First of all, no "sporting" declaration. I.e., declaring overnight is
ridiculous -- it gives Australia far far far too good of a chance.
I suspect Australia will desparately want to win this. So they
will chase any total with an ask of just around 4.0 to 4.2 / over.
(In the Tied Test, India chased 347 to tie on the 5th day. 315 in
90 overs is far far far too easy. )
Second, apply the heavy roller -- that means we need to bat for
a bit. Take away 2 overs for the change, bat X overs, and
Australia have 88-X overs to chase any target.
Assuming India can go at 6 an over in the morning:
Bat for 4 overs, Aussies chase 340 in 84 at 4.04 -- a little too easy, IMO.
Bat for 8 overs, Aussies chase 364 in 80 at 4.6 -- a bit too on the high
Bat for 6 overs, Aussies chase 352 in 82 at 4.29 -- just about right.
This is in a vaccum. In reality, VVSL will be approaching 300, and while
I think he is enough of a team player to go for it -- i.e., no nervous
he may not be able to do it in 6 overs -- require him to score at 4 an over,
which is doable if Dravid is intent on giving him the strike, but tough,
as Waugh will deliberately set fields that give him an easy single every
ball, but make 2's and 4's very tough. In reality he may take 8 overs,
and Australia will have to chase 360-odd in 80.
But, you know what. Australia will *HAVE* to make an effort to chase.
If they just set up shop, you will see Harbhajan and Raju bowling with
5 men around the bat, and that is asking for trouble. The ball is starting
to jump, and I think Harbhajan will ask a lot of questions of Australia.
I think, if Australia bats for a draw with 80-odd overs to go, they will be
serious trouble. They have to always keep the RRR under 5..
Some additional strategic points:
1) For God's sake, Ganguly should make sure we bowl overs quickly and
change fields fast. The absolute last thing we need is for a successful
against the light, with #11 at the crease -- ala Shivnaraine for WI (ref:
bowls himself out of Test cricket")
2) Bowl the spinners in TANDEM. Raju was horribly underbowled on Day
2 -- and while he didn't look especially good on his own, when Harby and him
were in tandem, thats when Harbhajan looked his best. Tell Raju his job is
to keep one end completely tight, make the batsman play every ball, and not
try for any variations -- and then DON'T PULL him for someone else if he
is doing that after 2-3 overs because he isn't taking wickets. Let Harby
get the wickets at the other end (and you know what Raju will get his
too, if he bowls tight, 6 balls in a row).
3) Attack, attack, defend -- As default, for the spinners, put 3-4 men
bat, but keep 1 or 2 deep in the "obvious 4's" area of midwicket and
to the spinners (or long-off depending on Singh/Raju and leftie/rightie bat)
as long as the target is within some reach -- i.e., don't allow one lofted 4
every 2 overs to take the pressure off. Keep the remaining 3-5 men in
single saving position, and force Australia to earn the runs, one or two
at a time.
4) Use the pacers judiciously -- in short bursts. Give Harbhajan a break
every 10 overs, before his fingers get over-tired. You will need 30
overs from him today -- make sure he is effective.
5) Zaheer is the obvious pacer to come in and bowl in a burst, but do
consider using yourself (Ganguly) instead of Prasad for a second spell.
Don't overbowl yourself (NO MORE that 2-3 overs at a time), and
watch Prasad's overs very carefully.
6) Give Zaheer/Prasad a forward short leg with the new ball (and if it is
7) The Australian batsmen *WILL* go after the spinners, particularly
Harbhajan. Thus it is VITAL to give him cover, in the form of a deep
midwicket and long-on/off -- particularly if there is a set batsman.
8) Keep one with this attack-little-defense policy unless Australia get to
start like 150/2 with the required ask under 4.5; at this stage start going
more defensive -- this is a TEST match -- you can pack one side and bowl
wide outside the stumps; so you can later dampen the run rate if you need
And if Australia do manage to win, well congratulate them and walk off
with your head held high -- because if you do all the above, you wouldn't
have lost the Test, they would have won it.
One final point. A (very) small potential benefit about the ideal scenario
of Australia being set 82 overs to chase 350, is that you have the chance of
taking the second new ball for the last 2 overs. Not very likely that you
will do it, but just in case you have a stubborn 9th wicket partnership that
has held the spinners at bay successfully for 10 overs, the new ball could
just the thing to try in desperation. You are not likely to use that
but a very small edge...
R. Bharat Rao
Data Mining, Siemens Corporate Research, Princeton, NJ
"Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their
level and beat you with experience."