Ending the series with a Twenty20 bang
On the eve of the one-off Twenty20 match at the Brabourne Stadium - which was abuzz with 11th-hour activity - the Indian team was keen to reinforce the fact that this was a different format of the game, one in which they, and not Australia, were world champions.
"Whether they get even or not we're still the world champions, aren't we? It's a very good feeling to go into this game as world champions," Robin Uthappa said when someone suggested that the Australians would be using this game to get back at the Indians for the semi-final defeat in South Africa. "The confidence is high, everyone's enjoying the game and the atmosphere in the dressing-room is fantastic.
"The young guys are all happy to be back. They've had a good break so they've come back fresh. Again it's a new kind of experience. Playing there in South Africa and playing here are two different things altogether - the wickets and the conditions are really different. It's a 20-over game and can change in a matter of five balls. It's a fast game. Whoever plays well [on Saturday] will win."
That said, both teams realise that in this format of the game it's not really worth naming one side favourites and the other underdogs. This is the format in which Australia were beaten by Zimbabwe, and both stressed on the need to enjoy the game. "It's a completely different version of the game so I don't think the loss in the one-day series will have any bearing," Uthappa said. "Everyone's going out there to enjoy themselves. After a seven-match series this Twenty20 game comes like a picnic kind of thing where you enjoy yourselves come what may."
So much has changed now in that the Indians are suggesting they'd take the game a bit lightly, even if in jest, while the Australians concede they realise this version is here to stay and it's important to play as hard as you can. But this role reversal is understandable, given India's success in the World Twenty20.
And for Uthappa, the good times have rolled on, as he's played a couple of exciting and critical knocks in different positions in the batting order in the 50-over format. When asked if it was easy to play this floating role, Uthappa said: "It's easy if you keep an open mind. You should not think: 'I'm fit to play in one position or another.' If you have an open mind anything is possible. If you want to do it for your team you'll do it."
|Both teams realise that in this format of the game it's not really worth naming one side favourites and the other underdogs. This is the format in which Australia were beaten by Zimbabwe, and both stressed on the need to enjoy the game|
Uthappa drew praise from Ricky Ponting for the manner in which he batted, and insists this will only inspire him further. "Coming from the captain of the best one-day side in the world it's inspiring and pushes me to work harder," Uthappa said. "I'm working on my game and a few flaws that I have. I'm looking to up my game a bit and convert starts to bigger scores."
He said this was possible because he had a flexible approach to batting. "I've been able to adjust to situations whenever and wherever I've needed to change my game. I have the confidence to bat according to the situation. I've done it successfully a couple of times and feel very confident. I think I can up my game at will and if I want to drop down a couple of gears I can do that at will to. I've reached a place where I can change gears at my own time."
That said, even being in good form, Uthappa conceded that the Twenty20 format meant that even a couple of mistakes could cost you dear. But he said the team was not approaching the game with that sort of a mindset. "If you're going to think about making that one mistake then that mistake's going to happen. You shouldn't think of negatives," he said. "You want to think of the positives, go out there and give your best. Everyone in the team has been absolutely positive."
Once again then, India are without Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, and the talk is all about high energy, intensity and a fun atmosphere in the dressing-room. There's extra room for celebration as Virender Sehwag - who missed practice - became a father for the first time. Mahendra Singh Dhoni also missed part of practice with a knee niggle, but was set to play. The in-form Murali Kartik will take the place of the injured legspinner Piyush Chawla. Kartik had left for Delhi on Friday morning and was called back the same evening.
Also likely to return in tomorrow's match is Mathew Hayden. Before the final one-dayer, which Hayden missed, Ponting said that his player was "85 to 90% fit". By now he's good to go, and all things being equal will play on Saturday. And Australia, one-day series wrapped up or not, will be keen to end the tour with a bang.
India (likely) 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Gautam Gambhir , 3 Robin Uthappa, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt, wk), 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 Irfan Pathan, 8 Murali Kartik, 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 RP Singh, 11 Sreesanth.
Australia (likely) 1 Matthew Hayden , 2 Adam Gilchrist (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Andrew Symonds , 5 Michael Clarke, 6 Brad Hodge, 7 James Hopes , 8 Brett Lee , 9 Mitchell Johnson , 10 Nathan Bracken, 11 Stuart Clark.
Anand Vasu is an associate editor at Cricinfo