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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

'I will pay to watch Dhoni bat'

Adam Gilchrist knows all about winning in India.
After all, he led Australia to the historic victory in Nagpur in 2004, when the Aussies conquered the 'Final Frontier', beating India by 342 runs in the third Test to clinch their first series win on Indian soil since 1969.

The wicket-keeper batsman will not be around this time to guide his team from the massive stare a tour to India is subjected to, nor the unpredictable conditions they will play under. Most of the players, who scripted that victory, have stepped into retirement, but Gilchrist is hopeful that the Aussie greenhorns can still do some damage.
"This is the most inexperienced (Australian) side to tour India," the former captain said, of the upcoming series, in Mumbai on Tuesday, on the sidelines of a promotional event for the University of Wollongong.
"And they will be taking on probably the most experienced team in world cricket.
"The Australian players are new in international cricket, but it doesn't mean they haven't played in these conditions before. The cricket board has over the years sent them to the sub-continent to educate our players of the conditions here and the team will draw that experience."
Gilchrist, who led the team in the first three Tests on the 2004 tour due to the absence of Ricky Ponting , said that the Aussies will again have to rely on their fast-bowling firepower to unsettle the Indian batsman.
"I don't think the perceived lack of a spinner is a big deal. Even in 2004 the fast bowlers did a fantastic job and were ably supported by Shane Warne .
"Brett Lee is our bowling spearhead and we will expect him to get some wickets. But Mitchell Johnson is also going to be a crucial player, especially when the ball is old and starts reversing. A lot will depend on (Ricky) Ponting and his determination.
"Shane Watson is just the sort of batting all-rounder we were looking for. He had a great IPL (Indian Premier League ), and when you have done so well in these conditions it automatically gives you confidence."
While saying that the India-Australia series will be "hard-fought", Gilchrist added he doesn't expect any more acrimony among the players.
"I don't think the events in Sydney or after that did any permanent damage to the relations between the two countries. The IPL came at the right time, and mended any differences that might have cropped up. I don't expect any more fireworks in this series, than any other.
"Sure for Australians, historically the Ashes have been the most important, but the India-Australia series has also grown and gained an iconic status.
"It had become very important to us prior to 2004, and I guess that's why we lost our focus a bit in the 2005 Ashes series. We were unable to realign our focus to the Ashes and were exposed badly."
The 37-year-old, who retired from international cricket early this year but found an ally in the IPL to keep his passion for the game going, heaped praise on Mahendra Singh Dhoni ,saying he would "pay to see Dhoni bat."
"As a player, the biggest compliment for me is when people say they pay to see me bat. I would like to say the same for Dhoni.
"In India, you talk about the big four, but I think with Dhoni it's becoming the big five! He is an exciting cricketer and what's amazing is that he has been able to match his batting stats with his wicket-keeping.
"He has the calmness and has a galvanizing effect on the team. He is a very good ODI captain and I'm sure down the track, it is inevitable that he will take over as the Test captain too."
As part of the group that saw a mass exodus in the Australian team, Gilchirst said India has to be prepared for a "generational change" too and the exclusion of Sourav Ganguly from the Rest of India squad for the Irani Trophy could only be the beginning.
"We thought Ganguly was finished about eight months ago also before he made a superb comeback.
"I think the players know best whether they still have the passion to come back and continue for the team. I can't comment on that, but all I can say is there are a lot of youngsters waiting to be picked.
"Like Australia, India is going to experience a generational change, it's going to happen. But I have been exposed to the talent here, during the IPL, and am very impressed by the youngsters. They are ready to fill in the void and we should encourage them."
Gilchrist, who has also been voicing his support for cricket at the Olympics, said the Twenty20 version was a "perfect fit" for the competition and wouldn't burden the already crammed international schedule.
"For the longevity of cricket, I think it is important that it should become an Olympic sport," the Australian said. "There are so many countries who don't even know what the game is about and the Olympics will be a great platform for them to get involved.
"It's also a two-way street. India got one gold medal at this Games; it's a number that suggests that the Olympics are not important. The Olympic movement could gain importance here, and what better vehicle than cricket!"
Gilchrist had traveled around India as the brand ambassador for the University, and if he ever gets tired of the IPL, he reminded everyone again that he can be a great spokesperson for cricket.

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