S. Dinakar

A young Indian team has done well to reach finals

Sydney: The SCG awaits another India-Australia clash on Sunday. On this occasion the face-off will be the first of the CB series finals and the ingredients are right for a high-voltage contest.

Free-flowing cricket and not a war of words should be the priority for the sides. There has been much bad blood between the two teams at this venue all summer. Now, the sides have another opportunity to put the past behind. Sunday’s game, before a large gathering of supporters from either side, will be under sharp focus.

A young Indian team has done well to reach the finals but it faces more tests of character. The side will seek inspiration from its skipper who has been strong and resilient all through.

Rain forecast

Mahendra Singh Dhoni will comprehend the importance of the toss. If he wins the spin of the coin, Dhoni is likely to bat even if a cloud cover and light spells of rain have been forecast for Sunday. The pressure of chasing in the finals can be huge.

India’s best chance of upstaging the Aussies at the SCG could lie in getting them to pursue a score. The host batsmen proved vulnerable under the lights at the MCG.

The match at the MCG was another reminder of how much the Aussies will miss Adam Gilchrist after he drifts into the sunset. The gracious cricketer is inching towards the end of a glittering career and the finals will be high on emotions.

This Australian line-up could rely heavily on Gilchrist to provide momentum to the innings.

Dangerman Gilchrist

Great players can conquer conditions and Gilchrist is among them. He also represents a clear danger for India. The Indians need to have specific plans in place for this punishing southpaw. Andrew Flintoff showed the right way to bowl to Gilchrist — bringing the ball into the left-hander from round-the-wicket — and the Indians would need to get a right-arm paceman adopting similar tactics. Precision is the key here.

Matthew Hayden will be back at the top of the order after a period of rest and he is someone who can build monuments. Getting a left-armer to take the ball away from him from over-the-wicket could be a ploy the Indians might consider.

India’s chances depend on how the bowlers exploit the angles on a surface that could be conducive to batting. Ishant Sharma’s natural incoming deliveries could trouble Ricky Ponting & Co. in the middle-order. The Aussie skipper returned to form with a hundred here in the last game against India but, as Nuwan Kulasekara proved at the MCG, he is still vulnerable to deliveries darting into him.

Dhoni has to manage his overs well. Taking the pace off the ball when someone like Andrew Symonds walks in would not be a bad idea on what should be a flat track. He could also hold back one of the Power Play overs.

Will Sehwag play?

The off-spin of Virender Sehwag could be handy on a surface of this nature, but will India play Sehwag?

The think-tank is debating the merits of including an extra batsman. Sehwag’s form is not in his favour but he can still provide the innings thrust and bowl usefully.

The Indian attack has looked good with four pacemen and Harbhajan’s steady off-spin. On a flat deck, though, the team-management could go in with a paceman less.

Munaf Patel and S. Sreesanth should duel it out for a spot. Swing bowlers such as Sreesanth have been more effective against the Aussies but Munaf has been bowling increasingly well on the tour. He is bowling at a length where the batsmen are not able to drive off the front foot nor do they have enough space to get on to the back foot to play the forceful shots.

Sachin Tendulkar has struck form but who would open with him? In case Sehwag is not picked, Uthappa could partner Tendulkar if India bats first. If the side chases, then someone like Irfan Pathan could surface at the top with Uthappa going down the order.

The batsmen will have their task cut out. Brett Lee will be a factor with his air speed and direction. Nathan Bracken can extract bounce from most surfaces and Mitchell Johnson swings it both ways. Brad Hogg’s left-arm wrist spin and his impact in the middle-overs could determine how the game develops.

The teams (from):

India: M.S. Dhoni (captain), S. Tendulkar, V. Sehwag, G. Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj, R. Uthappa, I. Pathan, Harbhajan, Ishant Sharma, M. Patel, S. Sreesanth, Praveen Kumar, S. Raina, D. Karthik, M. Tiwary and P. Chawla.

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

Umpires: R. Koerzten & D. Harper. Match Referee: J. Crowe.

Play starts at 8.45 a.m. IST.

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