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Chappell: 'India's best chance to beat Australia'
Spin could be key for India in what is their best chance to beat the world champions (04:45)
October 8, 2008
Australia in India 2008-09
Chappell: 'India's best chance to beat Australia'October 8, 2008
Ian Chappell: At this stage I would have to say that if India don't beat Australia, they would have done some things very poorly - one of them being to help Australia out. I think this Australian side is as vulnerable as any I have seen since they won the unofficial crown of the 'world champions'.
Obviously there is a real weakness as far as spin bowling is concerned, which is crucial in India. The Australians can talk about how their fast bowlers did so well for them on the last tour, but that is overlooking the part that Shane Warne played. He took 14 wickets and he always applied a lot of pressure from the other end. That is not going to happen this time. So the Australians are going to be relying very heavily on their pace bowlers.
If Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh are in good form, the Indians should win this series and win it fairly comfortably. But the one thing that Yuvraj Singh was right in saying was that the Indians shouldn't underestimate the Australians or be complacent. The one thing you do know about the Australians is that they will fight very hard all the way.
The important players for India will be the combination of Kumble and Harbhajan. If Kumble is up to his normal form in India, then Australia are in big trouble. But if he bowls like he did in Sri Lanka, then the Australians will see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Harbhajan has had a terrific effect on Australia. In the 2001 series in India he took 32 wickets and did some serious damage on that occasion and was in fact the difference between the two sides and that helped India win the series. Harbhajan also bowled extremely well in Australia when he bowled to Ricky Ponting - he had a hold over Ponting. If he maintains that sort of hold with Kumble bowling well at the other end, the Australians are in big trouble.
One of the other players who will be important for India is Ishant Sharma. He is a much improved pace bowler and he has learnt very quickly. He bowled extremely well in Australia and while he won't get the same sort of help from the pitches in India that he got in Australia, if he can nullify a couple of guys at the top of the order - particularly Matthew Hayden and Ponting - then it will signal trouble for the Australians. On the batting side of it for India, Virender Sehwag is the key. If Sehwag doesn't fall for the ploy the Australians have for him - by putting fielders at the back on the boundary to cut down on his fours - and just takes the runs that the Australians give him, the Australians especially with their lack of spin bowling option will be in trouble. So these are the four important players for the Indians - Kumble, Harbhajan, Ishant and Sehwag.
For the Australians, I have already mentioned Hayden and Ponting. It will be crucial for them to make decent scores because without serious spin bowling options, they could be looking at chasing some decent scores from the Indian batting line-up. So Hayden and Ponting are crucial - not just because of the runs they can make, but also because they can be very aggressive and very intimidating players. If they get going at the top of the order, it will make it so much easier for the other Australian batsmen. Then on the bowling side, like I have mentioned several times, Australia lack a good spin bowling option. At the moment they are a bit like Mother Hubbard's cupboard - they are pretty bare. So that means Brett Lee and Stuart Clark are going to have to do a lot of bowling and they will have to get some wickets. They will particularly have to get wickets with the new ball. If they can knock the top of that Indian batting, then the Australians might be able to contain the very strong Indian middle-order. But if the Indians - particularly Sehwag - get off to a start, then the Australians are really going to be looking down the barrel.
Realistically, India should win this series and win it comfortably, but I don't think they will. I think the Australians will make them fight like hell for it. But in the end, if India don't win, they would have missed a wonderful opportunity to put one over the world champions.
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