Another thrilling contest in store

After three close encounters, leaders India will look to finish things early

India have given a few heart-stopping moments to their fans in the last three matches, while scripting last-gasp win in two of them. But when they take on Australia at the Gabba on Sunday, the visitors can’t afford to leave it late once again.

think tank: It remains to be seen if coach Duncan Fletcher and skipper MS Dhoni stick to the rotation policy and rest an in-form Gautam Gambhir. AFP

Agreed, India has a brilliant, cool-nerved finisher in Mahendra Singh Dhoni, but leaving the job every time to skipper will not do any good for them. It’s time other batsmen in the side take the responsibility of scoring some runs, and finish the work.

Young names like Virat Kohli, who showed a glimpse of his abilities, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma are still to blaze the tournament, and morrow will be a good time to get back among runs that will ease the pressure on Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir.

Apart from Dhoni, only Gambhir has shown good touch so far, notching up two scores in the 90s, and it’s likely that India might give an extended rest to out of touch Virender Sehwag, who didn’t take an active part in the training session on Saturday. Sehwag, who is yet to fire in this trip, had missed the last match due to back spasm, so India might avoid risking him on the morrow.

However, Gambhir’s fine run at the top after a barren Test series has given India something to look forward to apart from Dhoni’s prowess at the back end of the innings.
But India are yet to find an in-form partner for him in the triangular series as both Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, who is stranded on the verge of that monumental 100th hundred for nearly 10 months, are yet to impose themselves on the opposition.

But that’s one problem India and Australia share. The home side too is yet to find a pair at the pole position that can provide the early momentum. They have a player with fearsome reputation in David Warner opening the innings, but the left-hander has struggled to translate his reputation into performance thus far, struggling against Indian new ball bowlers.

That his partners – be it Matthew Wade or Ricky Ponting – were also not among runs haven’t served Australia’s cause. Wade made a promising beginning at Melbourne with a fifty on his debut, but since then he faded away partially because of the Australian team management’s bizarre decision of shuffling him through the order. But Ponting’s case has been even more curious.

The Tasmanian had showed his vintage form in the Test series, scoring a hundred and double hundred, indicating a golden summer. But he’s yet to find his range in the one-dayers, notching up 2, 1, 6, 2 in four matches. Now, Ponting will also have to handle an extensive period of captaincy as regular skipper Michael Clarke is ruled out of the India game after suffering a low-grade hamstring niggle that also saw him sitting out of the match against Sri Lanka at Sydney.

The form of Peter Forrest and David Hussey has been encouraging but the world’s number one Test side requires few more runs from their senior most batsman and the young tyros to meaningfully challenge India. But that’s easier said that done.

Zaheer Khan, who warmed the benches against Sri Lanka at Adelaide, is all set to return on the morrow, and the ace left-arm pacer has this ingenious knack of exploiting the chinks in a batsman’s armour. He might come in for Irfan Pathan, who had a reasonably good outing against Lanka. Offie R Ashwin so far has had a mixed tournament, bowling well against the Islanders but he’s still to fire against Australia. He too will like to set that record straight on the morrow.

So, this is a clash between two imperfect teams, and it can offer some exciting moments.

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