A scoreline of 5-1 against them would be damaging for the Indians, writes Steve Waugh
The Australians once again proved what a well-drilled unit they are in one-day cricket. They are past masters at playing the big moments well, and in Nagpur, just when the Indians were about to capitalise on the solid platform their openers had built, Ricky Ponting and his men went in for the kill.
The Australians know how to handle tough situations and their ability rises from the confidence and faith they have in one another.
The Indians have lost the series, but they must put up a spirited performance on Wednesday.
The Australians are the benchmark in world cricket, and a scoreline of 5-1 against them would be damaging for the Indians and disappointing for their fans. It will also make their T20 World Cup win ring a little hollow, if they don’t show good levels of skill in other formats.
Nagpur would be a particularly bitter loss for India because there was a time when it looked like the game would be theirs.
Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly did have a good opening partnership, but they would be the first to admit that one of them should have gone on to play a big knock.
When there is a 300-plus target, it is crucial for one of the top three to guide the chase through till the end. It’s difficult for a batsman to come in and play his shots when the ball is softer and the fielders are out on the boundaries, so once Sourav and Sachin were back in the pavilion, the Indians were up against it, a late order surge notwithstanding.
The series has left the question on the Big Three unanswered. Sachin and Sourav have had a reasonable series, while Rahul Dravid did look a little out of sorts.
But these are guys who have set high standards for themselves, so it needs to be asked whether they or their fans will be satisfied with just reasonable performances.
However, the Indians don’t seem to want to change things too much before the Australia tour, and rightly so.
It’s going to be a tough tour, and a few wise heads will be more than useful in handling the pressure.
A good sign
Questions are being raised about some moves in the batting order made by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
For me, a captain willing to try things is always a good sign, and while some of these moves may click others may fail. The result is therefore pretty irrelevant.
What is crucial for India is that their young captain is willing to think on his feet.
Only time will tell how successful his innovations have been, it’s still too early to make a call.
Andrew Symonds has been truly brilliant in this series, and perhaps the Indians chose the wrong guy to wind up.
He has always been a special player with around 19 Man of the Match awards.
However, I think the exchanges between the two teams have been subject to far too much scrutiny. I watched cricket in the mid-1970s and there was as much happening then as there is now.
All these players write articles back in Australia, and very often a word here or there seems to be insensitive and that snowballs into a huge debate.
Symonds is actually a fun-loving bloke, and has fortunately for his team not let any of this scrutiny get to him.
Even though Wednesday’s game is a dead rubber, there is a lot for the Indians to prove.
They must try to win this one so that they can save face ahead of the long season ahead of them.