Australia eager to set aside Twenty20 loss
Although India may have got the better of Australia in the ICC Twenty20, the visitors could well be on the winning side in the 50-over format
Ricky Ponting might miss the first few ODIs of the series due to a hamstring niggle
There's barely time for the dust from the celebrations of the ICC World Twenty20 to settle and the Australians are upon India for a seven-match ODI series. In India, the reaction was predictably exaggerated, both spontaneous and genuine and pre-planned and stage-managed. The players basked in the limelight and the administrators cashed in on the euphoric response of fans. The players though will have to wind up the celebrations soon, as India take on Australia in the first game in Bangalore on September 29.
It's interesting that India and Australia should play right after the ICC World Twenty20 for the two teams approached that tournament so differently. India were diffident and hesitant to begin with, with little or no experience in that form of the game, and completely unfancied. Australia were natural favourites, as they are in any cricket match, irrespective of the length or format. By the end of the tournament, though, India had beaten England, Australia, South Africa and Pakistan. Australia had limped out, first not too interested in the hit-and-giggle, shocked by Zimbabwe, and then outplayed by lesser teams.
But Australia's limping out, at least in the literal sense, will have an impact beyond the tournament. Ricky Ponting's hamstring niggle has not stopped him from touring India, though it is unlikely he'll play a part in the early games. Shane Watson and Michael Hussey have been ruled out, and Shaun Tait continues to stay out. What this will mean is a step-up for Brad Hodge, who has to keep Ponting's batting place warm, even as Adam Gilchrist stands in as captain.
While Ponting the batsman will undoubtedly be missed, there are players who can step in and fill that breach with runs. Ponting the captain, however, will not be so easy replace. Even in the Twenty20, the Australian team looked different with him at the helm and when he was not in charge, out there, on the field. Speaking before the series began, it was Ponting who fired the first salvo. "They [India] definitely deserved it [Twenty20 win]. Just look at the last three teams they beat. They thoroughly deserve to come back as champions but that's finished now," Ponting said. "We've got to look at the seven games we have here in India and we know what we have to do to win in the subcontinent. If anything now, a bit of the pressure will come back on the Indians."
And there's little doubt that the already unrealistic expectations of this nation have been heightened. The open-bus parade and the grand felicitation ceremony certainly wouldn't have helped, and India have always taken a bit of time to adjust between different forms of the game. If they come out swinging in the forthcoming ODIs, taking too much out of the Twenty20s, they'll be in for a rude shock.
Even in the best of times, with the most meticulous preparation, Australia are hard to beat, especially over seven matches. India are anything but in that situation. No-one should be surprised if the results reflect this
"Cricket in general is about how much pressure you can apply on the opposition; that's what we try and do all the time, whether batting or bowling. That won't change in this tournament and it won't change because we've played a couple Twenty20 games," Ponting said. "We'll have lots of individual plans for their players and it's about us being able to execute those over 100 overs. That means they are under pressure and we're in control. That's what any type of cricket is about for the Australian team."
The Australians have already congregated in Bangalore and have their sights firmly trained on the one-day series. India's players will come in, in batches over Thursday evening and Friday morning. There will be little time for the new captain to get together with his team. The personnel have changed since the World Twenty20, with Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Zaheer Khan coming back into the mix, and people like Rohit Sharma slipping out. The BCCI is yet to appoint a cricket manager for the series, although that is expected to happen some time in the course of Thursday. In all, the Indians will have to catch their breath, hit the ground running and somehow turn up to take on the best team in the world. Even in the best of times, with the most meticulous preparation, Australia are hard to beat, especially over seven matches. India are anything but in that situation. No-one should be surprised if the results reflect this.
Anand Vasu is an associate editor on Cricinfo