SPORT

First day holds the key



To beat Australia, you need to really beat them by seeing it through till the end, writes Anil Kumble



We’re nearly there, at the beginning of what promises to be a tough, combative series and I can tell you that I’m pretty confident with the way the mood in the camp is. Although we haven’t had much practice in the middle, there’s a kind of collective quiet self-assurance about the team that is heartening.

Having finally got a first look at the pitch, I’d have to say it looks a good surface. Interestingly enough, half of it looks a little bare, so if the weather is good and the sun does something different and shines, it would be to our advantage.

Team not yet finalised

At the risk of sounding confused, which I’m not, I’m going to say we haven’t decided about the combination yet and will have a look at it later. We still have over a day left to finally sit down and say, “this is it” and every minute is useful.

Whatever we decide to do and whoever plays, one thing is certain: To beat Australia, you need to really beat them by seeing it through till the end. You might be in positions of strength at moments, in phases but the trick with the Aussies is that the moment you grab that window of opportunity and get on top, you really have to ensure you stay on top.

The last time around, we were 329 for four at the end of Day 1 at MCG and then were bowled out for 366. So we’re looking at winning smaller, shorter sessions and then letting it all build into a bigger momentum. There is no choice here, Australia are the kind of team that keeps coming back at you; someone or the other picks up the mantle and takes it on from there if you let them get away. So you simply cannot let them get there.

Bowlers in good rhythm

Therefore, it’s also important we stay disciplined in our bowling spells. I think in terms of how we’ve been bowling in the nets, everyone looks in good rhythm. R.P. Singh and Zaheer Khan are looking good after recovering from injuries, the youngsters have keenly followed the analysis at team meetings to see what best lines to bowl and are adapting.

They all realise that what makes the difference here is the first Test, it can give you the momentum or it could potentially debilitate you for the remainder of the series. More precisely, the first innings on the first day of the first Test. Boxing Day therefore, is where the games begin.

The MCG, by the way, is looking great. The last time we played here, they were building the stands, now the atmosphere should be even better. The dressing rooms are as large as a football field and that is quite something.

Finally though, whatever the atmosphere, the equations, the conditions, it all boils down to how you perform on a given day. In the run-up to this Test, we have told ourselves and the others who weren’t there about how it was in 2003-04, about how we nearly did what was considered the impossible in Sydney. About how finally, we went home after more than holding our own. The past has its place but now, it’s how you look ahead, how you lift yourself individually and collectively.

One final chance

This is probably the only chance that some of us senior players have to have a crack at the Aussies in Australia, so we’re going to give it our best. It’s great that in Sourav Ganguly, one of us will go into the Boxing Day Test wanting to make it extra special, this being a rare 100th Test for him.

He’s been in the form of his life, so I’m hoping that he continues that form into this Test, for his sake and the team’s. We’re all going to try and better what we did last time. I believe we can do it.

Hawkeye / Chivach Sport

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