SPORT

Three strong sides promise plenty of entertainment

The TVS ODI tri-series involving world champion Australia, India and New Zealand promises to be an exciting one. After quite a long time, we have a triangular competition where no team will be a weak link. I am sure we are going to witness some close matches along the way.

The Indian side is a well-balanced one and though the team left some of its supporters disappointed in the Test series, I am sure it will put up a good display in the limited-overs contests.

It must be noted that Rahul Dravid, V.V.S Laxman, and Virender Sehwag came up with three-figure knocks during the Test series and they should carry their form into the ODIs as well.

I am particularly pleased that Laxman is back in the ODI squad. He is a quality player who can make a difference to the fortunes of a side. The manner in which he timed his strokes in the Test series augurs well for the Indian side.

Sachin Tendulkar has come under some criticism for not being his normal self during the Test series. However, I am certain that he will find his bearings sooner than later. He and Sehwag could form an explosive opening pair. And when Ganguly returns, the Indian line-up would be stronger.

I am happy that left-arm spinner Murali Kartik is back in the side after being India's best bowler during the high-scoring ODI series against the West Indies at home last season.

Australia has a formidable line-up too and I am sure the world-record breaking Mathew Hayden will be a much sought after man in India. He is a destroyer of attacks and is in prime form.

The world champion has another match-winner in Adam Gilchrist, not to speak of Michael Bevan — who is among the coolest batsmen during the end overs — and captain Ricky Ponting, who is a fluent shot-maker.

Australia is without three frontline pacemen — Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie. The side still has some very useful pacemen like Andy Bichel and Brad Williams who could utilise the opportunity to further their claims.

New Zealand is a combative side, as it showed in the Test series. When the pitches suit the seamers, the Kiwis are an extremely effective outfit — the Indians discovered this when they lost 2-5 in the ODI series in New Zealand last season. But it is the ability to adapt to the sub-continent conditions that has earned them respect.

I am sure that Stephen Fleming will be able to motivate his team once again. The Kiwis have, over the last two years, performed extremely well away from home and won the three-nation tournament in Sri Lanka this year, although the pitch at Dambulla was a seamer's paradise.

The Kiwis combine well as a team and I expect them to put up a stiff challenge. The opening match in Chennai could well set the tone for the series.

K. SRIKKANTH

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