

Brilliant running

The Aussies have also run brilliantly between the wickets. Dhoni might have to take the calculated risk of placing his fielders in single-denying positions and forcing the Aussies to go over the top.

There is a possibility of left-arm paceman Rudra Pratap Singh replacing Powar but then such a move would leave the spin department thin with Harbhajan, not yet at his best. Both Tendulkar and Yuvraj went for runs in Kochi.

Finding the right mix is never easy, when you are up against the World Champion.

The teams (from): India: M.S. Dhoni (captain), S. Tendulkar, S. Ganguly, R. Uthappa, R. Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, I. Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, R.P. Singh, S. Sreesanth, G. Gambhir, R. Powar, R. Sharma, D. Karthik.

Australia: R. Ponting (captain), A. Gilchrist, M. Hayden, M. Clarke, A. Symonds, B. Haddin, B. Hogg, B. Lee, S. Clark, M. Johnson, N. Bracken, J. Hopes, B. Hodge, B. Hilfenhaus, A. Voges.

Umpires: Steve Bucknor and Suresh Shastri. Third umpire: Pratap Kumar; Match Referee: Chris Broad.

Play begins at 9 a.m.

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